wildwomanswimming

One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Archive for the tag “Waterfalls”

Black Tor Dell

The First Sneaky Peek of Black Tor Dell

The First Sneaky Peek of Black Tor Dell

Today’s dip stems from a sudden whim to visit the little dell below Black Tor where we haven’t been for some time. I have no towel or swimsuit so it’s a skinny dip, clinging to mossed rocks like hairy pectorals in the surge below the falls, in a howling gale, just before the storm hits.

Afterwards I stand spreadeagled on the bank while the wind whirls and chills still more. Flicking the drops of water from my skin with both hands, I turn and slowly dry. As I dress slinky grey stripes of rain advance from Burrator.  Water runs from my hair and down my face, and my sandalled feet are frozen from squelching through sucking boggy tussocks. Honey has the wind up her tail, cavorts like an excited camel, then eats some perfectly-matured vintage horse poo which means a choice between warming my soaking feet with the van heater and fainting with the pong, or winding the window down and breathing fresh, cold, Dartmoor air…you can guess which option I choose.

The Dell

The Dell

 

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Strip in the Lyd

Waterfall

Waterfall

Continued downpours have left our little river the colour of Jail Ale and with a foaming head. Helen and I were intending to skinny dip, only there’s a couple just downstream setting up camp for the night and a lone walker on the far bank heading our way. So we wimp out and don our cozzies.  We’re still chatting about Helen’s trip to Russia and are properly iced by the swirly wind before we get in.

Helen Pre-Strip

Helen Pre-Strip

We duck, swim to the waterfall and explore for a time till I notice Helen is mid strip. So I join her and we toss our swimsuits over to the rocks. Although we’re almost naked, Helen is wearing goggles and I a pair of neoprene boots. How very English. So we whip those off too and lob them to the shallows. The surge beneath the big rock resembles ghostly frogspawn and I imagine ranks of frogs squatting in the depths, bums aloft.

We take turns to swim breast stroke against the flow. So many sensations, and far more subtle than a jacuzzi: the cold; currents that push and pummel howling like gales, or waft gently past like summer breezes; effervescence like birds’ wings brushing on skin, fizzing louder than the roar of the cascade. Each bubble oscillates and atomises on our faces. Our eyes are level with the surface so we see tiny spheres meld and grow before scatting across the pool in the wind. There’s nothing to beat skinny dipping in this exposed place.

Honey's Downward Dog

Honey’s Downward Dog

The wind whips around and chills wet hair so we dive back under to warm up. I open my eyes and float through beer that turns gold like scrumpy. We begin another chat, rolling and wallowing with the water but cold sidles around and we’re suddenly numbed to the core. After we leave, reluctantly, I can’t feel my towel nor whether I’m wet or dry. A current of ice runs along my spine and radiates like the sun.

The Bubble Uprush

Frogspawn Bubble Uprush

 

Supernatural Force

After Jackie's Rescue

Before Jackie’s Dunking

We meandered up to the little falls for a dip. This is one of the tamer jacuzzis on the Double Dart, perfect for a sparkling pick me up with minimal effort. Jackie floated across ready to wallow, and disappeared suddenly under the bubbles, to be rescued from the deep by Carole. We shot downstream in shadow on the far side in a heavy current, returning via the central eddy. The water was distinctly nippy and black.

Back at the jacuzzi I worked my way in, bouldering in the water around the mossy hand holds on the rocks. As I neared the falls a judo black belt of a current whipped my legs away to the side. I reattached from the right and struggled to move my feet and legs along, fighting an underwater flume. Then my feet flew upwards like a meteor as the force reversed. I managed to cling to the rock and wedged myself precariously half in, near to the surface. Rachel noticed the river is shallower downstream, and we guessed that the January spates must have scoured and bulldozed the underwater boulders and somehow channeled the current into this scary entity. The force is completely out of proportion to the size of the falls, which is around three feet. From the rocks we were able to see the downward draft to the left, and then the surge up a couple of feet down and to the right. One to explore when the water’s really low, which we hope will happen this summer.

