Authors of new book 'Wild Swimming Walks: Dartmoor & South Devon' share two of their favourite walk-swims
Devon is the UK’s wild swimming capital. Where else can you float in a remote moorland lake while the larks sing overhead, or swim above starfish in a high-sided gully? Or how about a trek down a wild river, punctuated by plunges in pools and swooshes down cascades? Between us, we’ve lived in Devon for about sixty years, and we’re still finding amazing new places to explore and swim.
Dartmoor, in the middle of Devon, is the biggest wilderness in Southern England. You can walk for miles along open terrain without seeing a soul, or hike through lush ancient woodland with rivers like the Dart and the Teign rushing through. The coastline of South Devon is full of secret beaches with fascinating caves, and mazes of gullies, perfect for aquatic adventures. And the estuaries in South Devon are truly spectacular and fabulous for swimming journeys down to the sea, using the outgoing tide to help you.
Devon is an outdoor swimmers paradise. Between us, we’ve lived in Devon for about sixty years, and we’re still finding amazing new places to swim. Our new book, Wild Swimming Walks: Dartmoor and South Devon, contains 28 of our best aquatic adventures. It is full of history, legend and stories, as well as practical information and maps. Here are a couple of expeditions from the book, which might be particularly suitable for those visiting Devon for the Dart 10K this year (where the book will be on sale, and we'll be in residence to talk to swimmers).
This 3 mile walk around the coast at the mouth of the Dart estuary takes in several swims, the most exciting of which is through what we call the ‘chasm’ linking Sugary and Castle Coves. This is a high-sided gully which you can swim through at high tide. It is best done on a calm summer’s day, when the water is turquoise, and you can see starfish and spider crabs below. A small oak tree teeters over the gully, growing out from the top of the cliff, and oyster catchers are usually in evidence. A truly magical swim, and the views on the walk are spectacular. Read more.
If you haven’t visited Sharrah Pool on the River Dart, then it is an absolute must. It’s a vast 100 metre natural pool, with waterfalls at the top, where you can see shoals of sea trout in the summer months. This 5 mile circular walk to it takes in all Dartmoor’s landscapes: ancient woodland by the river, breathtaking high moor with views down over the Dart gorge, and the pretty village of Holne, complete with its pub and legendary tea shop, run by local volunteers. Find it on the map.
Photo: Dan Bolt
Wild Swimming Walks Dartmoor and South Devon: 28 Lake, River and Beach Days Out in South West England by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury (£15.99, Wild Things Publishing) is available online and from all good bookshops.
Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury, April 2016