It seems I have timed my moment at Spitchwick to perfectly coincide with an April shower. Mind you, from the abundance of puddles in the car park from which the slanting raindrops are now raising turrets of opaque, ochre water, this is just the latest in a run of many. There have been not so many down by the coast, maybe I should have gone to the sea to swim. The muddy patches that had almost dried out last Saturday are also, once again, thick bogs. On the plus side I had no problem finding a space in the car park and I can park wherever I like, I am on my own, again, and isn’t it great.
Detour paths have been trampled through the bracken and brambles to by-pass the swamps. These are all new, a mark of how persistently wet it has been over winter, but they will recover quickly, there is afterall no sign of the massive scorched patch left after someone had a fire last year. However, despite the new and very prominent ‘No Camping. No Fires.’ sign a new fire pit has appeared on the bank by the pool. Beside it is a grubby, soaked towel. If it is any good I will keep it, if not, it is more litter collected.
On the whole though there is surprisingly little rubbish given that, like last Saturday, there have been some sunny days to drawn the crowds. Oh, wait a moment. There in the shallows where I am about to step bare foot is the twisted metal grille from a disposable bar-b-cue. I wrap it in the towel to prevent it slashing the inside of my bag, that will go straight in the bin (the collection eventually includes 2 mangled tennis balls and a drink bottle).
The water is not as cold as it could be and also quite clear. Billowing clouds still block the sun but that only enhances the drama and eventually one of those clear blue patches will line itself up.
I am swimming gently upstream on the inside of the curve where the water moves slowest when a stick flies over the bushes and drops a few feet to my left. There’s a much louder splash and a black headed dog paddles into view. A moment later and a person’s face appears over the bushes. He has at least the decency to look slightly mortified that he has just (unwittingly) thrown a stick at me. That however is what I have come to expect from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I am around in the shallows so I head over to the outer curve where the water is deepest and faster flowing and get a shove down to the pool again, drifting by under bare branched trees; sharp, dark silhouettes against the clear blue sky. There is an oak tree with a cloak of fresh yellow leaves near home but spring is always at least 2 weeks later up here, the branches overhead are not even budding just yet.
Down to the tail end of the pool and I am aground again. Then back to the stepped boulders for out. I am stuffing my kit in the bag, along with a few dry sticks for the fire when the sun tears clear of the clouds and flushes the pool with golden evening tones. Missed it!
With a quick glance along the river bank to check that I have not left anything and my eye falls on a pale grey mound. It is quite remarkable that a human body that has amassed a lifetime of experiences and memories can be reduced to a pile of wet ash that would not fill a biscuit tin. This is the second such mound in a few days, there was another near Wellsfoot on Saturday. In fact you can barely walk a mile on the moor without trudging through someone’s last resting place. When it is someone’s last request to have their ashes scattered I’m fairly sure they mean thinly distributed not dumped in a heap. I’m sure the relatives do it because they want to cling to a spot, that final resting place they can return to, but for heavens sake leave real flowers not more plastic litter.