Shifting Seasons

The equinox and solstice are of course astronomical events that whilst marking a very precise moment in the orbit of the Earth about the Sun (Eppur si muove as they say) are somewhat variable in their timing in relation to an Earth bound calendar.  This year the vernal equinox was yesterday at 10:29 in the morning local time.

Nevertheless on that Earth bound calendar the equinoxes and solstices are used as the marker for winter into spring, or spring into summer etc., as was the case yesterday, but it’s completely arbitrary and has little to do with boots on the ground.  If it were otherwise and marked a genuine environmental change then I feel confident that my boots on the ground would not have met frost this morning.  I am looking for something more.

Yesterday could not have been the beginning of spring.  If spring = sunshine then driving cold rain from a leaden sky does not a spring make.  Today though there is sunshine and bright white fluffy clouds against a blue sky and if I hunker down behind the rocks where there is shelter from the scything wind that carries more than just the memory of the frost this morning, then this could just about be the beginning of spring.  Close enough at any rate.  Why exactly I feel the need to mark these totally arbitrary days with a swim is beyond me.  It’s not like there won’t be more swimming.

The sea is calm under the low cliff out of the breeze, but further out cat’s paws turn the sea into a scratching post and further out again white horses rear against the horizon.  The water is crystal clear by local standards and from my vantage point I’m looking down on a fronds of seaweed waving about a submerged rock that I know to be 6 or 7 feet down and beyond that the seabed glows white, with each pebble clearly seen.

Three, two, one ….

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

There are a number of schools of thought about the best way to get into cold water, many centred on what cold water shock can do to you.  Which is make you drown in case you were wondering.  Most advocate the ‘gently ease your way in’ approach, possibly by splashing your face with the water which apparently helps.  My approach remains, just bloody jump in and remember not to breathe when my head is deep under water no matter what my reflexes may be telling me.

Woo hoo! My yelp echoes back from the encircling rocks.  It would be a shame not to go again. And again.  And 4th time for luck?

The rocks here, though probably not unique, are unusual; dissolved or gouged away by current or marine creatures I don’t know, but they have become pocked and fluted into a many faceted landscape.  Though an absolute sod to walk on they appear distorted in the shimmering sunlight as if in a hall of mirrors.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Fifty meters across the water though there is a small sea arch. It dries out at low tide but today it is just and just submerged.  Diving down under it my head is put in an ice-cream head vice until I emerge puffing and blowing into a lagoon of still water, where the sea bed is all bright white pebbles.

Two walkers are looking down on me.

‘Isn’t it a bit cold?’

‘It’s not warm’ is the best reply I can offer.

Actually now they’ve mentioned it, I am starting to feel it and I have the swim back yet.  Predictably I am distracted by the opportunity to swim through another sunlit channel in the rocks and dive down to the shimmering seabed again before I have to face walking over the barnacle encrusted knives to my towel.

I shiver my way back to the car and my teeth chatter on a mug of tea back in the office.

Nevertheless I have captured a moment of spring, propitiated to the spirits of sunshine and evoked the glamour of summer.  Not bad for an hour’s work.

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall


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