“Swimming is Like a Box of Chocolates …

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

On a scale of normal to utterly bizarre I think I’ve seen some ‘odd’ things whilst on my swimming travels.  A few years ago it was a basking shark, not unusual except that it was only 50m off the shore and in the middle of January, that is odd I assure you.  Not however as odd as a year or two later when I saw one in Churston Cove.  It was blowing a mental easterly wind which really throws the sea into a hoolie in Torbay and this shark was, I am convinced, sheltering in the little bay riding it out in barely 3m of water.  I watched it (from the shore) for 5 minutes and then it was gone.

Seals (been there done that, got the photos of the bites to prove it), salmon and sea trout and of course kingfishers, both on the river and at the beach and I have watched one hover like a humming bird.

Otters on the other hand are elusive little devils!  If you walk the river bank after a flood you will see their footprints in the freshly smoothed sand and you’ll find their droppings and sometimes a partly flayed fish, but only once before have I seen one (an ornithologist friend told me kingfishers don’t hover, I told him that clearly no-one had explained that to the bird in question).

Then I was swimming the River Dart behind Buckfast Abbey one day as part of my sources to sea swim.  It’s a secluded spot and a brilliant swoosh but the old weir washed away some years ago and the river bed is littered with blocks of concrete with iron reinforcing bars poking out.  I found out the hard way and the blood was everywhere!  I probably should have gone and got it stitched up but I’ll live.  Consequently I was understandably not feeling so happy about my enterprise.  I’d seen otter footprints earlier and was passing a bit of bank with willows growing over a sandy ‘beach’ and just for a moment caught a glimpse of that arched back otter shape.  I checked the sand and there were fresh prints which wound on for some distance but clearly the otter was well away from me.

Today the evening turned out far better than the forecast had suggested.  They’d got it right that the wind would drop to nothing, but far from being overcast it was blue sky and sunshine from here to there.  After my run I nearly, nearly went back to Holne Bridge to see the emerging bluebells but instead headed back the way I’d just come to swim Black Rock.

The water in the river has gone ‘crystal’ clear and the lime green zesty colour is back, I had thought the moment had been missed but the water level is dropping daily with this dry weather.  A shame though that the water has seemingly taken a turn for the chillier again.

After swimming I sat on the rock drying my hair, watching the water sparkle in the sunshine which needled through the trees on the far bank.  The otter came from nowhere, one moment no otter, next a sleek dark brown shape trotting along the corresponding ridge of rock on the far bank where it juts into the water.  It simply ‘rolled’ into the water just above the little cascade and was gone.

Needless to say I sat very still and watched but to no avail, but it just goes to show, you never know what you’re going to get”.

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall


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