Though there has not been a great deal of rain and much must have soaked into the parched moorland the river Dart is nevertheless a foot deeper today than last Tuesday. Horseshoe Falls is a swirling cauldron and much of the beach at Wellsfoot has been swept smooth, whilst the river at Sharrah Pool crashes down the cascade and spits foam and bubbles from the swoosh. It was definitely a good move to get here in the early morning as the cascade is lit by bright sunshine and the beach is bathed in warm sunshine as I change.
I am swimming back up the pool, quite hard work against the flow until I get in the lee of the big rock, to run the swoosh a second time. Looking up I see there is a heron stood at the top of the cascade in the dappled light under the oak trees. We stare each other down, it’s not often you can get this close, but he ‘blinks’ first and flaps in the untidy way of herons everywhere into the air heading away from me. He evidently didn’t go far as a moment later he sweeps by just above treetop height, still struggling for lift and then he’s gone down the river.
I shoot the swoosh again and then follow the heron downstream, a second dip already planned, I am interested to see what the river level is at Holne Weir.
A month ago the water level covered the concrete of the weir from bank to bank, a few inches deep at the bank and 6 inches or so in the middle. The effect whilst floating in the water is that of an infinity pool. However, when I stopped by last week the water was flowing entirely within the central spillway having dropped steadily day by day which rather spoilt the effect.
The water has risen sufficiently after the rain and once again covers the weir from bank to bank. Unlike further upstream however the water of the pool is completely calm, like water on glass reflecting back the blue sky, clouds and freshly greened trees. The only give away that the water in the pool is flowing at all is the little eddy around the fallen tree, until of course it comes crashing over the weir. The best view however is from the pool itself.
Diving in below the bridge the strong current in the narrow channel whooshes me downstream and it takes a brisk bit of swimming to regain the step in the rocks to do it again. Then it is simply a case of letting the current take me down under the fresh green leafed trees that were all bare sticks just a month ago. The mandarin duck pair hesitate, they are becoming more familiar with me but in the end they skitter down the water, not really getting airborne and then dropping back in. There were 2 females for a while, maybe one has eggs or chicks.
Nearing the weir the infinity effect takes over, the river looks as though it runs straight up into the trees and the line across the top of the weir is smooth, even and unbroken, it is only close up that the dimple where the sluice is shows up. The real give away is the spray rising in billows from beyond the watery horizon catching the sunshine and sparkling though not quite enough to produce a rainbow.
More rain is forecast, maybe the infinity pool is here to stay for a few more days yet.