One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “Torbay”

Book review – Beyond the Beach: the Secret Wild Swims of Torbay

Matt and Sophie DreamworldThis fascinating book exposes the secrets of the wild and beautiful coast of Torbay. It’s illustrated with a mouth-watering cornucopia of photographs, and if you can look at them and then resist dashing straight there and diving in, then you have the control of a medieval monk.

Beyond the Beach was researched and written by Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce, and photographed underwater by Dan Bolt. I have to admit to a Wild Swimming relationship with the authors, and I had the pleasure of participating in some of the swims. But it’s honestly fantastic and I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is no substitute for the passion, eclectic knowledge and unique perspective Matt and Sophie have for this area and its unique geology and sea-life, and the book demonstrates precisely why so many people adore wild swimming. Excitingly, you also have plenty of scope for your own discoveries when you swim here.

There’s something here for everyone who has any affinity for water, or sea-life, or geology, or the history of tourism. There are some historical photographs too. The writing teems with informative and interesting snippets to tempt you into an aquatic exploration of this sensational piece of coastline, which is largely accessible to all. There are clear directions on distances, tides and how to find and explore rock arches, coves and sea caves (you simply must discover the Juliet Cave and the Rude Cave); and there are hints as to what wildlife to look for whether that’s rare eel grass, bright pink Dead Man’s Fingers, starfish or the famously inquisitive seals. There’s also an explanation for the bright red of the sandstone cliffs which were once heated by an equatorial sun.

You won’t regret buying this book, particularly if you think of Torbay simply as a large conurbation of bungalows, caravans and guest houses with some nice sea-frontages, lots of bars frequented by cooked lobster-skinned tourists, and a smattering of palm trees. So if you’d love to uncover some of Torbay’s delectable secrets then this book is essential whether you’re a wild swimmer, a tourist with a yen for adventure, someone who fancies giving relatively safe outdoor swimming a try, or just a person who loves beautiful and interesting books.

Beyond the Beach: the Secret Wild Swims of Torbay is available from


or contact Matt and Sophie via the Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beyond-the-Beach-the-secret-wild-swims-of-Torbay/489909844375598beyond 2

Oddicombe Talk and Swim

Firstly, a huge thanks to the wonderful Sophie Pierce and Matt, aka Daniel Craig, for a fascinating, informative and entertaining talk on the history of Wild Swimming in, and the geology of Torbay which we enjoyed enormously. Among many notable discoveries, Sophie and Matt had uncovered a cine film from the 1930s showing a group of local women executing perfect swallow dives from sixty-foot cliffs into the sea; a local diving champion and Olympian trained in the same spot. This practice has now been turned on its head to feet-first, reviled and criminalised, and is called ‘Tombstoning’. I can’t help thinking we are so much more dramatic than our predecessors who had far more to worry about than we do. There’s a book of the talk to follow, and I’ll post a link on here when it’s ready.

Following the talk, we descended on the Cliff Railway to Oddicombe for a rainy, choppy swim. We frolicked into the turquoise water en masse through dumping waves, which resulted in some interesting shrieks.The sea is a good degree or two colder than the moorland rivers at the moment, and while I was mostly anaesthetised by the cold I felt a squidgy bump on the arm, which turned out to have been a jellyfish. I wasn’t alone and one swimmer was stung on the face. A couple of swimmers found their what-lies-beneath-the-water-phobias surfacing, the most common of which involved being nudged or mouthed by the infamous Torbay seal-with-the-sense-of-humour.

A couple of us had discussed the sewage outfall following the recent storms on the way down; swimming and bouncing through the briny I saw a white shape which I assumed to be a sanitary towel – Queenie and Stef laughed openly and informed me it was a cuttlefish. A reiteration of the power of suggestion on the mind, and of course I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

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