Number 24 of my 100 swims or is it numbers 24 and 25?
What I ask myself, constitutes a separate swimming place? This is important, to me at least, if I’m to achieve my 100 swimming places in 2016 without making it too easy.
One definition would be, as applied last weekend at Sharrah Pool, that it is not possible to see one place from the other or swim between one place and the other. That works quite well at Sharrah where the three swimming places are separated each from the other by 200m of unswimable river and are obscured by trees. However, it completely breaks down when Berry Head and Hopes Nose are considered. You can see one from the other and swim the 5 miles between them if you choose, but from a practical sense they are quite distinct.
Fishcombe Steps and Churston Beach are only 200m apart and I have swum between them many times. In my mind then they are the same place. Perhaps then the answer to the question lies in the scenery. From the perspective of either Fishcombe or Churston the scenery is essentially the same whilst the view from Hopes Nose or Berry Head is significantly different. The panoramic view from the three Sharrah pools is also essentially the same; one of trees and hills, but their intimate perspectives are quite distinct. If photos of the three Sharrah pools were placed side-by-side it would not be possible to relate them with any certainty to the same river. Similarly from photos looking out from Berry Head or Hope’s Nose it would not be immediately apparent that one was a view of the other. Only by being extremely obtuse however would it be possible to disguise the fact that Fishcombe and Churston are close by each other.
This ‘photographic’ distinction is one I can live with and so this is only swim #24.
The steps at Fishcombe are still barricaded and await repair. However I change on the level concrete space and, tucking my bag and shoes out of sight, simply climb around it and down the rocks to the water.
The water is far clearer than at Long Sands yesterday. Here the cove is almost completely sheltered from the freshening breeze and any tidal currents so the water is flat calm and no sand has been stirred in. The seal was here 10 minutes ago when I passed by on Churston Beach and though there is no sign of her now I expect at any moment to be bumped on my feet.
Across from the steps towards the beach there are more rocks for interest and deep in the bottle green water sea weeds waft softly in the sweep and draw of the long, low swell, dark brown against the lime coloured rocks.
No bump comes.
Camera at the ready I am half hoping the seal will return so I paddle slowly along under the rocks and then out into open water and around the red pot buoy. There is more breeze here and it ruffles the surface making it dance in agitated splashes. Now and then as I push my hands forward the bow wave they create is snatched up by the wind and thrown in my face, but already I am coming in closer to the steps, back under the shelter of the hill and once again the surface becomes glass still and rocks loom back into view as I reach the shallows.