I had a brief dip here last week and had to batter my way through foliage that was head high. It is a spot I made my own 2 years ago, swimming frequently in preparation for the annual River Dart 10km Event. It is ideal. A heavy fallen tree branch provides a hideaway from prying eyes, a place to leave a bag and a place to sit and change. The bank is quite slippery but drops into chest deep water and it is exactly 1/2 a mile downstream to Totnes Weir. Swimming from here 2 or 3 times a week apparently had a remarkable effect on the riverbank and it was a small patch of lightly trodden grass not a thicket of nettles.
A week is a long time in swimming. The cattle have found my swimming spot. The thicket of nettles has gone and instead the area is a trampled mush of plants, mud and winter flood debris. Maybe now the grass will grow back.
The water is soft to the touch yet still a fading memory of winter clings to it even this late in summer, it is certainly not as warm as it should be having missed out on direct sunshine even if the average ambient temperature has been higher than usual. my cheekbones and lips tingle with the chill.
I like to swim downstream first as I always find going with the flow settles my rhythm and imbues a sense of ease and calm. Before I know it I am at the shallows and my fingertips drag the pebbles. I bend my arms making it hard to keep any sort of rhythm going through the shallows, but then the water deepens and it is a long, straight, 1/4 mile run to the weir.
I swim in close to the lip of the weir simply to displace the omnipresent flock of seagulls. They squawk reassuringly loudly as they run, gather pace, launch and soar upwards on the updraught from the cascading water. At the foot of the incline the tumbling freshwater fans out over the tidal sand and gravel forming a large lake that drains seaward at the far end but soon enough the tide will return and salt and fresh will mix again.
I push off and turn upstream and it seems that in no time at all I am hauling myself up the bank. it was a fresh but unremarkable swim and I think I will collect my clothes and walk back to the car as I am as I can wash the mud off my feet there.
My 100 Swims South-West Google map.