Monday, 16 July 2012

what happened on the Sally in the Woods Wild Swim

What with all the recent rain lately, I'd been anxiously watching the Avon's water level on the Environment Agency's website. It'd been in the blue (flooding possible) zone for days, and was still up there but descending slowly. 
Sunday morning level is right in the middle of this graph
 Sunday morning was cool and cloudy, but with great cracks in the sky where the dawn was breaking through. As I got the Moggy's roof bars ready for the canoe, a young fox scampered past. The sun suddenly found a gap in the houses at the end of the road, and lit up the tops of all the plane trees; all the local woodpigeons began cooing at the same moment.

The day was trying hard to be summery, and I appreciated it.

With the canoe and passengers on board, we headed to Warleigh, and were early enough to wander round the pumping station, after gaving warily at the weir. 

a photo from a previous time at Warleigh with the river in spate
(I foolishly failed to take a pic yesterday, but this is pretty much the same as it was, level-wise)
 The water was high, and brown with sediment; the drop in level below the weir was far less than usual, maybe two feet or so, rather than the usual seven or eight, and the flow over the weir itself was too great to allow for walking over it. "I don't think it would be a good idea to do the swim in that," I said; "it would be fine until something went wrong, but it would be too dangerous to arrive at the weir from upstream and rely on getting ashore. Still, let's see what the others reckon."

They reckoned the same. So we walked and paddled up the canal to Dundas, to see if the river there was safe for a swim off the pontoon.

It wasn't. "How fast do you think the current is?" asked Sarah. I watched the water, inagined a bicycle travelling at the speed of the water. 
"Eight miles an hour," I said. 
"Holly thought five. I thought it was more like ten," said Sarah. She was probably the closest. I was erring on the low side, to counteract any natural tendency for overstatement that I may have...

So we did some synchronised rocking instead, to the tune of "Row, row, row the boat gently down the stream."

Back at Warleigh for our picnic, we met some cheerful young folk who'd come along for the swim and had joined in a group also there who'd jumped in below the weir and been swept down to the ferry steps, where they scrambled out. It sounded great fun- and indeed, looked like it too, when they did it again a short while later!


  1. *Shivers* call me a wuss...think I'd have been there doing the photo taking, leaving the swimming part to braver folk! Good to see the Dunkirk spirit shining through our gloomy summer.

  2. I'm sorry I missed it now. Were you fortified with McArthur Parkin and lashings of ginger beer?

  3. I spent a few summers at Warleigh and Dundas; cycling to Warleigh for swimming and Dundas for walking; although there is no way I would go in when the weather is so cold. Why is it the summers of our youth always seem more sunny?

  4. I was a bit of a wuss too, temperature wise, Gretel!
    We were indeed fortified, Liz; though it was a flask of hot coffee rather than ginger beer. Sadly.
    Maybe we were just lucky with a microclimate or something, Bella? -I remember 1976 really well- the heat just went on and on, and there were columns of smoke all across South Wales where there were fires on the hills. Gosh.