One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “sunrise swim”

Sunrise at Wonwell

Sunrise at Wonwell: Honey & WWS. Photo Karen Lubbe.

Sunrise at Wonwell: Honey & WWS. Photo Karen Lubbe.

I’m never at my best in the morning, and today I’ve only had a couple of hours kip in TrannyVan after a housewarming party. It’s 0530. Wonwell is a small, isolated beach at the mouth of the river Erme, more or less opposite Mothecombe. The tide’s out and it’s almost light as we walk down and dump our stuff. There’s a delay before anyone gets changed; I always feel cold when tired, and there’s a chilly wind. Finally we trot down to the sea which feels considerably warmer than the air, and wade in through long, low waves that break on the sand bar as the tide begins to flood. I can’t swim fast because of my back and I’m really noticing the lack of exercise-generated heat.

There’s a grey-green-blue coolness to the water, then it starts to transform as the sun peeps over the hill. I’m floating with Honey maybe a hundred yards out and there’s a moment when warmth begins to suffuse me that must be purely psychological.  A peachy tinge ripples then dissolves through the surface and the water beneath becomes bluer. I swim back to shore with Honey who is swamped by a couple of waves. By the time we return to the rocks I’m shivering, and the sea is a good hundred yards closer than it was when we arrived. Joh’s crutch meanwhile has been swallowed by the incoming tide, and will no doubt intrigue the person who finds it washed up one day.

We set up our camping stoves and cook tomatoes, eggs, bacon and eggy bread for breakfast. I’m ravenous. Steph, being German, eats a sacrilegious combination of crumpets fried in olive oil with jam. We threaten to call UKIP. Carole has made bacon and egg cup-cakes, including some with veggie bacon for me. We light a fire and warm and smoke ourselves. I give Honey her ball, which somehow ends up in the fire. Luckily someone notices and kicks the ball out shortly after Honey has attempted to extricate it with her paws. Then I see her lying on the beach breathing smoke like a dragon; she’s holding the hot ball in her mouth. I grab it and cool it in the stream, but she doesn’t seem to have suffered at all…

This was the inaugural swim of our new wild swimming group into the fish dimension... which has an artistic and environmental ethos. The swim was organised by our friend Carole Whelan. Thanks Carole!



Hindu Caves Sun-Up Fry-Up

Fishy Tales on the Rocks at Sunrise

Fishy Tales on the Rocks at Sunrise

This is one of Sophie’s legendary swims, and she has persuaded us to meet at 6am in time for the sunrise. Honey and I drive across the moors in the dark, through torrential rain and swirling fog, before the rain slows to drizzle as we enter Torquay. Now clouds are dispersing to reveal watery blue skies and a glow over the headland to the east. We change on the flat rocks and creep into the sea over savagely barnacled slabs, as the salmon-pink sunrise drips orange over the surface ripples and intensifies the red of the cliffs.

In the Hindu Caves

In the Hindu Caves (photo Jackie Wills)

The caves are magical, chuntering with departing wavelets and studded with ancient shells and shingle. The sea transmutes through a disco light show of colours from navy to royal blue to turquoise and aquamarine, tinted with pinks and oranges and silvery highlights. Snakelocks stroke our legs.


Sun-Up! WWS and Sophie Ham It Up Shamelessly (photo Jackie Wills)

Afterwards we make a huge fry up on portable stoves and chatter away. A young gull keens and pesters his mother for food. The sea siren calls us back for another dip.

This swim features in Sophie and Matt’s fabulous book Beyond the Beach: The Secret Wild Swims of Torbay which you can read about and buy here: http://secretwildswims.wordpress.com/home/

Sophie Fries Up

Sophie Fries Up

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