The idea behind 100 swims in 2016 was get me to less visited places and consequently I have not been up to Sharrah Pool for a month or more. Certainly it was before the last round of gales. The wind direction in South-West England is typically south-westerly straight off the Atlantic and the trees are well prepared for that. The gales a month ago were northerly and the trees were not prepared for that. After winter along the 2 mile footpath there are usually a handful of trees down, but as I jog along I give up counting after I pass 20. Some trees have been ripped out of the ground, but one or two snapped through 10 or 20 feet above the ground. The force required to snap the 16 inch diameter trunk of an oak tree must be prodigious.
The river is fuller than expected, there was evidently more rain overnight than I had thought, and it rushes along, light brown water dotted with bubbles. For the moment though the stormy weather has passed and the sky is clearest blue without a cloud. The patches of sunshine are gloriously warm, but even though last night’s wicked cold breeze has faded to nothing in the shady spots the air remains lung raspingly cold.
The sandy beach at Sharrah Pool is in full sunshine. The sand has been puckered by heavy raindrops except for a foot or so above the lapping water where it has been smoothed over by the receding river. I am almost tempted to swim here but my goal today is the next pool 200m further up the river. On the basis that I cannot see one pool from the other nor swim from one pool to the other they are separate swims for this blog.
Upper Sharrah Pool is for me more attractive than the main pool. Not as big, nor as deep, but the setting is somehow more … well, just ‘more’, and though only 200m closer to Bench Tor, high on the hillside above the tor seems more imposing and dramatic.
The sun is just slightly obscured by the bare tree branches over my right shoulder but that only adds a dappling effect to the roiling water, whilst the trees of the far bank are in full sun, a few yellow broom flowers sparkle from the shadows and the big blue sky rolls away over the hills. The constant drumming of the water over the falls ricochets from trees to rocks to trees and back again.
When the water level is lower it is fun to slip into the torrent of water from this bank and get whooshed down the pool. Today however I slip into the chill water, cross the pool and hop out on the far bank.
The granite here is more interesting too. Rounded contours of pale grey or deep red with strings of white quartz or black tourmaline. Hummocks of untouched golden sand are drifted between the stacked, moss crowned boulders. I leave a trail of carefully placed footprints in the dunes of sand, wash the sand from my feet in a pool and then leave a trail of wetsteps over the rocks to the next sand. Here and there under the trees the first wood anemones are unfurling their white, star like flowers.
Lowering myself cautiously into the river the water tugs at my legs and tries to kick me in the back of the knees in a bid to topple me from the slippery boulders. Pushing off I drift slowly at first along under the smoothed rocks, but then instead of being washed downstream I am (as expected) swept upstream in an eddy, closer to the main flow. The current grabs at me like clutching hands, spins me and then hurls me downstream straight at the rocks of the far bank. Just when it seems like I will smash into the rocks the water ahead of me runs against them, forced up by the shallowing river bed creating a wave that stands up against the rocks and rolls me back out into the middle of the river again.
That was too much fun not to do it again, only this time I allow myself to drift well down the pool back to the bank where my clothes are and into another almost still counter eddy.
I am towelling vigorously and admiring the view when I notice the blood fair gushing from my little toe. I do vaguely recall kicking a rock but not as hard as I apparently did. That is a good wound and now I have a 2 mile jog back to the car. Ah well, it’s only a flesh wound.