“We made for the surf across the almost deserted beach and half–waded, half–walked into the sun towards Scolt Head and Burnham Overy Staithe”
Lifting ourselves over the dunes, Burnham Overy Staithe behind us, we get our first peep across the empty beach on this wild stretch of north Norfolk coastline. We’ve ambled along the dyke for an hour, spotting oystercatchers and little egrets picking their way through Overy Marsh, battling the brisk wind on this sunny, early spring afternoon.
In front of us, lagoons and pools, much like the ones Roger saw on his trip here, dot the beach. Molly, Tim and Tom slip out of their shoes and begin striding purposefully towards the water, the tide receding into the distance. Continue reading →
“Five minutes out of the village down a waterside path, I was alone in the meadows on the brink of a wide, cold-water swimming hole, scene of the noisy reunion of the wandering offspring of Mother Test. Slightly to my surprise, there were no fishermen about, so I hurled myself straight in. The water made me gasp.”
The sun completes its disappearing act just as we finish cobbling together our bags and slam shut the boot of Tom’s vintage Jag. Grey, but unthreatening clouds move in and sit low over the Hampshire countryside, keeping the temperature pleasant considering it’s mid–January.
I’ve come to this stretch of the Test, just outside Stockbridge, to pit myself against one of the colder rivers in Waterlog. Wetsuits and swimming hats are at the ready, even if my much–loved neoprene shoes appear to have gone walkabout since my last dip, in the River Noe in Edale last November. Continue reading →
“I drove out of Lincolnshire across country, past Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, to the southern extremities of the English highlands in the Peak District of Derbyshire, where the rivers Derwent, Wye and Dove flow down to join the Trent in the Humber at Hull.”
The air is damp as we pull on our boots for the short tramp from the front door of our sprawling holiday home in the middle of Edale to to the banks of the River Noe, heavy with fallen leaves.
Plans to swim at the lido at Hathersage, as Roger did on his swing through the Peaks for Waterlog, have been shelved, its Saturday winter opening hours conflicting with a tramp up to the top of nearby Mam Tor. Continue reading →
“Scaling the sand dunes, I ran down the deserted beach, flung off my clothes and waded into the surf.”
Light winds, leaden skies and brown, churning sea. Walberswick in late October. Past the public loos, through the warren of beach huts, over the dunes and onto the beach. After weeks without a swim, my cast finally off and my wrist free, I should feel more energised about going for a dip.
Instead, Molly and I stand on wet sand. Kicking at pebbles and talking about getting stung by jellyfish, we look out to the always grey North Sea. The beach is deserted. We drop our bags and begin geeing ourselves up, before I decide this fretting needs to stop. I quickly yank off my jumper, my T-shirt still nestled inside it. I struggle out of my jeans and make a run for it. Continue reading →
“When I had first seen the words ‘Raised Beaches’ on the map, recurring like an incantation, forming a ribbon along the western shores of Jura, I immediately wanted to tramp over to this wilderness and explore them.”
Past the Inver estate office, up a car-wide track, clad head-to-toe in waterproofs, we stride out towards west Jura. A light rain whips across the sound from nearby Islay, as deer gawp at us from a distance. Does bound off over the boggy moors, while the odd stag keeps watch as we walk on.
The western side of the island is largely inaccessible, the far off delights of Glenbatrick Bay only reached by boat. Instead, we’re making our way up the eastern side of Loch Chnuic Bhric, before looping back along the coast and to one of Roger’s fabled raised beaches. Continue reading →
“The next swim, from a wooden landing stage of a boathouse on a little trout loch nestling in a purple bowl of hills, was a sheer delight. This loch had a shallow end, where the burn flowed in, and a deep end where it was dammed by a stone wall and flowed down a salmon ladder into the sea.”
The briefest of breaks in the horizontal rain gives us our chance. Scrambling into our waterproofs, we grab our backpacks from the boot of the car and make a dash for the path, leading down from Jura’s sole main road (single track) and towards the top-end of Loch Tarbert.
There is no let up in the downpour. My broken wrist is protected by my kagoule and an old walking sock shoved awkwardly over the thumb. And still, as I stand with my back to the westward gale, the loch appearing in a sweep as I turn, I can understand completely why this place would be, is, the most enchanting place for a wild swim in Britain. Continue reading →
“When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim.”
A fractured wrist in a brace, awaiting plaster, has laid my swimming plans for this lengthy summer low. Having swum in 20 or so of the rivers, lakes, lidos and beaches in Waterlog, my trip has reached an awkward halt. Last week I waded into the Wissey and watched on enviously as friends leapt off of rope swings and sat on the edge of a raging weir, my trussed up arm stopped me from properly joint in.
Plans to paddle at Clevedon in Somerset have been put on hold. And while I’ll be traipsing across Jura in a few weeks, in search of whiskey-coloured lochans, it’s unlikely I’ll be swimming, but looking into the depths in frustration. Continue reading →