Friday, 4 October 2013

Guest Blog: Sani's write-up: Aveton Gifford to Bantham and Beyond to Burgh

A guest blog, written by our wonderful friend Sani who we try to entice down yearly for a swim or two. This year we managed to convince him and a handful of our treasured friends to come and stay and swim with us from Aveton Gifford to Bantham, have a quick cuppa and a slice of cake and then swoosh out of the river into the sea, skip across the sands of Bigbury and then swim around Burgh Island and into the shore of Bantham Beach. It took a few hours. It raised many smiles. It was wonderful. This is Sani's account, thank you Sani x

We arrived in the dark. Windy roads. Dead ends and no street lamps to assist our wending. London was smothered in traffic & rain which followed us (slowly) all the way down to deepest, darker Devon.

An uneventful car ride, me in the front on the mac barely noticing the time and them at the back plugged into their own devices. Leaving our driver to keep company with the road. A family owned house stood atop a cliff overlooking an estuary. In the distance was an island. We couldn't see either in the night but the wind told us it was there.

Using our phones as path finders we clumsied ourselves a route until we arrived at a door. A burst of warmth greeted us as our hosts welcomed us in. The cosy place seemed familiar though none of us had ever been there before. Maybe it was the fact that his family had lived in there for generations & we were temporarily granted access to this warm forever.

Some of the others were already there. We could hear them teetering with anticipation. A train and a cab ride later and our the first eleven was complete. The banter flowed more readily than the wine and after a lovingly prepared meal it was lights out.

Morning came and he was readying his kayak - twas the pride of the swim in years past. Around him candidates dotted the place. Some standing, some pacing while other draped themselves on the landing, but all were small talking the huge demands about to be asked of them.

We could now see our surroundings clearly. The green cloaked hills were dotted with enclosures. Clumps of trees rode baby cliffs which modestly folded into tiny bays. These would eventually becoming banks of the river.

Boats left unfulfilled by a deserting tide slept askew. Their slumber would remain undisturbed as we swished by later. They would be bemused but not enough to comment.

The island stood guard by the mouth of the river. To me it resembled a castle - the name I imagined was an olde Celtic word for Castle - it seemed friendly to me -but the type of friend you would need to wary of. Hopefully she would be in the mood to raise the moat today so we could complete our mission. The eye of heaven shone brightly, I took this as a good sign.

Tumbling out of cars, dousing thighs, armpits and chins in vaseline and the several necessary phantom trips to the loo, made an otherwise abandoned carpark feel like it was market day. Finally the sound of swim caps snapping signalled we were ready. Our kayakers waited for us at the murky edge. Wading through the unreliable mud flat forced some to seriously rethink the undertaking. But it was wasn’t long before the murk gave way to majesty as the saline expanse asserted itself.

The water was light and temperamental. Carrying and lumbering at will. The warm and less warm kept us guessing throughout the day, though the sun remained faithful. We dansed through the water and through afternoon and into the evening. Coupled up more often than not. Never really deserting each other in the aqueous body.

There was no need for a satnav as the synergy of strokes created star like bubbles that lived just long enough to point us in the right direction. The water found its own level as our hosts, out of nowhere, effortlessly propelled past the group and even further into our esteem.

Dreaming. Choking.Pulling. Aching.
Doubt and glory were evenly matched.
The cold was now a part of us as we approached the island.
We remained faithful.
We would Keep the danse going.
Keep the rhythm.
Keep close.
Keep up.

Ribbons nipped at our forms from below while the sheer from above ensured humility was never far from our daring. The open sea was constantly suggestive. A lineup of familiar smiles &embraces were waiting on the shoreline.

Emerging from the water our achievements glistened like medals in the autumn sun. But burning even brighter was the spirit of friendship and camaraderie. This was what weekend was really about.

