Wild swim Skye

It’s taken a little perseverance, local recommendations and an OS map to find swim spots on the beautiful Isle of Skye. Much of the land is fenced off – even by the coastline, and there are very few marked footpaths.

The payoff for our research has been incredible though!

Snorkelling off Colbost jetty revealed a world of vibrant seaweed and iridescent fish darting about.

A hack through fields found us on Milovaig beach where, on honeymoon 19 years ago, we had combed the beach for sea glass and Victorian pottery. This time we lit a fire, toasted marshmallows and enjoyed the company of an inquisitive seal while Eldest and I swam. We found huge purple-blue lobster shells – Little One calls them ‘lompsters’, I hope she never grows out of pronouncing them that way!

The crowds visiting Coral Beach faded away as we took to the water, bright turquoise and clear as glass even under wild grey skies. Tiny fragments of shells and white coral peppered our feet as we rushed to get our clothes back on in the wind.

Potholes like craters bumped us along the road to Ramasaig. We asked the farmer if we could climb a couple of his gates and a boggy squelch downstream rewarded us with a waterfall and pool right by the sea.

We picnicked on a flat rock looking out into the bay, warmed by the sun. In the waterfall we scrambled up to ledges and let the rust-coloured peaty waters tumble over us. I found a natural jaccuzi for a bracing pummel of cold water.

However, we wouldn’t recommend a swim in the bay here! Eldest and I were thoroughly freaked out by the dense forest of leathery seaweed just below the surface, and the rough scramble over barnacle-encrusted rocks was pretty treacherous.

We decided to give the summer crowds of the Fairy Pools a miss but it’s on the list for an out-of-season return trip. I would imagine in October or February it is indeed “Baltic” – to quote a local vlogger

Thanks to a tip-off from the vlog above, my final swim on Skye was a magical skinny dip in a thundering waterfall – there was even a ledge to jump from the edge of the pool into the falls. There’s nothing quite like the feel of river water on your skin, and the softness of your hair as it dries after a waterfall shower. I kid you not, it’s a mere ten minute walk from the Sligachan bridge which swarms with day-trippers getting their photo shot of the Cuillins! After walking a hundred yards from the bridge, we met no-one else on the path.

Instagrammers of Skye, thank you for sticking to the well-worn path and allowing the wilds to remain wild!

Long may it stay that way…

Spring swim

jacobsladder

The first day after the clocks change.  Incredible stillness and light at Jacob’s Ladder.

I forgot my fleece rash vest.  I decide I don’t care.  Bikini & wetsuit boots – quite a look.

Fabulous, freeing, breathtaking water all to myself.

I stay until I start feeling the cold seep back into my core.

The air is warm enough to enjoy a towel down and a cup of tea in my dry robe.

To be still and enjoy the feeling of being awake, alive.

 

 

Finely tuned

I was talking to my husband a couple of nights ago.  I reflected on the ways that life seems to need a bit more fine-tuning for me than the average bear.

fine tuning

I’m enjoying it though, you know, the fine-tuning.  Sitting down with my Google calendar on the cusp of a new term, and making sure there is space.  Space to book in a day for oddly compelling jobs, like sorting out the crap drawer (we all have one… the random keys, Blu-Tac, tape-measure kind of drawer).

Space to swim in the river Dart or the sea down at Jacob’s Ladder.  To take a flask of peppermint tea and rest by the water’s edge.

Fine-tuning this term has meant resisting the temptation to take on a few more paid hours.  To recognise that Eldest has both excitement and challenges coming up as she starts high school, and she may well need her mum more.  She sometimes talks about her fears of me becoming unwell at the start of a new academic year – it’s such a season of change.

But this year the change is good.  It’s a change in my expectations of myself, a willingness to leave space and embrace it.  Two Septembers ago I was afraid of the space, driven by a fear that – at 40 – I was pretty much at the last chance saloon in terms of finding a career.

This September I’m at peace.  The work will still be there when the time is right.

 

Ullswater

 

Outstretched arms tanned by the peaty water

Bracelets of sunlight gold

Caress of swaying reeds

IMG_0002.JPGThe fells slumbering giants

Encircling

Rain-mist falling on closed eyelids

IMG_0001Deep stillness

 

Upturned clouds in the water

The only sound the ripple of each stroke

IMG_0003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Swimming

Sun sinks pink and amber into the horizon

Pale moonrise beyond the cliffs

Duck-dive just to feel the cold exhilaration of sea-salt tangled hair

Sea, moon, you and I

Thank you, beautiful world and

Thank you, swimming companion –

A friend through ebb and flow

Swimming

Flat, still sea blends softly into the horizon

Tingling hands, catching breath

Coolness and deep surround

The sea, the sky, and I
Run gasping into the breaker spray

Full of power the sea pulls us

Tumble of white

Icy cold exhilaration
Skin pricked with goosebumps

Delicious salt-sting as I pat with my towel

Quickly into my down jacket

Smoothed stones & hot mint tea

Give thanks to the sea

Ma’people

Readers of the last few months may have gathered… I am a huge Nashville fan.  I am committed to not giving away any series 5 plot spoilers for my friends on this side of the pond, so let me just say that Rayna is one of my heroes (and I do know that she is a TV character – but she’s my hero anyway!)  I love the way that we have seen her grow as a mother as her girls have entered turbulent teenage years,  I love how passionate and open-hearted she is, and I love the way that we’ve seen her struggle to balance her career and her dreams with her life as a mentor, mother and lover.

 

There’s a scene in Nashville a few years back where Rayna has to play at a Country Club benefit.  I remember her raising her eyebrows and assuring her band leader, “These are not ma’people” (try and imagine a lovely Southern drawl)

But here’s the thing, Rayna grew up with those people.  Yet the comfortable world of the elite wasn’t for her.  She knew they weren’t her people.

Ever since we moved from a cosmopolitan, diverse Northern city to a sleepy market town in the South West, I’ve been searching for “ma’people”.  The direction life took us when Eldest was born meant that our local conservative, evangelical church began to feel less and less like home.  We had too many questions.  One of the reasons I left Facebook earlier this year was because I felt so aware that the views of many mainstream Christians just don’t reflect mine.  These are not ma’people.

When life throws a lot of crap your way, it’s interesting how it can help you find your people!  Over the last ten years or so, my friendships have deepened with other people who know what it is to feel broken.  My little WordPress community is full of amazing people who are learning to live with limits.  Next weekend I’ll be meeting up with the other mums from the ‘Head up, Heart strong’ film who have all battled postnatal illness. We will be sharing cocktails and stories of relapse.  These are just some of ma’people.

 

This week I took a new step to reach out and find ma’people.  I joined Team East Devon Swimmers for an evening swim in Sidmouth.  The water was 12 degrees C and the swimming was magical!  It was a special thing for me after a number of years living with mental illness to meet people based firstly on a shared interest, rather than on a shared experience of suffering.  I learned a new word – Thalassophile – meaning someone who loves the sea.  These too, are ma’people… and I can’t wait to get to know them better.

Here’s where we will be swimming.  Just beautiful.

Derailed