Swimming from the rowing club at Totnes can be an interesting balancing act between tide and river flow, time, and of course how far you want to go; though the idea here was to swim upstream through the town as far as the weir, which is 1.4 (ish) miles. That takes about an hour and so to get to the weir before running out of water when the tide turned meant starting by 6pm at the very latest. But it was a big spring tide to give maximum push upstream against the slightly raised river flow after two days of rain.
The water looked an unappealing dull brown, the surface dotted with small items of flotsam and jetsam flowing very slowly downstream. That’s to be expected even on an incoming tide as the river separates into 2 levels, the incoming tide flows up the river bed, lifting the river water which flows outwards at the surface. Maybe it was the rain water or maybe just the lack of sunshine but the water was also an unappealing and unseasonably cool 16.7C
The rowing club was also practicing. They are used to swimmers just once a year as the club hosts the start of the River Dart 10k event and though I swim there at other times it can be early morning when no-one is rowing. the problem is of course that rowers have their backs to the direction of travel, they should keep a lookout, but they are not going to. Fortunately it’s a wide river and amongst the moored boats is a no go zone for the rowers, so it’s not so much of a problem.
The 7 of us were there to swim at our own pace which meant we quickly separated into a 2:3:2 pattern with me leading the group of three. The water did not taste as brackish as normally it does though visibility was arm’s length and no more and it was not all that cold so I was really enjoying myself. By the town bridge there was a slight upstream flow as far as the new road bridge where a line of flotsam and jetsam in the water marked the meeting of river and tide.
Swimming became noticeably harder as the further upstream we went from here the more river flow there was a against us. The Pair ahead of me were soon out of sight around the turn and going like rockets. Our little group of three had strung out a bit and the other pair were no longer in sight. From the river bend to the weir the banks are trees or fields and it could be out in open country as distinct from only a few meters from the industrial estate.
Beyond the railway and footbridges swimming was much harder, the water was appreciably chilly now and for some reason there were waves coming down river which I’d not met here before. The source of those was the 2 huge Archimedes screws that have been installed for power generation, each 3m in diameter and the water foamed and thrashed where it discharged.
The swim downstream with the flow began well for me but at the bend in the river I hit ‘the wall’ and simply ran out of energy and in a very short distance the 3 of us that had again been swimming as a close group very quickly became the 2 of them with me trailing well behind, so much so that by the town bridge they were out of sight. A bright football bobbed in the reeds and under other circumstances I’d have nabbed it, but not today.
At the ferry quay I was sufficiently tired that I considered getting out and walking the last few 100m, but, A) I wasn’t prepared to give up, and B) that was in no small part because it would have been rather embarrassing to throw in the towel. All told though it must have been very close to the expected 1 hour to the weir and 55 minutes back.
2 weeks and we’ll ride the tide again.
My 100 Swims South-West Google map.