‘Eeek, the river is too cold’, said the winter swimmer.
‘There are too many people’, said the holiday swimmer.
‘But that’s just right’, said Goldilocks walking through the morning sun patterned woods, the air pine scented by the redwood trees and elusively heard in the distance the patter of the river over the stones in the shallows heading down to the deep pool.
The water is mirror calm without the hint of a breeze and the flow is only given away by a few petals of foam carried down from the distant weir. No people, just the chatter of birdsong, too early yet even for the first walker to have sent their dog in to smash the magic tranquillity. That job is mine.
I am swim ready beneath the sweatshirt and shorts and my toes curl on the edge of the stones worn down by countless other feet, many of which have been my own.
It is called Still Pool, but only for another 1/2 a second. Take sight of a little petal of foam, lift up on tiptoes, the water rushes at me and then everything changes from bright glittering sunshine to fiery orange peat filtered sunlight. Down, down to the rounded pebbles, across the river bed, rising on the gentle slope of the far bank where sand cascades amongst the pebbles.
Climbing back out on the diving rocks the water at my feet is now a jumble of conflicting ripples reflecting back from the banks, but upstream, fully half the distance of the 300m pool, serried ranks of ever diminishing ripples march onward against the flow. And then the water is rushing towards me once again.
Early morning throughout June, July and August is the time to be here. It is the only time that the sun sweeps its path across the river downstream where the forced gap in the trees allows light into the pool. Swim upstream then float down under the leaning beech trees into the shallows. The hazel tree that the kingfishers used as a fishing post has been carried away by a winter storm, though its future looked tenuous last year and the sandy beach on the far shore has been further eroded, there is less than 1/2 the area of even 3 years ago.
After 25 minutes I climb out again only to take two more dives from the rock but there is a distinct chill in my toes, it’s time to go, but it is almost no diversion at all to come here on my way in to work, I will see more still water before summer is out.