There is a well worn scuff beside the coast path which suggests a way down the hill but immediately it vanishes down a small slope and into the undergrowth. However, just because you can’t see it does not mean it’s not there. 10 minutes later and a mud slide down a stream bed through a rabbit hole of tangled greenery and I’m at the beach. There is a path!
The cliffs are vibrant red and the sand is only a little less so, which gives an unnatural verdency to the trees that still hold there leaves and a clarity and blueness to the water not seen at most other places. The beach does not have a name. As you can’t get to it why bother? I have decided it should be Cormorant Cove simply because every time there’s a flock of the birds on the rocks. Today however they are missing.
Hiding my bag and jacket I explore off along the shore and clambering over or between jagged boulders at the end of the beach I find the cormorants, about 50 of them and one by one or in whirls of wings they plop down into the water. Clumping over wave cut platforms or shuffling through the soft sand of 5 or 6 small beaches I soon cover the half mile there and back . There is not much to find though thankfully also very little litter. Getting down may be tricky but getting back up with a load of driftwood and/or rubbish is a very different affair.
I am in need of cooling off and handily there is the sea and handily it is quite cool today.
The small waves lap the beach and creep a fraction higher up the sand each time on the rising tide. Meanwhile the sun is dipping behind the cliff and the shadow is sweep towards the surf on an inevitable collision course. It is still not quite wetsuit conditions in the sea but common sense says wear it as no-one would miss me for a while and they’d have a hard job getting to me.
I detest the over use of the term ‘wild swimming’ simply to mean swimming outdoors, some people have even used it in connection with the King’s Cross Pond, a wholly artificial pool you have to pay to use and where there is a nice café for your latte afterwards. It is probably just as well such people stay comfortably in London where I cannot hold their heads under the water until the bubbles stop rising. They would not last 5 minutes out in the wild: no mobile phone signal, no cappuccino, ugh seaweed!, and this is only modestly wild, not properly wild, but if the sea was backed by an easterly breeze it could be.
The next bay around the headland is certainly wild. The cliffs rise up red against the blue sky 100m absolutely vertically, there is no way down there. At low tide you can walk around from the beach I started at and you can then walk on around the further headland to the next bay but after that the coast is cut by a deep cleft that never dries out even on the lowest tide. Isolated would be a reasonable term.
I plod through the soft sand leaving a trail of footprints and there is a real possibility those are the first footprints left by a person since I was here 12 months ago. There is no litter for me to feel guilty about leaving and only a couple of small pieces of driftwood to be collected and so leaving a big arc I arrive back at the water to make the gentle swim back to my clothes.
Now all I have to do is go up again.
“And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them”