One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “torquay”

Lumpy London Bridge

A chilly-willy winter’s day with a brisk south-easterly tousling the white-capped swell. It’s almost low tide, and the tiny beach at Peaked Tor Cove is rocky and draped with glistening seaweeds. The raw slap of sea soon becomes tolerable and then exhilarating, and I strike out round the rocks through opaque, pale turquoise, buffeted and bounced by the chop.  Waves fling spray into the air around the arch, and water sluices through from behind.

We head for the sea-cave, and watch for a while but it’s too dangerous. Rollers surge in to the narrow inlet and, split by the submerged rocks, churn around inside making escape difficult. The sea billows increase as we approach the back of the arch to see whether that might be passable. JJ cannot be dissuaded and he sets off with Hugo and me watching carefully to see whether he makes it. We catch an occasional flash of his blue hat amid the maelstrom, then swim round to find he’s reappeared in a rather more dishevelled state than when he entered. Startled eyes and a wonky, frozen mouth soon remodel into a grin. He says he got stuck in a little pool left by the retreating waves for a bit, but still offers to go back with me. I’m tempted, but feel cold now so I decline.

It’s easier returning with the wind and waves. From time to time the sun partially breaks through leaden clouds and shoots rays of light to glimmer off the surface, like an illustration in a children’s bible. As I roll to breathe I see a low-flying cormorant, neck extended, a couple of feet away. I arrive at the beach and manage to effect a staggering, shivering exit onto the pebbles. The contrast in how I feel by comparison to yesterday is dramatic. The sea is warmer than the river, but it’s still cold. I think it has more to do with the way that the character of the water changes with the temperature. Chilled river water is metallic and hard-edged; cold sea water while abrasively salty is somehow softer, bouncier and, well, more cuddly.

Fellow Swimmers

Allan, Jackie, Rosie, Stephanie, Geoffrey, Mark, Hugo, JJ, Plum

Chilling on the Beach


Not Quite to Heel


London Bridge and Fun in a Cave

Secreted just round the corner from Torquay Harbour is a tiny beach from where you can swim around jaunty rock islets to London Bridge, a limestone arch jutting from a small headland. It’s chilly in the December sea, and we laugh at Stephanie bobbing in her wetsuit and holding her hands out of the water to keep them warm.

We’re floating in deep turquoise, and pale slabs of tumbled cliff litter the seabed. The bridge leans tipsily against the headland, its arch a precarious conglomeration of vertical slabs, gravel and earth.

We are sucked through, and I lie on my back beneath the jagged silhouette as the sea slaps against the rocks.

Further on, Sophie has found a cave. We swim towards it, a tall, dark slit rising from petrol blue sea in the corner where the headland meets the cliff. Generations of barnacles crowd the limestone forming a pock-marked skin of bumps and promontories, acned by a splattering of white and yellow whelks. Water and weed run off as the waves ebb, and the sound echoes and intensifies as we near the entrance to the cave.

Jonathan, Queenie and I follow Sophie in. Overhead there is darkness except for a crack of light far above, but we are suspended in luminous turquoise water that shooshes with the pulse of the ocean.  We whoop and cackle when a big wave pushes us up and up towards the cave roof, and scream as we drop back down.

There are supposed to be Conger Eels here in the womb of the cliffs, and we await the snap of giant fishy jaws from beneath. I have a sudden shock as I bob under and see an eel-like strand of weed curling around our legs.

Fellow Swimmers

Stephanie, Sophie, Rosie, Dan, Becky, Allan, Jonathan, Queenie

Shore Crew

Janus and Finn

To view Video Links of the cave swim see under Blogroll

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