Friday, 21 March 2008

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Brilliant book, a bit of a cult
favourite; can't help but be appreciated by anyone who loves swimming. Roger Deakin was inspired by John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer', wherein a man sets out to swim home from a neighbour's party (it's all a metaphor for life's great struggle, of course - Burt Lancaster ,left, starred in the movie adaptation). Deakin sets out from his moat in Suffolk to swim through the British Isles.

Deakin's swimming is mostly open water - rivers, ponds, his own moat, the sea. As a dedicated pool swimmer, however, I was especially taken by his chapter on searching for the spas of the Malvern Hills, around Cheltenham and Buxton. None exists any longer. Killed off, it seems, by the coming of steam railways and the subsequent accessibility of the seaside.

He does have a swim in several pools along the way, notably Cheltenham's Sandford Parks Lido* , Cirencester, Jubilee pool at Penzance, the rock pool at Dancing Ledge, Dorset, Hathersage and Ingleton in Yorkshire, Highgate Ponds, The Parliament Hill and Tooting Bec Lidos in London, and the Oasis in London.

*pronounced Lie-do, rather than the Italian-correct Lee-do, from whence the British Lido, as outdoor pools are known, gets its name: The Lido of Venice).

“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached at birth ourselves. To swim is to experience how it was before you were born. Once in the water, you are immersed in an intensely private world as you were in the womb. These amniotic waters are both utterly safe and yet terrifying, for at birth anything could go wrong, and you are assailed by all kunds of forces over which you have no control. This may account for the anxieties every swimmer experiences from time to time in deep water. The swimmer experiences the terror and the bliss of being born.”

“Swimming is often enhanced by company, and sometimes by solitude. The same individual may swim for different reasons on different days. I certainly do. The joys of swimming are sometimes those of silence and solitude, sometimes of communion with nature, and sometimes the more friends who oin you, the merrier…there is also strength in numbers if your right to bathe in this or that particular mudhole is at all questioned” P. 115

Click here for extracts from Deakin about (links will be made as I make posts about them):

Dancing Ledge
Parliament Hill
Tooting Bec

I was inspired by Deakin to think about some memorable non-pool swimming I have done in Australia, and will be making posts on :

"The Res" at Mount Macedon, Victoria
Buchan Caves pool, Victoria
The Blue and Green Pools (former quarries) at Angourie, NSW
Copi Hollow, Menindee, NSW
Blue Lake, Mount Kosciuszko, NSW

Snowy River, NSW
Thredbo River, NSW
Rocky Creek, Upper Horton, northern NSW
Hastings Cave pool, Tasmania
Toowoomba, Qld
Lake MacKenzie, Fraser Island, Queensland

Toowoomba, Queensland

January 1969. Dad had to work in Toowoomba, and being the summer holidays, the family went along. We spent a fair bit of time at this swimming pool. From research, I think it must have been the swimming baths on East Creek. Maybe not?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Rocky Creek, via Upper Horton NSW

This series of pools was formed by a glacier many many moons ago - 290 million years' worth. A terrific place to swim, between Narrabri and Bingara in north western NSW. When we lived in Moree, teaching, it was a favourite place to take people for a day for a picnic.

Here's a website with some more information.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island

Photos: 24 Jan, 2001
Lake Mackenzie is on Fraser Island, Queensland, the largest sand island in the world. It has been world heritage listed since 1992.

Mackenzie is a "perched" lake sitting on top of compact sand and vegetable matter 100 metres above sea level. Ithas an area of 150 hectares and is just over five metres in depth. The beach sand of Lake McKenzie is nearly pure silica and it is possible to wash hair, teeth, jewellery, and exfoliate your skin. The lakes have very few nutrients and pH varies, though sunscreen and soaps are a problem as a form of pollution.

The beaches along Fraser Island are not recommended for swimming, having plentiful sea snakes and tiger sharks in their waters.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Snowy River

The walking track between Charlotte Pass and Blue Lake crosses the head waters of the Snowy River, a great place for a cool down on the return walk on a very hot day. January 1988.

Blue Lake, Mount Kosciuszko

January 1988

Incredibly cold water, on an amazingly hot day, with huge, dopey flies lolloping around your face. 1900metres above sea level, and one of only four cirque lakes in mainland Australia. Formed by glacial gouging of the granite rock. The lake is one of the purest freshwater lakes in the country. In winter it is a popular site for ice climbing.

I'm pretty sure that because of its environmental sensitivity, swimming is not allowed. A number of threatened plant and invertebrate species that are restricted to alpine areas are found here.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Thermal pool, Hastings, Tasmania

In contrast to Buchan Caves’ icy cold pool, the pool at Hastings cave, south of Hobart is lusciously warm. A thermal pool in a rainforest. I swam here in December 1974.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Buchan Caves Pool

This is one of the coldest pools anywhere. On the hottest of summer days, when the dry crackling heat of a bush summer is accompanied by the slow orbit of dopey, bloated flies, plunging into this pool will guarantee instant cold-induced headache! The pool is fed by a mountain stream which rises to the surface within the Buchan Caves reserve. The same water I suppose (though I could be wrong) which has shaped the limestone cave formations of the Buchan Cave system. The caves are west of Orbost in northeast Victoria. Volunteers keep the Reserve in good shape. I visited here with friends and family in January 1976, when returning from Melbourne. Town pool at Orbost

Blue Pool, Angourie

I visited here in January 1979 on my first real parent-free “road trip” as an adult. There’d been several with my parents when I was a kid, mainly between Melbourne from whence we hailed, and Sydney where we’d moved when I was ten. But we’d never struck out north. Now. I’d just finished uni, and was travelling north with a couple of girlfriends, in the interregnum between leaving full time study for the first time in 16 years and starting work as a teacher. It had been school then uni, and now, as a bonded teacher trainee, I was guaranteed a job “somewhere in NSW”.

It’s hard to believe today, but you signed a bond at age 17 agreeing to be appointed anywhere in the state, went to uni, and then, being guaranteed a job, got a slip in the mail sometime in the week before school began in late January, and then you were off!

That was all several weeks away as we headed north. One of our number was a long-standing surfie chick and knew all the best “spots” up the north coast. Our ultimate destination was her married sister’s place in Caloundra, Qld. On the way we camped at Angourie, a really sleepy, tiny hamlet known then mainly by hard-core surfers.
Angourie’s Blue Pool was once a rock quarry that transformed into a pool when an underground freshwater spring was disturbed. It is a dazzling blue. I did not, unlike many, jump off the cliffs – never been a daredevil that way! I can remember that it was pretty chilly.

A relatively short walk along a track is the “Green Pool”, another former quarry. We swam here too, and I believe it was silkier and warmer.

Angourie is just outside YURAYGIR National Park and is 684km north of Sydney, 10km south of Yamba, 133km south of Byron Bay.

My photo of The Blue Pool, January 1979:

The Green Pool:

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Copi Hollow, Lake Menindee NSW

Copi Hollow is an artifically constructed lake developed for speedboats, sailing, swimming and water-skiing about 13 km north of Menindee on the Broken Hill Rd.

We were on a summer road trip from Sydney to Adelaide in January 1982. We went via Broken Hill where we spent a few days with close friends who had moved there a year or so earlier. Broken Hill is hot in summer. Water is cool. And Copi Hollow was just what we needed.

The Menindee Lakes have been suffering from lack of water from its feeder source, the darling River, in the rescent drought, and Copi Hollow has been afflicted by a toxic blue-gree algae. Unfortunatley, much of the water from the Darling "disappears" into massive cotton farm way, way upstream.