Walking down the hill to the river along the road which dips in and out of the shade I’m aware of the fact that it is quite warm, but it does not seem overly warm, in fact it is only 2 days later that I catch up with the fact that the temperature is hitting 30C (almost unheard of in Devon and certainly a first for this year) and that people were flaking out left, right and center. The road turns in to a pot holed track, deep in the shade of large trees. The pot holes are puddled and everything is shady, cool and muted. I step off the track onto the footpath which takes me down to where the River Walkham meets the Tavy, hence ‘Double Waters’.
This spot allows me to combine two interests: swimming of course, but it is also the site of Virtuous Lady Mine and the spoil heaps are banked up on the riverside, a great place to search for copper, iron and arsenic minerals. I however prefer the beach on the bend in the river, where the water has washed and sifted the rocks making it far easier to pick out the mineral laden ones and also today it is in the shade. I draw up into the shade of the trees. When I laid my damp towel out to dry on the pebbles it was quite clear the sun is intense. Shade is good. Pausing, I watch a kingfisher flash over the water and up into a tree on the far bank. That’s the third I’ve seen today (assuming that the third one I saw this morning was in fact the same one as the first one I saw as it was on the same bit of water though 2 hours apart and they are quite territorial).
An hour or so of mineral hunting has produced a few samples of interest and a lot of shiny stuff just like the shiny stuff I have already which can stay behind.
Now, treading cautiously along the bank over gorse and sharp rocks I wade out into the waist deep water at the top of the pool. For the first 20m it is a bumper car ride, bouncing off hidden boulders, feeling for deeper water channels and then I am into the pool on the bend. The water deepens in mid-stream but diving down only reveals a river bed of bare rock, scoured by winter storms. Then in the far corner a truly monster fish swims by, salmon or trout I don’t get a good look at the tail profile to me able to tell for sure but this is a 24 inch long fish at least, 2Kgs maybe, not record breaking but a gorgeous fish nevertheless.
The pool shallows into rapids over rounded pebbles and it is easier to hop over the rocks on the river bank than wade the shallows. At the lower pool the river enters over a low cascade into a foaming, though shallow swoosh of water. The pool does not deepen until it rounds the small cliff with the beach on the opposite bank and out in mid-stream it is again 5 or 6 feet deep with deeper hollows. I swoosh around the pool several times, this is the pool I don’t know so well, though I am aware that the beach upstream has now been occupied by a number of people and that I have left one camera, my phone, wallet, bag, clothes etc all in plain view. One day I will be proved wrong but in the meantime I have faith that the sort of people who are willing to make the effort to get to a spot like this are like minded.
Clambering back over the rocks to the top pool and swimming upstream my faith turns out to be well founded, it is John and Elaine and their family. I know them from somewhere completely unrelated. ‘You were swimming last time we saw you’ Elaine reminds me. Oh yes, that will have been at Kingsand earlier this year. A rather surreal tableaux then unfolds where I sit there wrapped only in a towel and we discuss the various mineral samples that may be found on the beach here and compare pieces I found earlier with those they have picked up.
Now it’s time for the walk back up the hill and whilst I’m proper warm by the time I’m back at the car I am completely oblivious to heatwave that has manifested around me. Kingfishers, rocks, swimming, salmon, there’s far too much else to take in, and not least that Lynne loved to swim at Double Waters, she was as mad as me about outdoor swimming but very sadly died last week. Lynne, this one was for you, missing you.