Have you heard of wild swimming? I hadn't until a friend (who will now forevermore be known as 'the wild one') recommended we go to Shilley Pool on Dartmoor. A quick internet search brought this wild swimming website to my attention as well as a helpful definition of what I was getting involved in.
The wild one suggested we pack wetsuits and a picnic to make a day of it. So on a sunny morning in August we made our way from one side of Dartmoor to the other to meet up with her wildlings and take the plunge. Now, it's worth bearing in mind that I prefer swimming in the sea to a swimming pool and spent many summers as a child damming streams and catching frogs, so the thought of getting in a pond for a swim does not fill me with dread. If you're a little squeamish about these things you needn't worry, this pool is situated over bedrock so there's no ick between your toes but it is rather slippery, which actually is the point here as Shilley Pool is a natural rock slide too.
Shilley Pool is a 15 to 20 minute walk up stream from the car park. You need good walking boots or wellies as you have to clamber over rocks and through boggy ground to get there but the scenery is spectacular and well worth the effort. We found the most enormous hairy caterpillar chilling out on the path. I picked it up carefully (and squealed when it tickled my palm), then popped it onto a frond of bracken where the wildlings could get a proper look at it.
Once we found the pool the kids spent a good hour sliding down the rock on their butts. I helped Bear slide down and accidentally dunked him underwater when my foot slipped on the bottom on the pool... after which I was called 'The Bad Mummy' for the remainder of the day. It was pretty chilly and he wasn't very happy with me, but there was so much nature to explore he didn't stay mad for long. When we were done slipping and sliding, whooping and yelling we dried off on warm rocks before eating our picnic wrapped up in giant towels.
Bear and I played hide-and-seek in the bracken which towered over him like a green jungle while the others got back into the cool water. We were the sole people there for most of the day, our isolation interrupted only by the occasional rambler crunching through the bracken pathways. There are no facilities this far up on Dartmoor, it's nature in it's purest form; clean air, fresh water and a big sky. The experience was at once exhilarating and peaceful. After our day at Shilley Pool I'm a total fan of wild swimming. So much so that I'm looking into other wild locations with natural pools around the world where we can literally dive into nature. I think these happy faces speak volumes about the benefits of getting a little wild sometimes.
Are you STILL taking pictures mummy?