For the past 6 months I have been blogging about my goal of swimming at 100 different places during 2016: 100 Swims in South-West England and whilst that has been going brilliantly there is far more to open water ‘wild swimming’, not least that with the turning of the year and changing of the seasons a single place may don a mantle of different aspects.
That is entirely true of the River Dart. The river level can rapidly rise and equally quickly fall in pulses generated by downpours localized on the moor at any time of year. The moor generates its own weather and can flip between a glorious summer day and driving cold rain within the hour and apparently out of nowhere.
The changing seasons also stamp their mark. In April the water is gin clear but tinted with a lime green zest and yet by June it is stained with peat, orangey like over stewed tea. Autumnal rains fill it with a melee of gyrating leaves of many hues: worn out summer khaki green, tired brown, sunshine yellow oak and the burnished bronze of beech. And in winter the water can be a brown torrent capped with white foam or clear without any hue or tint.
Today, on the lower stretch of the river only a mile from the weir that cuts off the tidal estuary, the water has a deep orange hue, but where the early morning sunshine skirts the overhanging trees and lances the water it is obvious that it is quite clear. Beneath the corner of rock however it is dark and mysterious. My toes curl over the square edge of the stone, which has been worn by countless toes including mine many times before. There is a brief moment of freefall and the water crashes around me. That was a much better effort than my final dive at Sharrah Pool a few nights ago when I mistimed terribly and face planted into the river. Angling upwards with the slope of the riverbed I am returned to the surface.
I could spend a lot more time here today but the day job is calling and so it is time to head away.