The easterly breezes have persisted and strengthened and any thoughts of getting to the sea for a swim are no more than flights of fancy. Bob, bounce or even frolic maybe, but swim, not a chance. Frustratingly then the skies are clear and blue and the sunshine pleasantly warm.
The westerly facing coasts should however be relatively sheltered and as I have not done much to expand my Wild Swimming Devon & Cornwall map of late so I’m on a road trip to Bude.
It must be 25 years at least since I was last in Bude but little has changed more than superficially. The tree at the bottom of the high street is taller and the ‘tat’ in the shops is ‘tattier’. But it’s true.
It’s about high tide at the pool and waves periodically wash over the wall with an occasional larger one flinging over a fountain of spray. And the changing place on the edge of the pool is almost entirely sheltered from the wind, whilst being in full sunshine. My plan has clearly paid off.
I slip and slide down the concrete slope until I reach knee depth water and feel sand and pebbles under my toes. The thermometer said 7°C, well in the sunshine and in the shallows maybe but it is colder than that and chatting with Lizzie one of the local swimmers afterwards she says 5°. I’m going with 5 as I set off energetically towards the far end of the pool and by the time I reach the end I have hardened to it.
Six lengths and about 500m however are quite enough and I nip out to grab the camera as the waves have got much bigger. A couple slosh curtains of water into the pool from off the flat top of the wall and then the one I’m waiting for bursts over the wall in a wave of white foam which sizzles across the pool and swamps me. Bobbing about in the water not swimming has got me chilled. I get dressed but then continue to faff about taking photos until my hands shake uncontrollably and my fingertips are numb.
It is only a 15 minute drive to Widemouth Bay. Here the waves are crashing on the beach in long lines of surf with their crests thrown back in streaming veils by the offshore breeze. There is no shelter here so I change in the van, throw my hoodie over the top and walk barefoot to the tideline. There are a few surfers but I am the only swimmer. However, there is no real chance of swimming each wave knocks me off my feet and all I can manage is a half dozen strokes between each wave. Even ducking under the breaking waves does not move me forward and chilled once more after 15 minutes I retire to the comfort of a fresh dry towel and the relative warmth of the van.
I’ll have to take a look at the map back home and pick out some more north coast swim spots as that has been far too uch fun not to do it again soon.