Down the Steps.

Whilst not strictly relevant to this blog of 100 swimming places the reason I am in Kingswear is that during the past couple of years I have swum every inch of the coast from Teignmouth to Mill Bay Cove near the entrance to the River Dart estuary and I have swum the whole river from Dittisham to Two Bridges on the West Dart and above Postbridge on the East Dart.  Filling in the 4 miles from Dittisham to Kingswear is tricky, there are lots of boats, it means switching river banks and there are few roads or paths along the river bank.  So whilst swimming from Dittisham to Kingswear is relatively easy, getting back is less so.

You would however have thought that the mile from Kingswear to Mill Bay Cove would be very easy but again unless I am prepared to swim it both ways it is not so and even if I do that I still need an entry point at Kingswear and somewhere to leave the car.  So here I am.  In Kingswear.

I have found a place to park the car, the most obscure bit of road which in places is so narrow between high stone walls that even with the wing mirrors tucked in there is barely space to slide a sheet of paper between mirrors and wall.  I park the car and jog off to check out my options.

Almost immediately there is a ‘Public Footpath’ sign.  It points down a steep set of some 40 steps sandwiched between two tall houses.  The steps end  abruptly at the water.  That is just about all there is to it, steps then waves.  I jog on, double back because the road is closed, find the footpath down to the beach also closed due to unstable cliffs and so jog on to the steps above Mill Bay Cove.  There is nowhere apart from those first steps to get down to the water.  Back I go.

Sitting on the tailgate of the car I get changed.  The swim is completely unknown to me and so, dear prudence, I am going with the wetsuit.  I tuck the car key out of sight on the steps fairly confident that no-one has been down there in weeks or months, I mean why?

A stiff easterly wind is blowing straight up the river and it is high tide, no just past high tide I am swimming upstream into a current.  The water is unexpectedly clear, green like verdigris and warmer than expected or maybe that is just the benefit of the strong sunshine on the black wetsuit.  Another good reason / excuse for wearing it.

It is only a short distance up through the moorings of the Royal Dartmouth Yacht Club until I am as close as it is sensible to get to the ferry.  The car ferry tears off its mooring, the tug hauling on the car barge before pirouetting against the side of the barge and shooting off across the river.  The other half of the ferry pair is on the way and just to add to the fun there is a passenger ferry in play too.  Doh!  Ferry!  Get the ferry from Kingswear to Dittisham, swim back.

Swimming back to the steps should be easy, there is a fair tide flowing now, but I am head on into the wind which is kicking up small waves that soon fill my ears and nose with water.  But look at the view!

Oh dear.  I am padding from the steps to the car and there is a chap parking his car behind mine, I’m sure I am in the space he wanted.  I apologize; ‘give me 5  minutes to change and I’ll be gone’ I tell him.  ‘No problem, no problem at all.  Have you been swimming?’  Now in the words of Tony Hancock, I didn’t want to offend the man, after all I’ve only just met him, “no man is an island”.  ‘Yes by all means’ I told him (well not quite, you have to know your Tony Hancock for that to make much sense, I am rambling).  What I actually said was ‘Yes, I couldn’t resist as it is such a lovely day’.  We then have a conversation about his gorgeous home that  I am parked in front of, the gorgeous view from his gorgeous home (this is starting to sound like a Talking Heads song), the weather, the temperature of the water, sailing, wetsuits …. and all the while I am stood in a widening puddle.  Have I been swimming?  Do ya think?  Really nice chap.

The practical upshot is however that I have found a place to park in Kingswear, a place to get into the water easily and today’s little excursion has knocked 2/10ths of a mile off the swim to Mill Bay Cove.  Give it another month to warm up a bit more and I will cross off another chunk of my Moor to Sea swim.



PS the total distance from Teignmouth to the sources of the Dart is about 80 miles.


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