I’m here with swim adventure travel company SwimTrek, and our challenge today is to circumnavigate Burgh Island in Devon. A pretty, or moody depending on the weather, craggy rock just off the seaside village of Bigburg-on-sea.
It’s an atmospheric place, the murder-mystery writer Agatha Christie set two novels here and today in the windy chop and fast-moving clouds it’s easy to see why. The front side facing the mainland has a cool-looking art deco hotel, reachable on foot at low tide or by a special water tractor at high tide, while the backside is more remote and desolate. When we swam around the back we were alone except for the cormorants.
“The murder-mystery writer Agatha Christie set two novels here and today in the windy chop and fast-moving clouds it’s easy to see why”
With a distance of 2 km, the trip is billed as an introduction to open water swimming. But in reality our group has mixed motives for being here. Some really are just getting to grips with swimming in the sea, where as one guy is a regular triathlete looking to spice up his training programme. I’m a reasonable swimmer with enough experience in the sea to be now totally bored of swimming pools but this also just wasn’t a swim I’d do by myself.
I crave adventurous stuff but unlike your regular adrenaline junkie, or stereotype of that person anyway, I’m really not into taking risks. I like experts and trust them implicitly. And while I’ve been wanting to swim around Burgh Island for some time now I would be no more likely to take it on by myself than I would snowboard off-piste in a place I’ve never been before without a guide or responsible local.
It’s not sea monsters, fictitious or real in the form of say sharks or jellyfish, that I’m scared of it’s just being out of sight of people. And this is where the idea of a guided swim around Burgh Island came in. As for me there’s something impossibly romantic and Famous Five-like about the thought of swimming round an island. About taking it on; making it all the way around. It captures the imagination and appeals to the completist in me.