Saturday, 11 August 2012

Hackfall Wood

Somehow or other I've managed to live here in Wensleydale without ever even knowing that Hackfall Wood existed! I owe the fact that I do know to a chance remark by a friend when I mentioned I was looking for somewhere to go for a swim.

I googled the place, to see if I could find a map of it. I not only found a map: I also discovered that the woodland has various follies hidden in it along with a hydrolic fountain which stands, in the middle of a pool, hidden in the depths of the wood. When you find it, you have to wait a few minutes for the pressure to build up and...


But I'm telling the story the wrong way round: I found the fountain on the way back from Black Robin Whirlpool. I had set myself the task of finding Black Robin after reading Les Taylor's memories of the area online (Les was born in 1925):

At the sharp bend in the river below is the Black Robin Whirlpool where village boys were warned not to swim.


It sounded alluring: I just had to check it out. If it was too dangerous a place, then I'd give it a miss but otherwise... I packed a towel just in case.

As it was it turned out to be one of the best swimming places that, in my limited experience, I've ever come across. The whirlpool doesn't seem to be a literal whirlpool of the water-going-down-the-plug variety, more just rapids, albeit arranged in a wavy line. Behind the rapids, a deep, wide bathing pool extends upriver for quite a long way. I could imagine the rapids could be quite turbulent if the river were higher but the river was quite placid today. A triangular area of pebbly "beach" sticks out from the bank into the river here, with a small area of grass and bushes on its far side. An elderly couple were there when I arrived. She had just finished her swim. It turned out they had found the place by following similar online clues to myself and that I had indeed found "Black Robin".

I changed into my shorts on the pebble beach and climbed into the peaty-brown water of the bathing-pool.  I soon discovered why parents might have warned their children not to swim here: where the pebble beach turns into a riverbed it suddenly slopes down - entering the water I found myself out of my depth in moments.  It turned out to be quite warm as cold water goes and within a minute or two it felt heavenly. Having swum down to savour the natural jacuzzi that is the Black Robin rapids I made my way upstream - it was quite hard work swimming against the current. There's nothing quite like swimming along a river, your eyes at water level. The river surface stretches away like a huge, glassy floor. If the stretch of river is surrounded by steep, tree-covered banks as this is, you get the bonus of being surrounded by towers of greenery that rise up not unlike towering, fluffy clouds in stormy weather: the effect is of a giant, green sanctuary with a glass floor and a sky-blue cieling.

I returned downstream breastroke, only needing to make a minimum effort as the water carried me along, back to the jacuzzi. Once out and dried, I sat here and ate an apple. Life is good...

click to enlarge


13 comments:

tony said...

A Great find...I'm packing my trunks as I type this!

Tom Stephenson said...

What a wonderful sounding place. Your brilliant story is what childhood summer memories are made of.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I would rather you didn't tell me when you are going wild swimming, it just makes me worry about you!! And this in spite of the fact that I learned to swim in the river Witham.

Tom Stephenson said...

Are you Dominic's Mum, Weaver?

Dominic Rivron said...

tony: Nellie the Elephant plural? :)

I've only been once but I think this is right. (Warning: Maps in car park confused me - so they may you). There's a fingerpost that says "Hackfall" on the road from Grewelthorpe to Masham. That points to the car park. Go through the obvious gate out of the car park by the board with maps, turn left and head straight downhill along lane then over the field. Head for bottom left corner of field. Gate. Path straight ahead (not left). Once on this path stick to left hand options: keep old wall on left (I think) until path turns left at fallen tree. Keep going. Arrive at pebble "beach".

TS: It is. I suppose one aspect of growing up is about ceasing to be childish while attempting to remain childlike.

WG: Don't worry. I have an overdeveloped sense of self preservation. It's why I no longer rock-climb. I back off from anything risky. It's one reason I got into wild swimming in the first place: it's safer than other things I feel drawn to.

TS: She is.

Tom Stephenson said...

Aww - Now I am all choked up, like. What a nice son you have, Weave, and what a nice Mum you have Dom.

Jenny Woolf said...

What an amazing place ! I would just love to go there and swim. And the fountain is really strange - a bit disconcerting... just magical.

Dominic Rivron said...

JW: There are always the ponds on Hampstead Heath - they look and sound fascinating. I sometimes think I'll have to go and swim in them next time I'm down that way.

Alan Burnett said...

I don't think I have ever been river swimming. The story about the lederly couple gives me hope that I might manage this yet - before my time is out.

Jessica Maybury said...

Swimming in anything other than the sea makes me squirmy. Just...the mud, I think, and weeds and...I just shuddered. I like the post though. Very Tom Sawyer :D

Dominic Rivron said...

JM: At least there are no jellyfish in the Ure! (Pike maybe?)

I did once try to climb out of a river only to find myself crawling up to my thighs and elbows in mud. A herd of cows on the bank were eyeballing me. I think they were responsible for most of the mud, too. The Ure, though, seems to be all rock and water round here. Thankfully.

GOAT said...

Great description here, Dominic. Your love of the water really comes through in this and other things you've written.

I really enjoy finding out-of-the-way places where I can have a quick dip while travelling, but as a natural coward in the water I seldom go as far from the shore as you obviously enjoy doing!

Gwil W said...

Dominic, I'm always, as you know, impressed by your heroic swimming exploits in the rugged climate of northern England. Perhaps you could take a thermometer with you next time and measure the water temperature.

So far this year I've been swimming in 8 lakes and 2 rivers at various temperature between 18c and 22c which I suspect is almost tropical by your standards.