wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “water”

Polar Bear Sharrah

Geddin!

Geddin!

Polar Bear Roar

Polar Bear Roar

We haven’t swum here for ages thanks to the storms and constant rain. There are exposed roots in Sharrah glade like nerves in a flailed body and the track resembles a dry riverbed. The river is surging and elephant rock barely raises its head above the surface.

Sprinting Between Currents

Sprinting To Elephant Rock

Today is not a positive embrace-the-chill sort of day for me.  We dawdle before taking the plunge and when we do it’s like being savaged by a colony of frozen ants. We all struggle to get upstream and are pushed into the rocks. To the right is a gently curvaceous surge, which turns out to be more forceful still than the choppy stream by the bank. There is a mere smattering of natural foam; usually when the river rages we swim through a beery head at least a foot high. By now I’ve contorted into a frog pose and my stroke is more of a judder.  By kicking off an underwater boulder and sprinting between the two currents I make it to the rock.

Squatting on Elephant Rock

Squatting on Elephant Rock

The rapid is spectacular like the tangible roar of a polar bear. We sink a fair way down before popping up with the dissipating bubbles. The water is greenish as though tinted with absinthe and sets off our scarlet cold water tans rather nicely. Six degrees of wonderful.

Negative Buoyancy - Allan Sinks

Negative Buoyancy – Allan Sinks

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 17.16.34

Carole is King!

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Wadham Wander

Michele Wimping Out

Michele Wimping Out

Sophie’s idea again – Wadham is a secret cove accessed via a precipitous track, and it’s normally frequented by nudists. Rain tips and pours downhill and it’s January, so we  allow ourselves the luxury of layers of fleece, woollies, waterproofs and wellies.  As we pick our way from the cliff top we notice there is a patch of light over the sea, and sure enough the deluge stops.  By this time Honey, who has been groomed to within an inch of her life by her Gran, has transformed from a beautifully fluffy cream puff to a mud-bespattered, drenched mop. Of course she’s found a tennis ball. We scramble the last bit which is more of a mountain-bike drop than a footpath, and spy Richard on the beach waiting for us. His family have refused to leave the car.

Sploshing

Sploshing

The rocks are Dartmouth slate according to Richard who’s done some research. The slate is layered and striped in shades of turquoise-bruise and purple-bruise and small bodies of it pop up from the shingle beach like the undulations of Loch Ness monsters.  We change and plunge into bouncy water, which is stained with mud yet still maintains a blue-green tinge to the predominant battleship grey. It’s not too cold, and being engulfed feels like heaven. Michele and I pootle out towards the end of the  reef where waves are waterfalling and sucking. In the end I go fairly close and allow myself to be pulled over rock wards for a while. I swim some of the return in backstroke and when I turn over I can see Jackie’s customary flower bobbing up and down; a summery, bright pink splurge among the hundred shades of grey.

Backstroke

Backstroke

Sophie and Bun

Sophie and Bun

Wonderful Wembury

Leaping

Leaping

Waves from Above

Waves from Above

Met the gals for a wonderfully wild swim at Wembury today. It was shortly after high tide, and the breakers were perfectly-sized; large enough for some proper fun but not so big as to cause us problems with getting back in, nor indeed for a repeat of Teri’s ‘stunned sea bass’ impression. Wintery sun seeped through whispy clouds and forged the surface of the sea into molten aluminium.

WWS Ascending a Wave

WWS Ascending a Wave

The messy waves peaked in points, backlit as we leapt to beat the breaks like aquamarine stained glass windows. Chilly water, but nowhere near the freeze of the weekend. I felt a glow of cold radiate from my body, but ice cream neck lasted only briefly as water slapped and walloped us from above. We played and bobbed and marvelled in the light show while we chatted and laughed. Small rafts of seaweed swept past. There’s nothing to beat a wild winter sea. Thanks to Sharon Nicol for the photos.

Hamming it Up

Hamming it Up

Shilley Willy

Flying Entry

Flying Entry

Honey and I accompany Matt and Aaron on an exploratory trip to Shilley Pool. We wade and scramble pool-wards over sodden ground dotted with clitter and clumps of rusted bracken. Matt drops knee deep into a bog.  Blackaton Brook is a tiny tributary of the upper Teign and looks like nothing with the colours of the open moorland  leeched by mizzle and the rumbling water secreted beneath dark undergrowth.

Suddenly all is revealed; a series of smooth rocks curve gently down into the near-circular pool which is dammed by boulders at the lower end. It starts to rain heavily as we arrive, and we slide in from the top to slow boiling water. It’s like swimming in a mixture of Guinness, Jail Ale and ice in a pub drip tray at the end of a busy night. The infinity pool effect looking downstream is gorgeous. We reckon the river temperature to be around 6-7ºc, chillier still than the Teign where we swam earlier. It’s strange how your brain interprets this level of cold: the burn of my body could be from heat, while my hands feel painfully freezing.

