After an excellent night’s sleep, with the van all to myself, I rose to a glorious day. A good cup of vietnamese coffee in the sun and some baked beans set me up for what we had planned.
Wild Swimming is a book our friend borrowed that lists a load of secret places dotted around the country. In these places, you can find pools of cool, scenic water to splash around in next to your picturesque picnic and obedient, docile dogs dozing in the shade…. Quite a picture of tranquility.
The reality, you might be expecting, to be vastly different. Maybe you are conjuring images of half drowned shopping trolleys and sunken traffic cones in amongst stinking pondweed and…. is that an Ugg boot?
In truth it was in between. Surprisingly, there was zero trash. Something we were very proud of finding and leaving behind us. As a group, we subscribe to the “take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints” approach to all our outdoor pursuits. There was also, no-one else. Part of us had really wondered how “Wild” these swimming holes were going to be, so that was a pleasant surprise also. However, there was a lot of pondweed and lillys. Beautiful as lillys are, breast-stroking through soggy foliage is trickier than you expect.
It was also cold water… normally I would say something dramatic about how cold it was, but we are Pro’s now. Been swimming in the north sea off the coast of Scotland recently, so there is nothing that will get that cold for a while. I was still a bit slow getting in, cold water is still COLD! Gingerly I lowered myself as far as I could until the cold water swallowed me whole and the shock kicked in, my legs kicking to stay afloat. Maybe I was imagining it but I felt less buoyant in this cold water than water I have swum in before… is that a thing? Maybe someone more physic-sy than I, can let me know. Or maybe I just allow myself to bob lower in the water in pools because the water doesn’t smell so bad?
I took my GoPro in to film the hilarity of peoples, and my own, expressions getting wet so I will have to see how to post those on here at some point. Needless to say, there was some reluctance to get in after my outburst but we all did in the end. Some took more persuading than others
After the initial shock it was actually quite serene and enjoyable casually paddling through nature…. OMG WHAT WAS THAT ON MY LEG… get it OFF! I think it’s time to get out… which was easier said than done. Now our arms and legs had grown accustomed to the cold, it meant all the blood was at our core, so arms cramped and legs were stiff hauling ourselves out onto a muddy bank. After that we didn’t hang around any time in the sun, this is England and even the hottest days come with wind enough to chill you when wet.
Dry and warm again we could enjoy the setting of our adventure more with a picnic before setting off back to the cars. The way back was a clearly marked trail with stiles and fences to keep you on course. Easy.
On the way in, we had followed the most direct path on the OS map until it ran out. Then we followed a vague track, bushwhacking through the undergrowth and down the valley slopes to find the pool. As we neared the valley floor, the path disappeared and the ground turned to something strange. It was a green, dense carpet of moss and grasses in tufts and divots across a meadow. From the distance it looked like a very pleasant amble but it was all actually floating on water. Walking across it was like walking on the skin of custard after it’s been left an hour from cooking. It’s liquid but you can’t see the water and the surface just wobbles a lot so you had to be very careful where you stood. Several times I buried my pointy walking poles up to the grips trying to keep my balance. The dogs and I thought was great fun, if a bit disorientating, but we found the pool in the end so it all worked out.