Running is, to my mind at least, a natural bedfellow to swimming. After all, how better to get from here to there and more importantly get warm afterwards?
In the summer it couldn’t be simpler, just swim in the running kit and then run back, no towel required.
The winter requires a rethink of routes, the choice being either run with a small backpack containing towel and swimwear (not so good for running but there is the post swim warm-up factor), or, run and swim back at the start (no need to carry anything but chilly afterwards). Decisions, decisions.
I am almost tempted to run up to Sharrah Pool but I have left it a little bit late and the traffic through Totnes was moving with glacial slowness as distinct from the usual snail’s pace. It is nearly 6pm when I get to New Bridge so Sharrah is not on the menu.
Instead I make a little circuit up and down the river bank past Wellsfoot to the end of the track by the ruined bridge at the foot of Long Island. The air is still under the trees, the sun is warm and the light dapples the ground. One solitary daffodil stands tall facing the sunshine and up here the ground is wrong for the wood anemones that are in profusion further downstream, but the bluebells are coming.
I hop back in the van and bundle down to Holne Bridge which is a default ‘go to’ place, partly because it is perhaps the best swim on the river, partly because it is extremely beautiful – always, and partly because it is easy to get to.
I change on the river bank and walk the sandy path to the tumble down gap in the wall. The traffic has dropped to nothing which is as well because any motorist coming along would find a wetsuit clad head case with swimming goggles perched on their forehead doing a ‘La La Land’ up the middle of the road, dancing as it were, from one white line to the next (because the paint takes the sharpness out of the road grit, mad, but not stupid).
After running the water seems especially bitter but that will pass and has done so almost by the time I have been shot under the bridge. The sun is a little too low to give the best silhouette effect but it highlights the roiling water where it twists like ropes thrown up by unseen boulders on the river bed.
As I round the corner by the rope swing the Mandarin Ducks splash away noisily. I suspect they have a nest. They have been here for two years at least but generally there are more and more of this introduced species year after year. Very pretty, but they don’t belong. A few years ago some mergansers had a nest on the bank in amongst a thicket of willow and hatched a gaggle of chicks, but now with the bank cleared they have been forced out.
From here to the weir the pool is in sunshine. The water has cleared since Sunday and the golden sand can be seen spread out across the river bed infilling around the boulders. There are no salmon yet but I hope to see them soon, it is the right time of year. I shall report back.