The River Dart swim

What would most people with a swimming habit do in a regional English City while visiting a long lost friend?

The conventional wisdom says head for the municipal pool. This one’s burnt out by a sauna fire but even if it wasn’t, our unconventional wisdom says there’s a better opportunity a few miles away on the moor.

I have a willing but inexperienced accomplice. It’s not very safe because the last river swim she did was in August four years ago. Then there were hoards of locals with barbecues , ghetto blasters, dogs with their wild human friends cliff bombing into the river on the top of the moor. We’re planning a maximal experience – because we’re project managers. Without doing any permanent damage. We’re mums so we’re habitual health and safety risk assessors for ourselves and our children. We’re not going to be limited by fear though. And she trusts me. I love her for that.

We bring gloves and a Thermos flask of tea plus fun size Crunchies. That’s it. A few mitigations to warm up fast after an immersion is a sharp idea.

We find lots of kayakers in the car park but we can’t find the spot she remembers from that summer 4 years ago. So we ask. We love him because he is an adverturer and doesn’t dissaprove. The river is running very fast and powerfully.

Following a path along the river and at last it opens out to something that’s more of a pool. The kayakers are slingshotting round the far side of the bend in the river rip tide, just under the cliff.

Strip off. Feel our way in-past the boulders. She is madly excited. I’m assured – holding steady for the maximum intense chill. This is the coldest plunge of the year yet for me. I estimate 8 degrees. I wish I could feel what she feels though.

We cling on to the roots in the water not to be swept away. It’s touch and go.

Our kayaker swings past. He’s delighted we found the place. His kayak is specially designed to slice the water and unlike the slingshotters, he’s a pirouetting spinning top.

The contrast of the expert with 10 years of practice, and the limits of the instant gratification thrill seekers. We’ll get bored soon and by next year want the new high of throwing ourselves from the cliffs. Are men different? I’d like to know. Is there a man open enough to help us experience what its like to be him? There is – and its her man.

We get out and stand semi naked in the November drizzle feeling warm. We’ve been recalibrated. We feel everything differently. A family of wild ponies canter up to congratulate us and passing walkers agree to take snaps of our cross – species celebration.

It’s so different and so much better than we planned. Let’s not plan again. All it takes is to get here and get started.

She’s caught the bug. My original wild swim friend is oblivious – here on this moor in November he has infected another. I was a follower now I’m a leader and so is she. She’s bringing her man with her.

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