03/11/2014 by Carl Reynolds
Or another everyday trip to South Devon. Up and off by half past five, Mrs Ape and I arrive bleary eyed down a tiny lane to an empty car park. We faff, re-packing swim bags and descend down a steep leaf-strewn lane and meet a man with a very large camera. “Is it clear in the water?”, I ask him. “Afraid not”, he says and we part with not another word exchanged. Stripping off on the stand at Watcombe Beach, outside a very closed and battened down cafe, we notice that the sun has long deserted this little niche. Despite it only being ten thirty, the last day of October means the sun was only ever going to be low slung. A refreshing few minutes later we marvel at how cool, but not cold, it was in the water; and then walk slowly up the returning slope and talk about how a beach can seem so removed from the city beginning atop the cliffs, and yet be just a few minutes walk away.
After a stroll around town and a large lunch we take the Cliff Railway down to Oddicombe Beach and sit on the concrete steps listening to the wash of the waves, people watching, and mulling over whether to swim again. Despite a full belly, I can’t resist, much to the amusement of on-lookers and the bemusement of two frisky labradors. And then away to our B&B in Totnes, a nap and a trip out to Spitchwick Common (up on Dartmoor) for a Halloween Night Swim and feast with wild swimmers various. We join a host, whose faces we can barely see, arrange to meet up with some of them the next day, wade in through a wedge of fallen leaves, and food is shared with all and sundry.
A stroll through Totnes on Saturday morning (we’re thinking of moving there sometime) starts our day before a meet with Sophie, Allan, Jackie and others of the local wild swimmers for a roost on the Livermead Rocks and a swim through the Hindu Temples. I forget my camera (doh!), but relish the swell, the shafts of light through the red rocks, the universal bonhomie of the outdoor swimmer, and the nth reminder that my obsession mixes me with the best of people everywhere. Then lunch overlooking Meadfoot Beach, and a drive over the hill to the spectacular Anstey’s Cove. Three separate groups of swimmers is testament to the allure of swimming outdoors – wetsuits extending the season for many – but the unseasonal warmth allowing this ape to stay in for more than a few minutes. We swim across the bay to it’s towering entrance and bob up and down in the swell looking into the cave where one of our number got a persistent rash from sitting on a rock! And then more departing hugs.
Sunday and we’re off to the peninsula south of Brixham. The houses disappear, the lanes get narrower and then we’re in the car park. We’re the first. We clamber up the embankment and are surrounded by fields on two sides and the vast sea on the other two. Fiona, our mate from south London whose been swimming with us since Spitchwick on Friday night, shows up with Mr Spencer. We laugh about how the Londoners are first. And then the rest arrive and we’re off up and down slopes to Scabbacombe Beach and hills a plenty.
We’ll be back. And if you’re thinking of a short break in the UK, you’ll not do better than to experience the wide variety of beach, cove and cliff from Maidencombe to Kingswear…most of which is commonly known as Tor Bay.