Monday, 22 August 2011

Not so early birds and performing swans

Swim 10 Shifford Lock to Newbridge throw-down
August 21st 2011

Thames swimmer Sharon took to the waters ahead of time to complete Swim 10, with shore supporter Charles, thereby demonstrating the benefits of a quiet swim. All without a wetsuit.

Three kingfisher sightings, one grey heron, three swans, three boats, one powered punt, one poled punt, one canopied rowing boat, one canoe, one magnificent sunset, one ford. One swimmer, one walker (the wonderful Charles).

We approached Shifford Lock via Duxford ford. The water was about 8 inches deep across the ford, with a slippery concrete surface.
Shifford Lock
The most original question of the day was from the canoeists, who unlike all the other boat occupants, did not shout "Isn't it cold?" but instead asked, "How far to the nearest pub?".

The third swan encountered (0.5 mile downstream of Shifford Lock) was most unusual. Firstly, it was not mute but did seagull impressions. Rather good seagull impressions, just not as loud. I kid you not. Secondly, rather than the usual swan behaviour of keeping to one side of the river as I kept to the other side to pass it, it seemed to think it a personal duty to keep fifty yards ahead of me and shepherd me all the way to Newbridge. Once we were within sight of the bridge, it turned round, started an immense flapping and ran on the water to take off, and made it, this immense bird airborne, flying back in the
direction of Shifford.
Swan escort
Two of the kingfisher sightings consisted of a bright turquoise flashin the distance as a bird shot out of the reeds area and headed for cover.  The other sighting was as I swam breaststroke gently just past
a big clump of reeds, only to find a bird with a bright orange breast sitting on a branch extending out over the water, just a few yards away. I sculled quietly in position for a while, trying not to let the
current take me further along. The kingfisher looked at me for awhile, and looked around, showing me its characteristic long sharp beak, and then after a short while, flew off.

I had started at 4.30pm for an early evening swim, and the sun made the whole thing glorious, going from bright sunny sunshine to fantastic dappled effects and long shadows as it got lower in the sky.
There was a magnificent sunset going on after I got to Newbridge and the Rose Revived.
Sunset at Newbridge
By the way, for future reference, there are a couple of getting out points at the Rose Revived. One is a small steeply-angled concrete ramp just below the grassy area with all the pub tables, which looks
feasible if you turn round and sit on the ramp with feet towards the water, then reverse up the bank. However, I didn't fancy providing entertainment for the pub-goers, so I used an exit point further along
the bank, just past the punts/rowing boats hire place. There's a sort of low concrete raft attached to the bank, which you can either haul yourself up over, if you're feeling strong, or get someone to help
you, or at the upstream side of the raft, it is thigh-deep (but muddy) there and easy to get out without assistance. An added plus is that the concrete raft is much less overlooked by people so makes a good
place to change.

There are also lots of points along the route where there are shallow entry/exit points so if you are getting fed cookies from walkers this is easy to manage.

The river temperature felt slightly higher than in previous swims, and I made it to the endpoint half an hour earlier than expected, compared to previous swims. I don't think I have improved my speed that much, so I think the current must have been a bit faster in this stretch of the river - possibly due to the rain a few days ago?


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