The swim may have gotten us shore but the it was spirit of friendship that bore us safely home. Thank you to Stuart & Olivia Palmer (& the girls) for creating the swim, hosting the swimmers & for being really great friends.
Aveton Gifford to Bantham via Burgh Island

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Whilst driving back from Lands End

I had to be home in good time today to see my girls having spent two nights away with my Mum and Jay. It was a lovely two days, a dip a day in Sennen, which was glorious, it may be September but the weather seems to be staying kind and the water was glorious. Sennen is heaven. Turquoise sea, with bubbly white waves and almost white sand. Unlike any other beach I know. Glorious. Jay was a great swimming companion. We would ooh, and aaaahhh, our way in and then hop about giggling as it felt so cold compared to the sunshine. Once in we would jump and splash about and it was like being a child again, brilliant!

After my lovely two days and two dips I was returning home and remembered Penzance had a lido. I knew it would be closed but I also remembered a group of people swim regularly there so I parked up and explored and I found the most glorious bay waiting for me. I couldn't resist. As with all us swimmers, I had my swimmers ready to go so out I hopped and after a small amount of time spent exploring I found the perfect spot and of course the usual group of friendly swimmers enjoying what is there for the enjoying.

The water was warm the air crisp and I had a good swim safe in the knowledge that there were other swimmers there making the most of the sea in all it's glory this morning.

It is spontaneous swims like this that make my heart sing. I can't help being emotional about it, it is one of the wonderful treasures that life has to offer. Lovely lovely lovely. Penzance, I will be back.

Monday, 28 May 2012

My mate Mr(s) Seal

I've swam outside most days last week and to round it off I got in at Broadsands when it was rough, really rough. There was a bit of a tidal sweep and I wasn't totally in control. It was at the point that I realised this and starting heading for shore that I realised it was quite hard to head for shore. I had to work hard to keep that slight feeling of panic in check as Stu and the girls were on the beach and I just wanted to get back to them.

I started to swim fast and started to gain distance, it was exciting and just as I realised I was heading in the right direction I beached on what felt like a huge turtle. I looked up and realised that I was nowhere near shore and it couldn't be sand it had to be animal. This did nothing for the adrenalin and I my swimming speed increased yet again.

The shore got closer and I turned around to look at the waves and saw what looked like a huge black tree stump emerging time and time again from the water. I kept swimming but soon realised that an enormous seal was following me, playing with me. Wondering what I was doing in the water. He was interested, it was sweet but it was much more sweet when I was standing up and on safe ground!

A lovely experience but a slightly scary one!

Stuart swam there today in flat calm sparkly see, Mr(s) Seal swam with him again.....maybe we're making friends?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Morning dip in Bantham

Today we woke up at Farthings. Looking out of our bedroom window we realised that the tide was high.

So a quick breakfast for the girls and a family dash to the quay for a refreshing dip in the Avon. It was blustery but magical as always. I always feel a bit sorry for our girls as they sit in their pram and watch their nutty parents strip off and jump in to various rivers, seas, lidos and lakes but they don't seem to mind too much, well as long as we are armed with raisins and books!

Stuart went first and Freda, Etta and I watched as he swam out into the estuary. The view from where we watched was lovely, a redish tint to the sky you can see where the estuary meets Bantham beach and it looks powerful but always beautiful. It's such a wonderful place. Burgh Island sits beyond the mouth of the estuary. You can't see it from where we swim but you can see the cliffs of Bigbury, this morning Bigbury looked like a welcome place to be. More welcome that the water but we still managed to get in and have a swift refresher.

As Stuart returned I executed a quick change into my cossie and we had a nippy changeover. The water was cold but not cold enough to give me an ice-cream headache and infact I didn't even get cold today. Either I've got a higher fat content than I used to (very possible - I do like cakes!) or I'm just hardening up (not quite so likely!)

Either way it was a lovely start to the morning and we strolled slowly back to Farthings for a leisurely breakfast of toast and coffee followed by a sad departure, back home to the real world.

Bye Bye Bantham, see you again soon x

Friday, 4 November 2011

Impulsive morning dip

My drive to the local swimming pool takes me over the brow of a hill that always reveals a different seascape. Some days it's grey, choppy and uninviting others it's flat calm and shouting at me to swim in it. Usually I ignore it as I'm on my way to the pool and if I'm dipping outside it feels wrong to do it without Stuart. But for the last few weeks I've been staring longingly at the sea and the Dart wanting to get in and get cold. So this morning when I saw how wonderful the sea looked I couldn' t resist and the swimming pool didn't stand a chance.