Crazy Falls

Crazy Falls

Plym Perfection

Teri De-Stressing

Teri De-Stressing

Hello

Hello

Honey's game Part I

Honey’s game Part I

Honey's Game Part II

Honey’s Game Part II

I creak up the track towards the Dewerstone at slug-pace, dreaming of the calming effect of cold river water on my back injury. It’s a gorgeous day of sunshine and glittering cascades. The pool refracts light the colour of new leaves and the roar of the falls blitzes my ears as I doggy paddle. Teri and Jane slide down the pudding rock and clamber through the keyhole, while Honey plays her Dewerstone game of dropping her found tennis ball from the ledge fifteen feet above, before scrabbling down and swimming over to collect it from the eddy, over and over again. I bob to the falls while a grey wagtail bobs on a nearby rock. I clamber out refreshed and watch Teri floating her worries away. She shouts a good while later that she can’t bring herself to get out.

Spring from the Plym

Spring from the Plym

Bubbles at Pudding Rock

Bubbles at Pudding Rock

Juicy Spring River

WWS Submerged

WWS Submerged

Fairy Tree House

Fairy Tree House

A day of whipped wind, wispy clouds and watery blue skies. Honey is frisky; I feel heavy, chilled and tired. She decides on a trip to the Double Dart. We walk from Dartmeet and I’m soon sweating through my t-shirt and summer fleece. Honey skits along, paddling and snuffling among the tree roots. It smells of spring.

Honey Rootles

Honey Rootles

Honey's Twin Checks Me Out

Honey’s Twin Checks Me Out

We rootle around, picking our way through juicily-mossed tumbles of clitter, exploring sculptural stumps and dams left by the incredible winter spates. One dam is at least ten feet above the river level, a wicker wall of bleached, fractured tree limbs and wads of washed-out grass, twigs and bracken, curved like a river current. A speeding toad passes us then dives into a bed of crumpled oak leaves.

A couple are frying bacon on the flat rock from where I meant to swim. The two wide pools here are smooth as satin with every stone and twig visible from the path above.

Since Honey’s summer claim to fame of wolfing the gourmet lunch of Daniel Start’s friends while we swam and chatted in Sharrah Pool, I’ve been hyper-alert to such doggy temptation. We go in further down, sinking through heaped sub aqua sand dunes. The current pulls hard and swamps my grey mood with water the colour and sweetness of Sauternes. There’s a perfect level of nip; it’s far warmer than last week when I struggled to stay in.

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

Turquoise Tinged Cascade

I scramble out and walk up to the narrows, where there’s an unexpected turquoise hue. It’s an easy slide down the mossy rocks into the cascade where I swoosh, suspended in a cloud of bubbles, knees and hip smarting where frozen skin connects with rock. The river rolls me to the eddy. Bumble bees buzz past followed by a low-flying chinook, both sensed rather than heard, the difference between them mostly one of scale. I wade to the bank and my cold water tan burns. We wander back upstream while the roar of the river swirls into birdsong.

Flood Dam Sculpture

Flood Dam Sculpture

Swooshing

Swooshing

Spring Reflections

Spring Reflections

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

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Carole is King!

Skinny Dunk at Black Rock

Ready to Dunk

Ready to Dunk

The tempestuous weather continues unabated, and although I like it wild it’s playing havoc with my swimming. There’s wild, and there’s WILD. Today, Honey and I stomp through black peaty mud the texture of molten chocolate. We make  squelching noises that resemble a liquidised meal being chomped by an octogenarian with badly-fitting false teeth. The pool at Black Rock thunders and the edge of the dam has been washed away. I strip and wade carefully in before plunging under and popping back up like an ice cube in a whisky and soda.  I daren’t swim across.

Skinny Dunking

Skinny Dunking

Dunked

Dunked

Un-Dunking

Un-Dunking

Flaming Sharrah

She hasn't Even Been In Yet

She hasn’t Even Been In Yet

Another visit to the deep south west by Fiona and the Urban Fox Terrier, and also by Helen’s Mum Anna. We had promised a trip to Sharrah, and so that’s where we went. In another of those nature-based sense conflicts Holne woods is aflame and bespattered in a pointillist celebration of hot colours. Aish Tor rises like an over-proved loaf behind Wellsfoot, rusted with autumn bracken. The water, meanwhile, is chilling rapidly. Today it looks almost black.

Sharrah is icy and voluminous. We gasp and swim staccato to the rapids, which we descend in clouds of foam. Our newbie cold water swimmers do well to get in at all. 8ºc, but it somehow feels colder. Perhaps that’s the effect of fiery autumn woods raising our expectations. Anticipatory thermogenesis, one of JJ’s pet theories, certainly came into play today.

Into the Foam

Into the Foam

Whooosh!

Whooosh!

Whooshing

Whooshing

Pointillist Autumn

Pointillist Autumn

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)

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