WILD SWIM: River, Lake, Lido and Sea (isbn: 978-0-85265-093-6)
To enter wild water is to cross a border. You pass the lake’s edge, the sea’s shore, the river’s brink, and you break the surface of the water itself. In doing so, you move from one realm into another: a realm of freedom, adventure, magic and occasionally of danger.
1. BLUE LAGOON, ABEREIDDY,PEMBROKESHIRE
It’s the jumping that people most come to the Blue Lagoon for. There’s a nice beach, and great scuba diving,but it’s the chance to hurtle off the blackened walls of an old quarry into clear, deep bluewater that draws the crowds.
We are the first people to arrive after a morning storm, with families and holidaymakers not far behind; all of us are on the move with beach towels after the first rays of sun. One family says they heard about the Blue Lagoon back inYorkshire and brought their children especially, another reports that the place was crammed yesterday.A rumour goes around that the tide is too low to jump from the tallest wall today, and it’s passed from parent to child to newcomers, even before the first children in wetsuits have crossed the lagoon.
The sea is still full of white caps, but the lagoon,protected by steep cliffs,is flat and calm. Occasional gusts spread out over its flat surface like fast-moving ink blots. Standing on the lowes twall a South African kayaker teaches me how to jump ‘properly’. ‘Cross your arms over your chest,and keep your feet together.Don’t hold your nose,you might break it when you land. And don’t jump with your arms out – you could disclocate your shoulders.’ He tells a cautionary tale of a jumper in Dorset who hit the water with his head forward and knocked himself out – luckily someone was watching and jumped in to get him.
Duly instructed I plunge off the baby wall, which feels high tome, and then float around looking at the children in shortie wetsuits on the giants.The walls are between 20and 45 feet above the water. The South African hurtles off the very top in a running leap, clearing 6 feet of wall before leg pedalling out into the water.
Billy points out her friend Hermione, a little blonde girl of about ten,who has jumped off the topwall ‘five times’.Gus, 12, is standing on the middle wall in blue shorts.‘He’s in a tough situation there,’ says hismum,who’s here on holiday. ‘He doesn’t like heights. But he likes Billy.’Gus’s battle with his contradictory desires continues for at least ten minutes. Eventually Gus jumps. ‘Two kisses!’ he shouts up triumphantly tohis friend onthewall,after Billy has given him his reward.
Afterwards we swimout of the channel that connects the Lagoon to the sea,the bubbly rock beneath us covered in flat slate pebbles, and then swimaround into the beach. The caravan on the beach serves us huge cups of chai, and we sign a petition to keep Abereiddy car park open.
Swim: Easy.With clearwater, a blue lagoon and an old quarry, this is a popular coastal spot for scuba-diving and jumping.
Directions: Abereiddy can be reached by following signs fromCroesgoch on the A487 (St David’s to Fishguard Road). Fishguard Harbour station is 11 miles away. There are fine coastal walks in both directions and scuba-diving, canoeing and kayaking. Divers and swimmers may see seals,soft corals,anemones,spider crabs and ribbons of kelp.
Check out this Wild Swim Link for more information.
Kate, this book’s author,grew up swimming in the river Culmwhich ran the length of her father’s farm in Devon.‘My brother Alex and I would start at the deep section at the top of the farm, shout our echoes under a bridge, paddle frantically to get out before we got sucked over the waterfall, and then hold on to slimy rocks at the base of the falls to batter our heads under its flow.’ ‘From there the journeywas on! A sprint down a narrow straight, knees banging against stones and minnows in clear view, joint terror around ‘eel corner’ and then a long stretch past willows before dodging cowpats and thistles barefoot on the way home.’ She has never lost the draw of water, scaling lido fences at university for midnight swims and jumping into rivers
and seas at the slightest opportunity.
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