Swimming the Atlantic
Boxing Day swimming at Bugle Hole. I’m presuming it’s called thus because of the sound the surf can make at just the right time and with just the right conditions when it hits some of the caves and holes in the rock. Whatever the real reason, this is a definite hole and a naturally formed swimming pool at the edge of some of the more glorious coast along what is already a spectacular piece of Atlantic coastline. Bugle Hole is reached after a short walk along the coast path from Mothecombe Beach. All the land here is owned by the Flete Estate which remains a traditionally-managed Estate, and must be one of the largest in this part of the country. The manor house has now been split into multiple residences with the family now living in the dower house (Mothecombe House) , but otherwise the estate remains a mix of agricultural, touristic and commercial activity and is self-sustaining. It is one of a number of very large estates along this part of the Devon coast, and is situated at the mouth of the River Erme with land sitting alongside the river as well as the Atlantic Ocean.
The estate includes three beaches, all of which remain open to the public albeit with limited hours. The large car park at Mothecombe draws large crowds in summer and at various other parts of the year. When we visited on Boxing Day although the beach was technically closed to the public it was nevertheless alive with people and dogs and crickets bats and spades digging out the foundations and ramparts for castles.
Our group, which was small and formed of enthusiastic wild swimmers convened on a regular basis by Sophie Pierce were aiming not for Mothecombe but for Bugle Hole, one of the favourite locations for the swim group. On this day there were only two swimmers who braved the water which Sophie described as ‘rather like being in a washing machine’. The large swell remaining from recent storms pushed the water in and out of the Hole with great force and it was only after some deliberation (and the expertise that comes with regular sea swimming) that the two decided to go in. A third ‘may swim, may not’ member of the group decided not to get in. It’s not to everyone’s taste to be biffed and buffeted and bashed by a lively and ebullient swell.
The light was as stunning as the previous day. There was more sun and fewer squalls: in fact sitting by the Hole in a natural bowl and sun trap was really rather glorious. Some big clouds remained, on their way out before the next storm, due to arrive that evening. This however was a breathing space, a time to pause and enjoy before the next onslaught.