The Silent Pool – Denham
June 11th & 13th 2014
I love the sun.
I love the feel of it on my skin. I love long lazy days, walking barefoot in shorts and an old T-shirt. I love the way life slows down and priorities change.
But most of all I love the feel of cold water at the end of a hot day. That first leap into a cooling balm. I love to sit on the river bed and physically feel the heat of the day leach away, through flesh that is strangely and suddenly porous – and with it all tension and trouble.
So after a long and arduous day building a new chicken run, I decided to take a solo dip at Denham on my way to morris dancing. And for those who have not yet discovered the joys of morris and who are minded to smirk or sneer, may I just say that the clash of an ash stick is also a pretty efficient stress reliever!
That evening I chose to launch off from the rocky outcrop that overlooks the Silent Pool. Here the slate is wide and warm, a perfectly shaded place to shed clothes and seek solace from the heat.
I dived deep, kicking down until I could see the rounded rocks of the river bed, ochre painted in the diffused light.
That amazing silence that deafens. A few seconds of peace before rising again, up through a hustle of bubbles to break the surface with a gasp.
Only on this occasion I torpedoed straight into the flailing paws of Marley who had mirrored my dive. His look of consternation and confusion was priceless!
I cruised across to the opposite bank, grounding gently in fine silt and almost becoming skewered on a submerged branch, its leaves long washed away. A short upstream breaststroke was followed by a long leisurely backfloat, under a canopy of oak, rowan and nut-decked beech.
And suddenly there it was. Like an incoming missile – low, fast and true to the axis of the river. This could only be one thing and sure enough, moments later a lightning flash of orange and turquoise, no more than 18 inches from my face. Although over in an instant, this was my closest ever encounter with a kingfisher and it was one of those magical moments that a river will sometimes lend you.
It was time to celebrate my good fortune, so after a quick towel down I was off to the the sleepy riverside village of Bere Ferrers, arriving just in time for a dance, cool ale and squeezebox session beside the Tavy’s slow flow.
Two days later and I was back at the Silent Pool, this time accompanied by Sal and a delicious picnic supper.
The weather had remained fair and this was a Friday evening, so tonight the pool was not so silent. Distant cries of delight hailed from a family paddling and floating on large rubber rings, just around a bend in the river. Blue campfire smoke snaked up into the sky, merging into dusk.
But they were too far away to bother me and soon I had strippped off and dived in, the shock of the cold snatching my breath away. As always, I was a willing victim of the river’s mugging.
Later in the evening the family passed by on the woodland track above me, all loaded with a rainbow array of bags, towels and inflatables.
But I laid low in the bank-side shadows, like the trout and salmon that find a haven here…