Yesterday evening was the first time for a few weeks that I was able to walk along the coastal path nearest to the swimming beach that the ‘bobbers’ prefer to use. The beaches and the coastal path beyond the Artillery Tower have been closed for essential maintenance. Although the path is now open, the steps and slopes that allow us to get into the water at high tide are being refurbished.
We often joke that our ‘free’ hobby is anything but free as we buy various bits of equipment to make winter swimming easier and safer to achieve. But for our local council maintaining the concrete against twice daily tides and winter storms must be a huge budgetary responsibility.
Looking at the amount of work that has been done I’m pretty grateful that my only responsibility before winter is to get a wetsuit. But for now October is still being kind to us.
As luck would have it we have a dog whose ears act as a windsock. Thus allowing me to share other pictures that feature wind and you will have an understanding of sense and direction. Lola is staring out to sea looking northward towards Wales.
Yesterdays swim was extraordinary. Exhilarating and epic, the thrill and managed risk of an unknown beach made our morning swim just delicious. The previous day we had met some fellow coast path amblers. The woman expressed an urge to swim in the sea, her male partner was somewhat dismissive of her diligence or ability to do such a thing. We told her we would be at the beach at 11:30 and at 11:30 she strode into the sea to join us with no sign of her doubting man.
There were furry lifeguards on duty at all times.
The rest of the day was spent ambling and exploring the coastal path.
Somewhat disappointingly the stretch of coastal path did not live up to its designation of scenic. We knew the sea and cliffs were to our left but what we mostly saw were brambles. I observed that the walk was “About as scenic as my arse’ which pretty much describes everyone’s view. A rotating display of four human bums and three dog bums depending on which order we were walking.
Book reading conversations were the high point of our rest stops. Raynor Winn and Simon Armitage have both written books about walking the South West Coast path. Both books were given rigorous reviews in the bramble caves where we found benches to stop. Blackberries were available for refreshment which was a reasonable compensation for not seeing the Bristol Channel.
Thankfully walking the coastal path had not been the plan so there was no huge disappointment with the lack of views. The reward for doing a challenging and unexpectedly long amble was pints of Doom Bar shandy and smaller measures of Gin and Tonic served with tasty fish and chips at a beachside pub.
Mornings can be strange when winter sea swimming is a regular habit. The times we swim are predicated by tide times and anticipated weather. The weather is the least important. It has become entirely normal to wake up, look out at frosty cars and know that all we actually need to put on for breakfast is a pair of swimming knickers and a wetsuit. The contrast is even madder when we realise that only twelve hours before we had felt cold dressed in several layers of thermal underwear and winter clothing to walk the dogs at the same location.
Sea swimming is a massive, positive, side effect of the pandemic. We have formed an informal group of swimmers and watchers so that anyone who wants a swim can find a swim buddy on our Whatsapp group. Everyone in the group knew someone but before winter swimming most of us did not know each other. We have never seen each other with our clothes on!
Equipment is the thing, in the balmy days of October we rocked up in normal clothes and congratulated ourselves on this wonderful free hobby that we had discovered. Incrementally winter started biting at our resolve to ‘keep things simple’. Birthdays and Christmas came and went and with it the gifts of accessories for our new hobby. One person gets something new and others fancy getting the same. Recently this took us to a strange place. Researching Sinx gloves on line is not for the faint hearted. Coupled with the phenomenon of jabbering like crazy beasts when the endorphins hit, our post swimming ‘ bobbing’ chats are far reaching and without the usual social restraints that you might expect in a group of people who don’t know one another well. Over-sharing might be the correct term. To onlookers it probably sounds like the random squeals and hoots of a seal colony. Social distancing doesn’t help matters but I think we would be loud even in a close knit huddle.
Pandemic Pondering #300, again!!! After last weeks recalibration of pondering numbers . I can celebrate reaching 300 for the second time in a month. Dysnumeracy rules! Today we can celebrate with a naturally occuring heart, which I found at the rear of our regular swimming beach.
Regular or repetitive these posts maybe but today was the day for socially distanced swimming at Tranquility Bay. An hour of exercise, of which only twenty minutes was spent in the water. 10 minutes stripping off and probably another 20 trying to get our clothes back on when fingers and feet no longer belong to us.
The swim today was fueled by coffee from Cakewhole who were closing as we arrived but understood our need as they sea swim too.
Cake may also have passed our lips but winter sea swimming has a way of clearing out vexascious thoughts. Cake can be very vexascious.
The peril of a swim later in the day is the timing of the sleepy zone that follows the euphoria and energy boost that cold water swimming brings. By 9pm we thought it was midnight and slunk off to bed. Ostensibly to read books, the truth, of course, was that barely had the cup of tea cooled to drinking temperature before the sleep monster wrestled us into the duvet.