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River


  • Endurance

No world can be more secret than that of an estuary, whose presence comes and go with the tide. The 2.5 mile swim from the small Devon village of Aveton Gifford to Bantham beach is one of my favourites. Swimmers are accepted by the wildlife as they make their seaward journey, surrounded and up close to fish, birds, seaweed and tree roots.

Estuaries are usually muddy primordial places where brown water and surface silt challenge ideas of enjoyment, but the sandy bottom here gives unusual clarity on the underwater world, while the wooded banks hint at the Amazon. It shallow - good for wading and viewing the underwater world - and the oyster beds at the start show how marvelously clean the mix of river and sea water is. The swim is delightfully nature dependent - you always know what season it is in this stretch of the water, and your swim speed will depend on the size of the tide.

Start at the carpark at Aveton Gifford (or the end of the tidal road to knock off the first 800 metres) about 20 minutes after high tide, and enjoy the assistance of the tide down to Bantham Beach . You can either take a dry bag on a leash, with a picnic and shoes, and walk back up the footpath to Aveton Gifford after your swim, or do clever things with cars so you have one at the end of the journey.

How long it will take depends how you travel: your pool swim time is likely to be extended by scenic swimming, chatting, floating, wading and picnics (a lime kilm halfway down is a good place for a picnic, and spectators can join you there) but increased by tidal assistance.

WHERE TO EAT/DRINK: Hungry tired and contented swimmers could book in for a meal and night at the fabulous art deco Burgh Island hotel (www.burghisland.com), at the end of the swim or try the Oyster Shack at Aveton Gifford (www.oystershack.co.uk). Book first.

Also visit Thurlstone Rock and Burgh Island are also great nearby swims.

This is a crowd-sourced map. Abilities vary, and conditions change. Always assess risks for yourself before getting in.

Experienced swimmers only, wear a brightly coloured hat, and do a recce at the same point on the tide beforehand, identifying exit points and speed of tide at the end of the swim (it can be running fast by the end, so hazards include rocks).

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