Maybe not gale force, but the breeze buffets me and makes me stumble as it scurries me across the open moorland. Pausing briefly to collect my hat which has been blown off again I scan the industrial heritage which was what brought me here in the first place today. Across the skyline behind me 4 chimneys poke the sky, the hillside above has a bite taken from it by a quarry and right at my feet a vast tin streaming trench slices the landscape in two. Ahead of me Gold Diggings Quarry spews shattered waste down the hillside, once the content of the pool I’m on my way to.
It’s been a while since I was last this way, 10 years at least, no, 12 years, pre my first digital camera, 2003 perhaps? Speaking of which the cloud has cleared away, the sun is lowering to the horizon and the landscape must be captured.
Though set down 15 feet or so into the moor the wind still scratches cat’s paws over the black surface of the water, but there are a few nooks where the rocks cut out the wind but the sun still shines full on. I dip a hand in the shallows, the water tinted faintly green from this angle above worked blocks of granite that tumble into the depths. I dip my hand again in the second pool, smaller, more enclosed and sheltered from both wind and sunshine. Damn that’s cold! How can 2 adjacent pools have a 5 degree temperature difference? Less sunshine is probably the straight-forward answer. I’d rather not use the wetsuit but common sense prevails; it’s cold, I’m on my own and I don’t know what’s in there.
Diving in from one of the stone blocks the sloping edge of the pool fades to green below me, the water is not as clear as it looked, but it is as cold as it felt even here in the sunshine. I’m halfway around the pool when the second set of barking dogs arrive. The first pair had been accompanied by a couple who watched me get changed before heading off. This second pair is accompanied by a man who watches me and his dogs as they jump down the rocks right onto my dry clothes, pile in the pool then shake all over my towel!
Swimming in the shade it is properly chilly and there is something odd about a wall of granite that rises straight up from the water above my head and vanishes straight down beneath my feet, it is somehow like swimming through a mirror.
The chill of the second pool bites at my hands and feet and the water is murky. I do a quick ‘lap’ then return through the divide into the sunshine and warmer water. Ducking beneath the surface in places the bottom of the quarry is not too deep, flat platforms dotted with unfinished blocks of stone. There are no plants growing in the water here, which is not an encouraging sign. In other places I swim down as far as I can and yet there is no bottom to the pool in sight.
Whilst still pleasantly warm the sun is fast vanishing behind the hill and I seem to have a bucket full of water up my nose so it’s time to hop out, peel of the wetsuit and look up at the 3rd set of dog walkers staring down on me from above. The people around here must have some sort of 6th sense for arriving just when somebody is not wearing anything and then a strange impulse to stand and stare. Not only that but with all this space to choose from they now bring their dogs down to where I’m changing, throw sticks into the water for the dogs to fetch and the dogs (bless them) now shake and shower me with water again. Is it not completely apparent that I have just got dry and don’t immediately want to be wet again?
I don’t remember the specifics of my last visit but maybe this is why it has been 12 years since I was here last.