Rather than turning right into the concrete world of the leisure centre I drove straight past and along the coast to Broadsands. It's a beach that I'm learning to love, it's easy to get in and out of the sea and it has beach huts with the same multicoloured doors as the 'Lido' and for that reason I love it. It isn't that picturesque on approach but once you're in the sea it's lovely. If the tide is high it's the best swimming spot I know as you can go from one side of the bay to the other and it's like it was designed to be an enormous outdoor swimming pool.

I expected it to be really cold and I was really hoping it would be. I braced myself for numb toes and an ice cream headache but as soon as I dipped my toes into the water it felt luke warm. It wasn't luke warm but in comparison to what I'd been imagining it really wasn't cold at all. It's the 4th of November and I could have swum a mile. I'd bet money that people have successfully swum the channel in water colder than this.

It was a very enjoyable swim, grey on entry but as I swam across the bay the sun came out and I swam with the sun on my back. The sea was flat calm and fluid, it was easy to slice through the water. It felt as if somehow the water was wrapping around my arms as I swam, it was silky smooth and I enjoyed every stroke. It was just as it should be.

I will do these impulsive dips more this winter. It was a great way to start the day and very exciting to be swimming outside first thing in the morning, in November. It's how it used to be!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

It's November! Time for a dip in the delicious Dart

The Dart is beckoning me. Every time I walk past it or see it while I walk I hear it calling me. Come on in Olivia, it's cold in here. It was a little frosty this morning and I felt my toes tingle at the thought of putting them in the Dart.

The thought is exciting, putting on just my swimming costume my hat and my goggles I must submerge myself in the River soon and preferably under the frosty darkness of an early morning.

The River down by Duncannon is one of the most beautifully secluded and picturesque parts of the river between here and Totnes. It's a secret dipping spot that isn't easy to access unless you are prepared to wander through fields and down an old wooded pathway and down the steps built especially for King Charles II, according to local legend. I wonder if he too craved a chilly dip or if his corset and gown simply wouldn't allow!?

Edward Lovesey's delightful Otter
According to a local artist and recently published in the Stoke Gabriel News there has been an Otter spotted in the Dart recently. So it's clear that local swimmers of all shapes and sizes agree that now is the time to be diving into the Dart.

So, the next time that we have an early morning high tide I will wander down to the frosty river and submerge myself in the gloriously chilling waters of the Dart.

My lovely River Dart, here I come....I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My daughter dips

This summer it is debatable who has swam in the open water more, myself or my daughter Freda Pepper, now 2. She has a love of anything cold and wet, just like her parents. From a small puddle to an open expanse of sea Freda is driven by the toddler force to strip off and get in. Only when her lips start to turn blue does she seem the smallest bit interested in changing activities.

I'm not sure this is a trait unique to Freda, we saw so many little ones charging towards the water this summer, it's just wonderful to watch. The slightest breath of sea air seems to send small children into an excited frenzy of pulling off clothes and picking up buckets, all this whilst trying not to fall over and get covered in the sandy stuff!

Whilst I know that most children love the water, I'm convinced that Freda has the determination, and madness, of a true cold water swimmer. She was in the water from April to  late October and despite the occasional chilly giggle she didn't even blink at the temperature. She would often watch Stuart or I swimming off into the sea or river and make loud attempts to follow only to be distracted by the sea swallowing her latest construction whole 'SEA GET IT!!! at which point she would run off excitedly and hurridly trying to build the next blob of sand for the waves to munch.

I love her love of the outdoors and her love of the water, it's wonderful and if only I could bottle the mood and sprinkle it on her when she's not feeling quite as chipper life would be an endless bout of giggles, splashing and ofcourse finding 'Nemo', her name for any sealife!

Whilst I know Freda is showing us a childhood love I do often wonder if Freda will be a year round open water swimmer like us. Will we be able to pass on our passion for swimming outside or will she be very different to us? I don't mind either way but I am very interested to see how her early and continuous exposure to open water swimming year round will influence her, if it influences her at all. Watch this space....