River Swim

“Can you be there in 30 minutes?”

It’s the kind of message that spells adventures.

It was late one weekday afternoon in this recent hot spell. The sun was bright. The sky a brilliant blue. And my desk suddenly seemed very unappealing.

Because the mini-adventure being suggested was something I’d never done: swimming – properly swimming – in a Devon river.


No contest. 30 minutes later we were here: toes tickled by sun-warmed grass beside a river that flowed through dappled shade.

Feet in neoprene socks scrambled down the bank, sharp stones dug into toes. Inching in was squealingly cold. Then it’s ‘oh what the heck’ (or words to that effect) and a deep breath and a step and a plunge and: ‘whoosh!’ – cold water gasps and puffs.

Then water-borne conversations about flow and eddies and learning to swim – generations of Devonians have sketched their first strokes in this water. And chats about using the water flow to perfect swimming technique – it’s a natural resistance pool.


Next we were exploring a mini-island, discovering another stretch of water, and playing in a swoosh – the section of current that propels you downriver faster than you can swim, to deposit you safely on a sloping bank.


Blissfully cool. Sunlight glinting on water. Squeals from playing children. Youngsters jumping in.

This is something to value – friends who can unlock new experiences and places.

People, sensations, wild spaces. Playing, learning, enjoying.

A grin-inducing way to GetOutside.

The practical stuff:

I was lucky, a friend knew just where and how to swim. If you don’t, do your research carefully – nationally the Outdoor Swimming Society is a good place to start.

Devon & Cornwall Wild Swimming provides sound regional advice.

Wild Swimming Walks and Beyond the Beach, by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury are invaluable Devon resources.

While Ordnance Survey maps will help get you wherever you need to go.


  1. Ken Collins

    Loving your blog! My wife and I were on holiday last week, and desperate for a swim. Where we had chosen to stay (near Barmouth in North Wales) the sea was too rough and/currents to strong, and we were advised not to swim by the RNLI guy we asked (we always check), so we looked at the OSS wild swim map. We had been told by a friend about the “blue pool” just across the estuary from Barmouth, and lo and behold, it was on the swim map, located in a quarry, and with a stiff walk to get there. Every post said that the water was either very cold or freezing. When we parked up, we changed into our wetsuits and walking boots (not a good look!), and set off up the track. After 1.2km, a 400ft climb and a short walk through a tunnel, we arrived. What a place! Quite small (about 60m x 40m), but totally enclosed by sheer rocks. Beautiful. I dipped a toe in, and thought it wasn’t too cold (it turned out to be about 15º C), so stripped off the wetsuit. My wife did the same. There was no-one around, so I looked at my wife and said “What about a skinny dip”? We jumped in, caught our breath, agreed it wasn’t too cold, and stripped off our cossies. We swam around for about 20 minutes, then got out. Just as we did so, 3 couples hiking appeared at the top of the quarry, and we had to grab our towels really fast. Laugh? We giggled like 5 year olds. Magical things can happen when you least expect them!

    • Belinda Dixon

      What a fabulous story, Ken! Getting advice from those in the know is essential, isn’t it? And then enjoying that wild space in your own way – luckily your blushes were saved! Thanks for reading – and keep exploring 😊👍

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