One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “Tinside”

Tinside Chill



I hadn’t been in the sea for a while, so when someone suggested a swim at Tinside this lunchtime I was there in a flash. The sea has chilled rapidly and is now around 10ºc, enough to give us full-on ice cream head. There was barely a ripple in the water, and it had that metallic sheen that forms with a bit of cloud cover and a low winter sun on the horizon.

Lovely...photo Rosie Barnfield

Lovely…photo Rosie Barnfield

We chatted as we swam, and discussed the psychology of the missing yellow buoys which used to form a kind of boundary; now there’s no reason to stop swimming, nor to swim between points. Strangely liberating.

We changed and jigged around with after drop. Then we sat at the Terrace Cafe and looked out towards the breakwater with hot drinks and hot water bottles. Below us a cormorant fished close to the beach, a shadowy streak under the gin-clear sea who popped up and gobbled her catch just a couple of feet from the shore. Civilisation has its benefits…and its down side. Poor Rosie was caught like the hapless fish by two Great White traffic wardens and got a parking ticket.

Warming Up on the Tinside Terrace

Warming Up on the Tinside Terrace


Brown Sea at Tinside

Rosie and RichardFlooding, gales, biggish wavelets…we decided to have a look at the Hoe before swimming today, and worked out that the incoming tide and the flow from the Plym were pushing water towards the dodgy area from where untreated sewage might flood. The water was brownish, and there were a couple of areas of flotsam and ripped weed but we only saw one log, and that was of the wooden variety. I sniffed carefully, and there was not even a whiff of poo. So Richard, Rosie and I shot in, swam out a little way, bounced around, and swam back in with absolutely no heads under the water just in case. Splats

Nippy Tinside

Mackerel Skin SeaCold Water TanA wonderful swim this morning in a pale turquoise sea that suddenly transformed to the colour and texture of mackerel skin as we headed out to the buoys. It felt cold, and no wonder – it’s a mere 7.3°c, the coldest so far on Pauline’s sea temperature graph (see the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming Website link on the right of this page). I had a proper cold water tan, and got the biggest after-drop of the year having stayed in for longer than was perhaps sensible. Luckily I was able to shiver my way down to Corinthians where I sat on the radiator and consumed a large cream tea. Creeping in Bravely

Summery Winter Hoe

Mid-November, late afternoon and the sun is bright and low. The sea’s nippy with a little chop and coloured dark blue-green. I get in quick, and feel the unpleasant crawl of cold water up my body and the ache in my neck. I swim staccato for a minute or two, then the effect melds into the kind of sensation I imagine you’d have after a massage from a beefy Scandinavian using salt and willow switches. We swim round past the Lido, drift and bob and smile in the sunshine for a bit, then plough back against the wind and tide. If it weren’t for the bracing chill it could be July – except in July it was like November.

Plymouth Hoe

It’s a beautiful morning and the sea sparkles, grey Naval ships are silhouetted on the horizon. We descend the Art Deco steps, worn into natural shapes by eighty years of storms and tides and trip through the stones on the tiny beach. Joh’s Dad beats us in, and immediately returns to the shore as though attached to a bungee. ‘You need to stay in for twenty minutes to get the benefits!’ I say. He gives me an old-fashioned look.

Joh, Pauline and I swim to the buoy marking the edge of the swimming area, then turn parallel to the rocky shore. If you venture too far out here you’re liable to be sunk by a warship, mangled in the propellers of a cross-channel ferry, or surprised from underneath by a submarine (up periscope!)

After a while we float and enjoy the view: Smeaton’s Tower and the big wheel on the shore; Drake’s Island over towards the Tamar; and the Breakwater a couple of miles out in the Sound. Turning back, the current is surprisingly strong around the tiny promontory, and swimming a few meters further from shore than Pauline and Joh I suddenly realise that I’m way behind them. We stop and allow ourselves to be washed onto a concrete headland and dive in a couple of times.

I look up at the sky; icy blue and bisected by a cloud the colour and shape of a flatfish skeleton.

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