I have now adjourned lock, stock and towel to Holne Weir and made it for 12 sunrise swims here on the trot, a run only broken today by torrential rain. Whilst some might say that shows a lack of imagination, I’d paraphrase the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy “When you are tired of Holne Bridge, you are tired of life itself.” What’s more as time has allowed I have been here 5 or 6 time maybe in the evening too.
What gives it such drawing power? It is very easy to park on the road and only a 2 minute walk to the water, there are lots of places to get changed and I now have a peg on a holly tree with my name on it. It is the simplest thing to step off the weir and swim to a little beyond the bridge, which is outrageously scenic. On the downside it can get popular because it is just beside the road and the opposite bank is a campsite.
As for the swimming there is a deep water channel up the middle of the main pool about 3/4 of the way after which you need to swim directly to the rope swing, passing about 2m off the white rocks on the right bank and missing the very sharp rocks in the placid shallow water on the inside of the turn that you would otherwise have swum smack in to. Tight in to the bank under the swing turn left and swim towards the larch tree on the far bank, turning in mid-river and swimming upstream heading about 1m off the rocks on the left. Drift to the right and you will hit sharp rocks again as the channel is deep but narrow here. Then swim directly for the middle of the span of the bridge head after which head straight up the middle of the river aiming at the rock in mid river at the start of the rapids. It is 340m from weir to rock and following this course misses everything underwater.
The swim varies in intensity depending on river flow. If the weir is water bank to bank I can barely make progress beyond the ½ way point of the weir pool. As the level drops from there as it has over the last 2 weeks it reaches a point where the bridge is achievable and though you won’t know it as you set out it is just possible to reach the rock at the rapids when it is just clear of the water.
The river bed adds to the fun however, the channel shallows and narrows so that the approach to the rope swing is quite push. Under the swing is the deepest part and almost still water. From there the river bed begins wide and shallow but it funnels, deepening and narrowing to the next rocks and passing them is a push until almost at the bridge.
There the channel is as wide as the span of the bridge and maybe 10 feet deep, certainly enough that people will jump from the bridge above.
Above the bridge the water is chaotic, fast flowing and large rocks on the river bed create sideways currents and counter eddies. Each swirl opens a space in the flow that is immediately grabbed by another. Simply being in the water adds to the chaos and sweeping my arms and kicking my legs creates a new set of eddies so that at one moment the water is piled against my face but with the next sweep of my arms a bow wave pushes ahead of me getting drawn upstream by the flow with an urgent rushing sound.
The water shallows about 3m down from the rock but there is a patch of dead water and you can simply float forward over the hidden boulders. It is only recently that I have noted the profile of the rock is somewhat reminiscent of cleavage and that perhaps I should be gentler when landing my hand on it each time with a slap as a measure of achievement.
Then comes the downstream rush, keeping to the same line but duck diving into the water to scoot along the sand and pebbles of the river bed or twist over the bedrock where it has been worn into flutes.
It is a 20 minute round trip; 12 going, 8 returning and my aim is to do it twice if the current allows. It will be interesting to see what the flow is tomorrow morning.