The first dip

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

To begin to write is as to begin to wild swim. It starts with a faint pen to paper, a tentative delve into ones mind, a nervous dipping of the toes into the cold wild waters. You quietly explore books, groups, companions to support you….as a float would aid your buoyancy. Slowly you edge out into deeper water, acutely aware of mysterious shapes around you. You write a little more, you swim a little more. Confidence begins to grow, you challenge yourself and soon you are writing everyday, swimming everyday. Plunging headfirst into the sea and submerging your entire being into the wild water and the words. My wild swimming and my writing have gone hand in hand for a while now, both of them giving me an incredible sense of mindfulness and wellbeing. I hope you enjoy reading about the wild waters I love to swim in on Bryher. I have lived at Hillside Farm on Bryher (the smallest inhabited island on Scilly) for nearly four years but only ventured into the sea two years ago when I was persuaded to take part in a sprint triathlon. Until this point a fear of dark masses of suspicious seaweed and a dislike of the cold had prevented me from going any further into the sea than my knees. Indeed it still didn’t work it’s magic on me for a little while after that, I’m not sure exactly when the penny dropped but at some point I realised that this wonderful ocean that surrounds my island home was a magical place, a beautiful watery world and I was hooked. In this journal I hope to record a year of wild swimming on Bryher, starting from today. It has been a busy day on the farm, mucking out pigs, chickens, weaning piglets and sorting out the 200 news hens that have arrived to join our current flock. My swim is a refreshing escape from the pungent stench of pig and chicken poo (living the farming dream!). The strong gusty wind is blowing in from the West and threatens to bring a storm. Cordyline leaves rattle and the cone shaped yellow speers of the aeonium flowers stand in bright contrast to the darkening grey sky. A rich coloured pheasant trots along the sandy track in front of me, tall and aloof. As I reach the small beach at the quay, my bare feet sink into the soft, wet sand. I prefer to swim in a swimming costume rather than a wetsuit and the wind whips around my body as I reach the tideline. The sea is an alluring green despite the grey skies above. As I dive down, the coolness envelopes my body and my skin tingles. I can see piles of squiggly worm casts, discarded limpet shells and yellow periwinkle shells on the pale sand beneath me. I swim out past the end of the quay and without it’s shelter the sea becomes lively, rolling waves lift me up and down and the spray from the wind hits my face. Below the surface, as I dive down to the seabed, the sound of the wind fades and the stillness of that underwater world calms the soul. As I swim back to shallow water I drift, face down, allowing myself to be pushed this way and that by the tide. A large piece of emerald green sea lettuce drifts with me and wraps itself around my hand like tissue paper. A jewel-like string of bladder wrack pearls, in hues of brown and yellow, studded with tiny white spiral worms waves up from the seabed rock it grows from.

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