I have been wanting to get here for years but somehow it has proved elusive. I have swum off Sunny Cove, the next beach up the Salcombe Estuary and also Mill Bay Cove, the next on again, but this little beach comes and goes with the tide and the timing has never been right. Today it is a perfect storm.
We have walked from close to East Prawle 3 miles along the coast path under an azure clear blue sky with not a hint of breeze and sunshine that is quickly sweeping away the residual traces of frost and fog. The beaches we have passed have called to us but I was resolute to push on and now we are here at low tide with clear blue water foaming in tide driven waves over a bar of golden sand.
Getting down to the beach takes a couple of tries until we find a small path over the rocks and I step down onto pristine sand, smoothed by the sea, swirled into patterns of sorted grains. It is the best feeling in the world making that first footprint, like virgin snow or breaking the ice on a pond. Every step I take buoys me up like walking on springs or sponges, an experience additionally enhanced by my brand new boots.
The water is crystal clear over the sand and the chilly bite of late December is ameliorated by the summer warmth of the sun on my back. This is the moment in the year, a few days after the winter solstice, when the sun begins to track visibly back across the horizon with each sunrise and we can be sure that summer will return. The heat of the sun is a positive affirmation of that promise.
There is a patch of broken water between the beach and the rocks out in the water where clearly a big current is still flowing, probably best not to get too close without knowing what rocks are lurking beneath the opaque churning water. Instead I swim out to sea a short distance, duck diving beneath the surface into a silence of green filtered sunlight which dapples the rippled sand.
Circling in the current I move out to where the flow is piling up a wave, the near flat calm water rises up where it funnels in an then topples over in rushing foam, flattening again and then rising again in a second broader wave. The water is only waist deep but it rushes over me shoving me towards the beach. It feels like I could keep doing this all morning but there is a chill now in my fingers and toes and J and A are already vigorously towelling themselves off in front of a crowd of spectators who have been rooted tot he spot along the coast path by the crazies in the sea.
Looking down at the beach again it is once more deserted but criss-crossed by trails off footprints, yet already the water is rising again to reset the stage for tomorrow’s matinee performance.