It would be fair to say I am not a morning person, so my alarm going off at 7am on a Sunday is a rude awakening to say the least. My motivation for this madness is a swim, a swim at Elberry Cove near Brixham.
Todays swim is no solo adventure, I’m off to join new, new friends from the Devon Wild Swimming (facebook) group. I am myself a newbie to this group who have kindly taken me on in the last few months, sharing smiles, swims and cake in a number of outdoor swims locally. This particular swim was organised by yours truly and has attracted 3 new members to the group, so I’m feeling the pressure not just to turn up, but to turn up on time.
I’ve chosen Elberry Cove for the swim as it’s supposed to have ideal calm, clear waters and it’s been on my visit / swim list for a while. Elberry has a derelict Victorian bathouse at one end which neatly punctuates sweeping, shingle beach. This has had me intrigued for sometime as I’m keen on investigating ‘old bust stuff’. As well as Lord Churston (who commissioned the bathouse), this was also favourite swim spot of Agatha Christie! Clearly, Elberry has swimming pedigree.
Elberry is backed by farmland and on foot is only reached by the S.W Coast Path. The nearest car park is around the headland at Broadsands, however I’m not going there. I’m chasing a postcode for a free parking spot that also has access to the cove, that I finally manage to find with a little help from a morning dog-walker.
The swim-hike takes you down through deciduous woodland to the sea. As I wander off, the tree canopy thickens and I have no real sense of direction, just hoping that I’m headed in the right way. After a brisk 10 minute walk I suddenly come out of the trees and the panorama of Elberry opens in front of me. As far as swimming goes, the sight in front of me couldn’t be better. It’s October 16th but there is warmth in the sun, the sea is utterly flat, and there is no wind at all, not a whisper.
As I’m taking all this in I realise that there are swimmers already in the water, so my appreciation is cut short as I de-robe in the woodland to get my wetsuit on. Kit back on, I’m heading down the shingle as fast as possible and I’m in… The temperature of the water would have allowed a ‘skins’ swim (without wetsuit), but the suit helps facilitate a longer swim with comfort and that’s what I’m hoping for here today.
I swim out to join my new friends and bobbing in the blue we all make introductions. Of the 3 ladies I greet none of them have swum properly in the sea before and they are all swimming skins putting me to shame! There is a great camaraderie to this moment; a group of people unknown to each other, loosely connected by a facebook group, meeting in the water at this remote spot. None of this is lost on the group and its smiles all round as we chat and swim bathed in glorious autumn sunshine.
Having been in the water for 20 minutes already, it’s not long before my new friends head back to the shore. We say our goodbyes and they head off having made plans to meet again. My swim is now solo and I head off to the shady part of the bay to explore…
The coastline here is completely uncivilised. There’s nowhere easily to get ashore as its littered with broken trees that grow right up against the shore. As I make my way further along the headland the blue water is replaced by a colder, deeper swell that changes the mood entirely. Sat out on a long, broken branch is a huge seabird that I believe is a Cormorant. As I approach I realise just how big it is and now in this dark shoreline I feel like I’ve swum into Jurassic Park the bird ahead being a Pterodactyl. Prehistoric or not, eventually I swim too close for comfort and the great bird opens its wings and slopes lazily off across the water.
Heading back I realise I have company as coming into the water is a swimmer I’ve met previously. We chat and share our good fortunes but now its my time to say my goodbyes, my trusty cheap Casio tells me I’ve been in nearly 50 minutes and that’s enough for me.
The advice following a swim would be to change quickly and wrap up warm, however as I peel away my suit the warmth of the sun is still there, enough to remain half-dressed for a few minutes basking…the warmth is truly exceptional for the time of year.
Lord Churston’s Bathouse
Dressed and warm, I head off to explore the Victorian ruin. This is a bit of an eerie building, it was built to last and has a fortified feel to it. The main windows have been clad with bars but you can still get up close and peer inside. The walls have odd graffiti that are more ‘blair witch’ than street art, and the front has an ominous ‘one way’ instruction for what I can only assume is meant for sea craft.
When I return from explorer mode i realise the beach has been populated with people and dogs. It’s nearly midday and those that love the coast but prefer getting out of bed at a civilised time are here. It’s time for me to go. I take a few snaps, smile and head back into the woods to update the gang on my fab’ morning.
Free parking Elberry Cove!
To get here you’ll need to head for Broadsand Beach then take a right into the residential, Brunel Road.
Postcode TQ46HY will get you where you need to go. Once safely parked, head for the very end of the cul-de-sac on foot, looking for the public footpath access between houses on the left hand side.