The restorative powers of the sea

Life in Britain, as in the rest of the world, has been depressing and weird this year. After our first holiday break with family since Christmas – in a rented cottage in Devon in the hottest week of the year to date (I posted about it HERE)  – we returned to Cornwall and grey skies most days, and continued social restrictions to mitigate the worst effects of the virus.

A week or so ago Mrs TD said she was fed up with being cooped up, and said we should go for a swim again. In the ocean. I wasn’t too keen – the week before the sea was very cold – but went along with the scheme.

Portscatho bay looking west

Portscatho bay looking west

She was right, as she usually is. I should know that by now. We had a lovely walk on the coast of the Roseland peninsula, after a coffee at the Hidden Hut café on the clifftop overlooking the bay. The beach was much less busy than it had been during the high season. A couple had a large dog with a disturbingly deep bark – a Spanish mastiff/labrador cross, they told me when I asked. He looked disappointed as we set off to explore the next bay and beach.

Portscatho bay east view

Portscatho bay looking east

What a good decision. The early cloud lifted and was replaced by summery blue sky and bright sunshine. There was a beautiful beach round the next headland. There were too many rocks on the shoreline for comfortable swimming, so we walked on until we found a delightful little pool – a mini-cove – between two rocky outcrops. The water was wonderful: calm as a lake, and beautifully clear and cool – just enough to be bracing and rejuvenating.

Our swimming pool.

That’s our swimming pool, and those are our footsteps

The beach was deserted, apart from a couple who paused in their walk to perch on the rock overlooking our pool (like the reverse of the folk myth: cormorants turned into humans) and watch us with envy.

It’s probably the best swim we’d ever had. One of the best experiences, too. After the dismay and chaos of this distressing year, it reinvigorated us and restored our sense of harmony with nature, of human equilibrium. It was good, for example, to watch the amazing diving skill of those miniature cormorants, shags. Unfortunate name, but excellent fishers.

Crantock beach

Crantock beach, north Cornwall coast

Earlier this week we went to the north coast and one of our default beaches near Newquay. It’s a huge sandy bay with just one coffee truck on the beach during the summer – an old army truck, strangely. None of the frantic seaside kitsch of the more popular spots nearby. Our much-missed dog Bronte loved it there, too, and we scattered her ashes there after she died. We still still her white phantom, racing down the dunes and leaping ecstatically into the waves. She didn’t like swimming, though.

As always on the north coast the surf was pretty fierce – not really good for human or canine swimming. But it was perfect for diving over, into and under the crashing waves – exhilarating. The water was slightly warmer here, too. This day probably topped the previous swimming experience in our private cove.

Back this week to test results from the hospital – pretty good news, considering – and more depressing incompetence and bluster from our out-of-their depth, bragging but useless government.

Log tortoise

This driftwood log on the beach near our swimming cove looked like the head of a tortoise, I thought

I shan’t linger on that. I prefer to think of the clear sea water and the beauties and delights of this part of the southwest of England.

22 thoughts on “The restorative powers of the sea

    • The envious couple on the rock spoke to us later as they walked on: they were from the Birmingham area and always come to Cornwall for holidays because they so miss being landlocked. I know, we’re lucky – but then it takes nearly five hours to get to London by car or train… We also enjoy going to the headland near Godrevy lighthouse to look at the seals basking on the little beach below. Or Cape Cornwall in the far west, where the choughs live and gannets divebomb fish.

  1. What a great post – and how fabulous to have place nearby for you to swim in. Weather is suppose to be good this coming week so I hope you both can swim in the ocean again – enjoy

  2. Fabulous. This will sound ridiculous given that we chose to move here but I’ve never particularly liked the sea. Only now we are here have I come to appreciate it. (Even now only from the shore but there’s still hope. You’ve done a good job of pointing out to me what I’m missing )

  3. This is a lovely post, and you’re right, there is something about swimming in the sea or a river that refreshes the soul.
    It’s spring here, and this week there is blossom on the apple tree:)

    • Today we went for a 7-mile walk using a new app that guides you along obscure footpaths and lanes. It took us past another tidal creek, where we paused for a swim and a picnic on the little pebbly beach – bliss. Here the autumn is arriving: leaves are turning yellow at the extremities of the branches, and quite a lot are dropping already. Oh, and I saw some house martins swooping over fields during our walk – they haven’t all migrated yet after all. Also saw a handsome cormorant arrowing past overhead, and two crows mobbing an irritated buzzard. Two egrets fishing in an creek inlet. A good day, with sunshine and a cool glass of white wine in the garden after a relaxing bath to soothe the tired limbs. I read today that people who swim outdoors are happier than those who don’t. Makes sense.

      • I am absolutely sure that is true. I am abstaining from outdoor swimming this summer as our outdoor pool has a lot of Coronavirus scofflaws, as does the nearest beaches, and it seems best to wait.

        I love the salt water, more than fresh. I really believe the sea minerals are healthy, perhaps they are a natural antidepressant. I know Native Americans used to travel to the sea shore and the mineral waters over the seasons.

        I intend to make a trip next year, hopefully to Virginia Beach, which is a bit “honky tonk” as a boardwalk, but an incredible natural wonder of a beach, hopefully we can travel by Summer 2021 at LEAST! Anthony Fauci is giving that as his conservative estimate. Cheers, Simon!

  4. Lovely post, Simon. Nature can be very soothing and restorative, especially in these turbulent times. I’m glad you had such an invigorating swim. What a beautiful spot for it – I am very jealous!

  5. I don’t know Cornwall well but have stayed on the Roseland Peninsular and am very jealous, thank you for a lovely post!

  6. A lovely read, thank you, and also nice to see Godrevy mentioned in your comments, a place very dear to us. The Birmingham couple were lucky as we’re in a new weird version of lockdown now where I could go to the horrible pub with my friend Claire but can’t pop in her house to see her new kitchen and amuse her other half who’s just had an op! Grrr.

  7. Lovely post.
    I’ve never been to Cornwall but I should put it on the travel list. When we are allowed to travel again and hoping the UK borders won’t be closed after the no deal Brexit. (It seems far-fetched but with Boris, anything sounds possible)

    • Emma: I’m sure you’d love it here – it’s a beautiful part of Britain. Let’s hope we’ll all be able to travel more freely before too long. As you suggest, our Mr Johnson seems intent on destroying any kind of entente, cordiale or otherwise, with France and the rest of Europe, to suit his own perverse agenda – and that of the Brexiteers he’s been so happy to appease. He has no moral or ethical scruples.

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