There is blue sky overhead smeared with a few streaks of wispy cloud and a slight breeze stirs the trees. Across the road from the car park is a low wall with a gateway, a path across a narrow swathe of rough grass and a ramped access to a beach of fine, white, glittering sand, backed by buried railway sleepers contorted by waves and wind blown sand separating the beach from some small fragile dunes. I have the beach to myself, almost. Far to my left a solitary figure is stood beside a fishing rod lying in its rest.
However, as I change and then wade into the short surf of the clearest water I can recall swimming in for a very long while a breeze tugs at my hair and sopping wet clouds roll up over the pine trees. Oh well I will be getting wet anyway and my towel and clothes are rolled into a plastic bag, it’ll be fine.
It must be close to high tide and for 10m out from the surf the seabed is a mix of sand and pebbles and then the limit of the effects of the summer waves is reached and quite literally like a line drawn in the sand the sea bed becomes a simple field of ribbed sand. It stretches out ahead, left and right, out of sight and here that is a lot of sight.
The sky becomes greyer as I swim along the beach about 50m out in about 6 to 7m depth of crystal clear water looking down at the endless seabed. A fine mist of drizzle begins to fill the air and the village fades a little. The boom of thunder rolls around the bay and glancing at the beach I can see the sky inland is now dark and a little ominous.
The man on the beach is hurriedly collecting his gear together and sets off up the beach at a trot as the first juicy drops of rain pit the surface of the sea with small saucers of ripples. The breeze across the surface of the sea is barely perceptible and yet the clouds are advancing swiftly and bring with them heavier rain and another growl of thunder though there is no flash of lightning. The chance of being injured by a lightning strike is vanishingly small though I can understand why the fisherman with his 12 foot high carbon fibre lightning conductor may a run for his car, but you know what, I think I’ll take my chances.
The rain is quickly over and another dull boom of thunder almost out of earshot rolls in over the sea but the clouds it seems are here to stay.
At the far end of the beach from the town the sea bed becomes dotted with isolated rocks each home to a thatch of kelp fronds. Then there are more rocks, but here the water suddenly becomes warmer and also brown like weak tea where a small stream disgorges its load of peat saturated water collected down off the moorland. I am used to the River Dart being peaty in colour but this is properly dark brown so I swim back into the clear water which feels sharply cooler now.
Back at my towel the scene is still dull like early evening and the damp sand no longer glitters. Far away on the slipway at the town someone is walking a dog, but otherwise I am just a solitary figure in the middle of almost 1/2 a mile of perfect beach.
Two days later and I am back at the beach only this time I swim end to end and back and the sea across the whole bay is peat stained to such a degree that the seabed is only dimly visible. And not only is the water coming down the main river the colour of molasses but it is also bitingly chill, which is all rather disappointing.