Infinity Drip Tray

Infinity Drip Tray

 

Dart Meander: Totnes to Sharpham

Wading in at Long Marsh

Wading in at Long Marsh

Honey and I stay at Bantham overnight, after spending a few lovely post-Burgh hours in the pub with Helen, Baa and Hugo. We still manage to be late for our Dart swim (the first part of the Dart 10k route), thanks to the inhabitants of the Bantham Ham warren who lead Honey crazily astray.  After Kari becomes uncharacteristically officer-like we manage to get the correct number of vehicles (although without some of the kit) to the end of the swim at Sharpham before heading back to the start at Long Marsh in Totnes. We’re only around fifteen minutes late starting for this tide-dependent swim, which is shockingly efficient by our usual standards.

This is the first time I’ve worn my wetsuit since December, and I’m mighty glad of it when I try dunking my face into the chill flood waters. It’s early morning and low, autumn sun and cold river and alchemy conjures a rare beauty of the kind that inspired the Romantic poets. Sun glints in soft-focus from lissome water while reeds and trees gather mistily on the banks. Rowers glide past almost silent, while V-formations of geese honk overhead.

The river is opaquely brown yet tastes fresh and clean. As we approach a marsh inlet I hear a tinkling of water draining; there are whorls where wrecked bladderwrack spins and I feel the whoosh of the tide pulling seawards. There’s a slight whiff of earth and salt water. Even as we reach the Sharpham vineyards the river is barely brackish and knee-depth. Invisible creatures move upstream. their progress marked by trails of bubbles.  We wade, sucked by estuarine mud, to the bank.

Beauteousness

Beauteousness

DCIM100GOPRO

Lost Souls in Dewerstone Woods

Teri

Teri

Pool of Lost Souls

Pool of Lost Souls

Teri, the dogs and I climb the stone track through Dewerstone Woods above the Plym. This is the place where the river hurtles down the valley from the moors towards Plymouth and the sea. It’s nippy, green-gold and shimmering beneath the cold, grey slab of the Dewerstone which looms above us in stark contrast. It’s easy to imagine the horrifying legends associated with this rock even in the late summer sun. ‘Old Dewer’ is the Dartmoor name for the Devil, and he has been known to drive lost travellers over the edge with his Whisht Hounds, headless dogs who live in Wistman’s Wood. Any lost souls would land right on top of us in this lovely little pool where we are wallowing. A couple of climbers wave to us; they have ropes, luckily.

Rock Slide

Rock Slide

We slide and dawdle and float and chat and listen to the birds and the gentle tinkle and rush of the water. Honey has found a tennis ball and amuses herself by dropping it in the river and retrieving it; Devon, Teri’s Jack Russell follows us, hopping from rock to rock in deep concern for our welfare.

We arrive at the big slide, and shoot off the edge into the pool; then we struggle to the cascade to the side. Teri goes right in and gets ice-cream head. Devon is stuck; she is lured into sliding down the rock, small wings of water behind each foot like a doggy Hermes. She plops into the pool and swims flat out to the edge before Old Dewer steals her soul.

Thanks to Teri Cox for the fab photos – still having camera issues…

Plym Shower

Plym Shower

Devon and Honey Below the Dewerstone

Devon and Honey Below the Dewerstone

West Okement Waterfall

Hiding Behind the Cascade

Hiding Behind the Cascade (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Pretending to Go Over

Pretending to Go Over (photo Allan Macfadyen)

This adventure was planned after I glimpsed wild water while walking the track above the cleave last week. Then I had sandalled feet, and couldn’t safely descend over the clitter to the river. So today some wild swimming friends have joined me for a sporting wild swim and waterfall exploration, in which we intend to walk up the river and into the cleave. This is not as simple as it might sound, and we soon find ourselves scrambling under and around stunted oaks, hawthorns and rowans on sometimes near-sheer banks, crawling on all fours and bouldering around monolithic, mossed boulders. About a third of the way we are forced to stop and change into swim gear and wetsuit boots, before dumping our rucksacks. From there we work our way uphill, mostly in the river.

Lou the Hobbit

Lou the Hobbit (photo Allan Macfadyen)

We plop into a small pool. The West Okement’s source is underground springs in a mire not too far from here and so it’s chilly and peaty. We sit under the falls where ice-cream head hits fast, and discover a variation on the wild jacuzzi; a wild bidet where water is forced upwards in a small basin between three rocks . Boswell, Stef’s young labrador, is battling to deal with this new environment and attempts several giant leaps across pools. Honey leads the way, being well used to such adventures.

The Start of the Scramble

The Start of the Scramble (photo Allan Macfadyen)

As we ascend through greeny-bronze light the falls become increasingly secretive and other-worldly; the Okement has found a way around and across and under this jumble of rocks and trees in the most picturesque way. Lou and Baa squat like Hobbits on rocks. It’s the covering of black lichen like flaked burned paint and the soft layer of dark green moss, that allow us to get this far; wet rocks are like ice to grip.

We swim up a little pool where hunks of granite loom overhead. I feel like a microscopic lifeform. Allan photographs us as we sit behind the waterfall at the top end, inhaling the earthy smell and muffled sounds of dripping, velvety moss behind the shower curtain of water. Harry is barely visible in the falls, till his disembodied thumbs up appears.

Afterwards we climb to the track above the cleave and sit looking down. There is the merest hint of a ribbon of white water visible through the trees.

See ‘Tors and Clitter Slopes’ for an explanation of the geology here: http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/learningabout/lab-printableresources/lab-factsheetshome/lab-geologylandforms

Stef Cools Off

Stef Cools Off (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Allan and Harry

Allan and Harry

Baa Wades Upriver

Baa Wades Upriver (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Boswell Gets Encouragement

Boswell Gets Encouragement (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Bank Holiday Dipping

The First Pool

The First Pool

Honey and I went to Dartmeet this afternoon, and only just squeezed TrannyVan into the packed car park. We wandered downstream, but I could have counted the people we met on my fingers and toes. Our first dip was in the big pool only a few hundred meters from the bridge and there was neither sight nor sound of anyone. The water was golden and glassy, with every rock and fish and granule of sand clearly visible through the rippled reflected sun. The water today is noticeably chillier than of late and I felt a slight but definite skin burn. We dried off on the bank in the light breeze and warmish sun before trundling down to a faster stretch for a race up against the current. Squadrons of dragonflies droned around the bank.

The Second, Friskier Pool

The Second, Friskier Pool

 

Burgh and the Plym

Dwadling and Bobbing DWS Style! (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Dwadling and Bobbing DWS Style! (photo Allan Macfadyen)

Another circumnavigation of Burgh at the request of Fiona and Flora, visiting from London. They are expecting to swim flat out all the way, and take off around the outside before we manage to stop them for a trip up Death Valley, which is nicely smooth and clear, so we mess around watching cormorants and gulls, and diving under the water. We meet a couple of off-duty lifeguards swimming the other way and stop for a chat, before passing some stand up paddle boarders and kayakers on the back straight. Stef has been properly told off for swimming in the Hotel’s Mermaid Pool on the previous week, so we bravely decide against venturing in there today. By the time we leave the water, F&F are properly trained in the art of dawdling and yakking Devon Wild Swimming-style, and the beach has filled. We eat a smorgasbord of cakes and drink tea kindly provided by F&F’s PA from their camper van and chat some more before going for a doggy wander on the beach.

Sub-Aquatic Stef and WWS

Sub-Aquatic Stef and WWS

On the way home, I stop to desalinate Bun Bun in the Plym above Cadover Bridge. It’s so lovely I decide to join her in one of the little pools that’s nicely secluded – just as well since it’s always busy up here on a nice day, and I’ve left my cossie in the van.

Plym Desalination Pool

Plym Desalination Pool

North Moor Downpour

Stair Rods in Meldon Pond WWS and Rachel

Stair Rods in Meldon Pond WWS and Rachel

As we swim up Meldon Pond the rain hits; torrential, hammering Dartmoor rain accompanied by a rumble of thunder. We consider getting out, but we don’t see any lightning and it’s mesmerising watching the different types of rain hitting the water; its texture and colour morphs and melds into a misted band of spray over the surface of the pond. The water darkens and deepens in hue from turquoise to forest green. The rain-drops grow in size and leap on stalks of water from the surface, before dropping back and disappearing into floating hemispherical bubbles. Smaller drops scatter pearls across the meniscus.

Red-a-van Brook Pool

Red-a-ven Brook Pool, WWS, Rachel and Bun Bun

Afterwards we walk back through the rain wearing our swimming gear and draped in soaked towels to Red-a-ven Brook which is close to spate. There we dip and play in a small pool where dark brown water forges and foams creamy and cool below the falls. The centre of the bubbly milky way is like whisky and soda.

Thanks to Miguel Dawson-Ambiado for the two top photos (WWS’s camera is broken…)

Swimming in the Rain 2

Swimming in the Rain – Miguel

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