Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Wild Swimming in Eerie England

We have been on our holiday and we managed to spend a few glorious days on Dartmoor, one of my favourite places, with a seemingly limitless array of stunning locations to walk to. This time we took a  walk North, following a branch of the Dart river, from Two Bridges to visit Wistman's Wood.
Wistman's Wood is fairy small, and yet, it is a truly spectacular place; stunted dwarf Oaks, huddle together and cling to the sides of the steep valley amidst a chaotic carnage of vast granite boulders. The curious feature that makes it seem like a set from a Harry Potter movie, is that the whole place is positively draped in dense layers of thick green spongy mosses and ferns.
You need to be careful, as you clamber through the boulders, partly because it is slippery and dangerous terrain, partly because you want to preserve this unique environment and partly because there are various legends that indicate that the Devils ghostly Wist Hounds abide in the area, as well as nests of writhing vipers. 
We found it a truly splendid place and it fulfilled my slightly obsessive quest for English Eerie. After eating our sandwiches in the Druidic grove, we trekked back over the nearby tors to the Two Bridges Hotel for tea and scones. Finally, on our route home, we stopped off at Merrivale to visit the fascinating array of stone rows and circle there.
On another day we took a lovely woodland walk from the village of Holne, again along the river Dart until we found the legendary Sharrah Pool.
This idyllic spot is perfect for a picnic followed by a bit of wild swimming. The Dart has carved out a massive groove through the ancient granite landscape, which is deep enough to dive into in several places (if you are brave enough) and longer than 100 meters. 
There are several delightful places along the river, where it is deep and accessible enough to swim, and these natural Jacuzzis are becoming more popular with the recent trend for wild swimming in the UK but Sharrah Pool is astounding and an absolute must.
The dark peaty water gushes down-hill via boulder strewn white-water rapids and sluices into the main pool via a narrow waterfall and channel, "the Sharrah Shoot". The bold can plunge into the shoot and get swept into the pool for further swimming and frolicking. After exhausting ourselves in the pool, we hiked back to Holne for the best cream teas in Devon from the local community shop, the perfect conclusion to a brilliant day out.

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