Wild Winter

Once again the island battles a winter storm. Resolute against the driving winds that bend the palms and cordylines like billowing windsocks, stripping weak leaves from branches to leave them strewn along the tracks of mud and puddles. Salted spume is cast high into the grey sky as the western coast is fiercely met by the Atlantic.

The farmhouse has settled into its winter existence, forgotten those summer days of open doors, sandy floors and sunlight-filled rooms. Salt now coats the windows, the back door has swollen again in the damp, sticking stubbornly each time we venture out and the boot room has become home to dripping coats, muddy wellies and bags of logs that will keep the house wrapped in a cosy blanket of firelight.

This morning we have, as always been out to check and feed the animals. I love that routine of whatever the weather we get outside, walk the farm, and have contact with the animals. In full waterproofs though it becomes hot and sticky, hard work trudging through the clawing mud and my mind recalls the book I have been reading about Everest. I begin to feel like the delirious and hypoxic climbers who, gasping for air, strip off layers of clothing. Of course, it's not that dramatic and I am not delirious or close to death, but I have that stifling, claustrophobic feeling of being too wrapped up. What I need is a swim.

Rain smacks against my face with fat drops, every so often one is caught by a gust of wind and sharply flicks the tender parts of my face causing me to wince. The wind always sounds worse as I walk through the little tunnel of trees past South Hill Cottage, it whistles through the evergreen branches, rattling the leaves with noisy vigour, but once out on the shore of Green Bay it feels somehow calmer. Oystercatchers scurry along the strandline hunting for food. Gulls swoop and glide, battling against the wind to stay upright before flipping about, sweeping with speed down wind. The air swirls around me as I stand in only my swimming costume, chilling my skin, raising the hairs on my arms into goose bumps. A rock comes in handy to prevent the wind stealing my towel and robe.

Even on the sheltered side of the island I am jostled and bounced by the choppy sea and my swim is not so much a swim as a dabble in the water. I barely go out of my depth, but that's fine, I feel safe in the storm. I enjoy the chill, the steadying of breath as I acclimatise to the cold and the movement of my body within the water. Salty water is in my ears, my nose and my mouth as the sea wrestles with the wind. A gust scatters the surface into a thousand tiny wavelets, grey shifts to green shifts to grey.

Despite the overcast, wild wintery day, the sea is beautiful, my swim is calming and re-energising and part of me resents having to leave this lovely watery world, but I leave with a smile on my face and isn't that the point of wild swimming? To leave the water feeling better than when you went in. I hope you all enjoy your wild December swims and wintery walks, stay safe and best wishes for a happy Christmas 2020.

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