12/08/2015 - 22:48



Whilst on a recent camping trip near Clifford bridge, I had the opportunity to do some wild swimming on the Teign, as it flows through Fingle Woods in Dartmoor. The woods are jointly owned and managed by the Woodland Trust and the National trust, and are being restored to protect its ancient woodland heritage, by taking out the non-native conifers. It is becoming richer in it's biodiversity and it is a charming wooded river valley.




Time was spent there with my young kids, my friend Matt and his kids as they splashed about, had water pistol duels and waded through the nippy waters. All fans of swimming in the sea, but great to see them enjoying time in and around the moorland river.




The others called time on the cold waters eventually, so my friend offered to look after all four kids whilst they were running around on the bankside playing games.


It was great to have a while to be able to immerse my senses in the river. I relished the opportunity to feel connected to the flow, to be surrounded by waters that were on a journey from the high moors to the sea.




It gave me a chance to make some considered photographic studies of the river, using my dive camera. The waters of the Teign here are clean & crisp... refreshingly cold in the slower sections, the dappled shade and the flow rate not allowing the pools to gain any notable warmth from the summer sun. The decision to wear a full length wetsuit was a wise one!


The faster flows have an earthy hue as they carry sediments, making it hard to see clearly the actual depth of the deeper pools, jumping in would be unwise as there are some sizeable boulders down there.




The thought occurred to me to try some compositions close to the surface features, that I dare not try with my SLR camera and tripod (due to issues of proximity of an electronic device to the water and that the tripod legs could be easily destabilized at such shallow angles). Cosy in my 5/3 wetsuit I could brace my arms against semi-submerged rocks to achieve exposures that would hopefully give some definition of flow lines. The sounds of the aerated waters and wobbling rocks so close to my ears was lulling. The rich redolent peaty notes telling of its origins in the high moorland bogs.





What a delight it was that the afternoon light dappled the shady waters with greenish hues, as it journeyed through the translucent canopy of native trees on the both banks.




The exposed roots of a tree added an anthropomorphic edge to my studies...




And a colourful leaf amongst the rocks...



More close up observations...



In low to medium flow these pools of varying depths offer a great introduction to wild swimming, so long as you are a confident swimmer. Its fine for kids in a low-ish flow rate, so long as they have adults in the water with them to guide them away from the few submerged rocks and to be there to reassure / help if needed. The deep shade of the trees means you don't have to keep dashing out to slap on more sunscreen. Picnic by the river, being responsible and taking your litter away, and make an event of it. You'll be glad you did.




lucy hill
13/08/2015 - 16:29
Nothing quite like immersing yourself in nature then documenting it, you show a real affinity to your environment Phil. You must have been some form of nature in a previous life!
jon stein
13/08/2015 - 17:06
Great to have you back online Phil - loved the underwater shots. Bit like Follaton this afternoon...
Phil Hemsley
13/08/2015 - 23:04
Many thanks to Lucy and Jon for your generous comments :)

For me, wild swimming in the moorland rivers is a feeling of being so alive. To be able to connect with the waters using all the senses.
Rivers are wonderful things, it's not just the water itself but the sum of it's parts.... the flow of the currents; the refracted light, form and texture of the riverbed; the plants and creatures in and around it; the hues woven into it...

The waters that I swam amongst are now in the ocean but the river remains. An eternal self-replicating system of synchronous moving water, surrounded by an ever changing cloak.

A joyful and soulful experience to be enveloped by it's wholesome aura.

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