Oh the irony. Both January and February have been the warmest globally since records began and it has shown. There were daffodils in flower in my garden on Jan 1st and I saw a hawthorn bush in flower on Jan 31st (3 months early). How ironic then that in preparation for the opening of spring the temperature has dropped sharply the last 2 weeks and there have been some of the hardest frosts of winter. A final last gasp for winter or has it all gone arse about face?
Still, swimming on the equinoxes and solstices has been a long held tradition for me and a chill and gloomy spring is not surprising, though it is of course disappointing.
Today also finds me almost out of range, way up here on the River Avon at Freshford near Bath. It’s the south-west but not as we know it. In a further ironic twist it just dawned on me that the last time I swam here was the autumn equinox 2014. It is hardly recognizable as the same place. The tall grass, reeds and nettles have all gone and beneath the now leafless willow tree branches the ground is just mud dotted with a few emerging green shoots. That’s not all that has gone, the large willow tree that stood on the bank is now reclining in the river. The river too has changed; it is tinted spring green and almost clear as distinct from opaque chocolate brown.
My feet ooze into the mud. The River Dart back home flows too swiftly even in the languid bits for significant amounts of mud to accumulate, crisp, crunchy sand is the order of the day. What worries me most about soft mud is that is some fool may have thrown a glass bottle in and it may have broken there it will stay until my foot settles inexorable down on it. There are broken bottles in the Dart, but there they quickly get abraded and ground down to soft flakes. If it wasn’t for the remote possibility of something sharp I could really enjoy the ooze.
The water is not as cold as I anticipated. Chilly it is (as Yoda might say), but cold it is not, and yes it is clear, treading water I can see my feet quite distinctly.
It also turns out that without the undergrowth and leaves on the trees I can also be seen quite distinctly from the canal tow path about 100 feet away. The canal runs parallel to and about 20 feet above the river, a perfect vantage from which to watch the crazy person and several people do.
Back where the river was wider it looked perfectly still from where I stood on the bank and sure enough I started swimming quite quickly. Though it is not much narrower upstream I am making hard work of it and I suspect it is shallower making it flow faster. Oh well time to throw in the towel and whoosh, back to where I started from in moments and the oozy mud.