Goldilocks and the Early Morning Swim

‘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.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

 

Devon and Cornwall?

It is not that I have run out of places to add to my ‘Devon’ Wild Swim Map it is simply that things keep taking me in the direction of Cornwall and there are, as there are in Devon, some stunning swimming spots ‘across the border’.

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall

When I arrived in Falmouth the previous evening the sea was roaring into the beach and the torrential rain had produced lakes rather than puddles along the seafront road.  However, twelve hours is a long time in swimming and in the pre-dawn light next morning there was only a slight breeze and the sea had become almost millpond calm as the stars faded from the clear sky.  Looking out from Maenporth Beach though it was quite clear that the focus of the brightness was slightly around the headland and I was not going to get a sunrise.  Not from the beach anyway.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

The soft sand at the high water mark  gave way to sharp pebbles on the gently sloping beach and even before my feet were in the shallows they were feeling numb.  I had planned for a longer swim and was in my wetsuit but even so the water finding its way inside was like icy needles and even though I know it is true I had to convince myself afresh that once the water on the inside warmed up thighs would be at least acceptable.

As I got closer to the headland the light along the horizon brightened behind the band of cloud throwing up lighthouse beams that swept the sky as the clouds drifted across the distant sky.  Then for just a brief moment the isolated clouds above me turned from leaden grey to burning gold tinged with pink and then pure white and the rising sun swept  light down from above half blinding me with its brilliance.  In all the excitement I had quite failed to notice the water inside the wetsuit was now more temperate and almost but not quite pleasant though my fingers and toes were refusing to cooperate and lacking in any sense of feeling respectively.

Against the bright sky the perching birds looked like teeth along the ridge of nearby rock they were however troubled by my noisy progress as I kicked up gouts of water to be backlit against the sun and en masse took to flight, wheeling my way at first and squawking irritably before making their own solitary paths across the bay.

My splashy progress eventually took me back into the breaking waves where I unexpectedly found I was in no more than a foot of water as I grated ashore on the sand and pebbles.  Only leaving me with a numb foot stumble back up the beach to my towel.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

 

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall