No Swimming Here

 

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

The sign appears quite emphatic and there are others too, in fact no swimming signs in profusion.  And all they say may be true, but actually none of those things singly or in combination actually means one should not go swimming, only that there is a need to approach with caution.  Besides it is quite tricky to swim in shallow water and deep doesn’t make a lot of difference once you are out of your depth.  Quite the contrary in fact as on a shallow beach you could be only 1 meter out of your depth but it could be 100m to sufficiently shallow water, whereas on a steep beach it may only be a few meters.  Currents are obviously harder to read and I can see evidence of rip currents from the way the shingle has been sculpted, but they are not certain death so long as you understand them and don’t try to swim against them: swim around.

There is not a great deal of surf, nothing like on my previous visits when swimming has been blown out every time.  Recent storm Brian obviously did throw up quite some surf as the car park is strewn with large pebbles and a part of it has been washed away.  There is however one stranded Portuguese man o’ war, now why was death by ‘jellyfish’ not on the sign?  But like the rest I’ll take my chances on that score.  Besides will you just look at that sunset, what could possibly go wrong against a backdrop like that?

I am off and swimming, buoyed up by the gentle swell.  As expected I have gathered quite an audience and it occurs to me that surely the mere fact that I am swimming here in the first place in the closing days of October is a reassurance in itself that I might have some previous experience and some idea of what I’m doing.

It further occurs to me that by applying that reverse engineering reasoning then where many people are at a beach in summer they must all be idiots.  And as it is probably the case that far more people get rescued in summer than in winter it must be more dangerous to swim in summer.  You see, it makes sense.

Unless of course the winter ones are simply never seen again much less get rescued.  Hmmm, I suspect I have overlooked something in my reasoning.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Anyway here I am, by myself, swimming where I shouldn’t be out well beyond the end of the breakwater and I am still in search of the dangerous currents and killer ‘jellyfish’.  It is true however that I am out of my depth though the water is a bit murky so without being able to see my feet it is hard to be sure.  It doesn’t much matter anyway because I am quite content to let my feet float up and lie back and enjoy the sunset.  Even I can see that winter is on the way and these opportunities will be few and far between once a few more weeks have gone by.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

 

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall

Advertisements

“Why? It’s September!”

The prospect did not to be honest look too great as we pulled up in the lee of the sea wall at Seaton.  Beyond the wall the pebbles were raised in two steep waves down to grey choppy sea.  50m out to sea a yellow buoy bobbed and tossed whilst away to the left another with a flag atop lurched and waved against the fading sky.  The wind blew smartly south-westerly up the beach.

After the carnival float was set up and as much time as could be spent had been on looking at the other floats of which there were disappointingly few there was the inevitable lull.

The pebbles scrunched as I walked to the sea.  The waves ran at a slight oblique angle right to left sweeping along the beach creating a slight but irrelevant current to one side.  I weighed my towel down on top my bag with a large stone, which I regard as a universal sign ‘this bag has not been forgotten, someone is out there swimming however unlikely that seems’, and waded into the clear grey-green water.

Compared to the 13.1C temperature of the river at 8 this morning this was almost tropical.  15C is a tipping point in my life both for running and swimming, below that it is cool, above and I begin to overheat, especially when running.  There does not seem to be much chance of overheating this evening but it is still luxuriously warm.

25m off the beach I swim against the chop parallel to the seafront to the row of beach huts.  The floats along the sea wall light the scene and create a cacophony of conflicting musics each calling ‘pick me, pick me’ to the judges.

It was always my intention to swim out to the sea tossed buoy but from here I can swim parallel to the chop of the waves rather than face on into them.  Mad, but not stupid.  The buoy is quickly reached and out here the current is stronger.  I don’t want to get too close as there is always a danger of trailing debris caught around the chain and having to be rescued might provide entertainment for those on shore but let’s not shall we.  The current however is pushing me onto it so I swim wide out and around.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Now I have the waves trailing me, lifting me up and pushing me in to the beach and I am fairly rocketing along whilst wondering how deep it is.  I am soon close back in to the beach, under 10m out.  Pulling my goggles down I upend into the silence of the water.  For a moment the waves pull at my ankles but then all is still.

It is 4 or maybe 5 metres deep and I have dived on the divide between beach and seabed.  To my right the pebbles tumble down steeply in a landslide of flints.  The biggest form a barrier between pebbles and sand, a sharp divide.  To my left the pale sand undulates in shallow ripples out of sight into the green sea.  Here and there odd stones lie on the sand and I suspect these have been thrown from the shore as otherwise the sand is uniformly clear.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Jumping back over the sea wall that seems to have filled the lull in the proceedings perfectly and provided a talking point for the landlubbers.

“Why were you swimming?  It’s September!”

There is little to offer besides “Because”.

But as Hig Hurtenflurst would have it, “Hey, that’s neat”.

 

 

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

There is already less slight than I had expected under the trees beside the little stone building, but I had experienced a moment of indecision and gone a very long way about getting here and the sunset has already set leaving only a dull pink glow on the low cloud.  Under the circumstances I had expected to be alone, but there is only a single space into which I can wedge the car instead of an open run of 7 or 8 car lengths.  The darkness intensifies as I turn beneath the low hanging tree branches and onto the riverbank path.

It is about a ½ mile walk along the bank and through the meadow to the oak trees beside the ‘beach’.  I put my bag of clothes up into the hollow of one of the oak trees away from the inquisitive cattle.

The beach is more mud than sand and at the water’s edge there is a strip of sunken vegetation which bubbles as I stand in it.  Beyond that sharp pebbles slope gradually into deeper water though out in mid-river there is a sudden drop off to unexplored depths beneath the far bank.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

The riverbank trees are silhouettes against the fading blue sky and a gibbous moon rides high over midstream.  However, it is quite extraordinary how human eyes adapt and the kingfisher blurs by me in an orange and iridescent blue streak pulling up sharply to perch on a nearby branch that overhangs the water.  I drift towards him with little direction tweaks from hands and feet.

He’s off again and I drift on.  Then he vanishes into a willow thicket amongst the heavy shadows so I push on downstream.  I have gone only 50m when he whooshes by me again and the chase is on once more.  This time I get to within 5m of where he sits on a fallen and half submerged tree.  He drops to the water and is instantly off again only this time with a silver fishy flash in his beak.

I turn upriver and head back, I have been perhaps a little longer than intended and even though I know this stretch of river very well indeed I am upon the oak trees by the beach before I recognise them.  It is a quick rub down with the towel in the gloom and a brisk walk back in near darkness until II reach the street lamps at the roadside.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Looking back up the river the water and bank merge seamlessly as one black shadow.  Ten minutes more and I’d have been lucky to find my way back out of the soft evening darkness.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

 

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall

From Dawn ’til Dusk

So no vampires then.

It’s 4:30 in the morning, it has been light for half an hour but under the trees shadows still lurk on the edge of vision.  And again there is not a hint of breeze.  We join the group who bivvied on the beach as the horizon assumes a hazy orange glow.  The waves are sweeping softly over the high tide line belying the deeper swell that makes the 5 Knot buoy bob and nod further out.  We ride the swell as the sun clears the horizon filling each face with summer warmth and promise.

We swim back in as the sun rises higher making noticeable progress minute by minute, there is a lot of sky to cover today.  Climbing back up the hill the shadows have fled away from beneath the tress, it is just 6 o’clock.

The first day of summer is a scorcher as the camper van creeps up the motorway then onto major roads and minor roads through the Brecon Beacons, across the heart of Wales.  The route picks up the River Wye and follows it back up into the hills until crossing over at Eisteddfa Gurig from where I can almost see the sea.  It is an extraordinary twist of geological fate that send the river instead half the length of Wales east to the Severn 100 miles back the way I just came.

It is much later in the day when I pull the camper onto the roadside at Borth.

The heat is already draining from the day as a slight breeze stutters over the pebbles and sand.  The sun is now creeping down to the horizon off this seeming endless stretch of beach as I throw off my t-shirt onto my towel and wade out through the surf almost reaching the sunset before there is sufficient water in which to swim.

The sun creeps lower, casting golden tints across the water, its progress seems far slower than its earlier ascent, reluctant perhaps to give way to a brief darkness, a darkness that is now on the ascendant from here to December when there might again be vampires, but for now there is only the summer.

Wild Swimming
Wild Swimming

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall