"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Durdle Door - November 2021

I don't mind admitting I was nervous about heading into the sea, solo, on a remote beach in November in England. Karteek, who'd missed out on an attempt at swimming the channel a few weeks before because the weather had refused to settle down enough to give him a safe window for the crossing, had told me it was around 13 degrees down in Cornwall and although the websites all told me the sea temp was a manageable 15C in Dorset I was sceptical. The air was around 12 degrees, the wind was fresh but not too strong inland and the sea looked calm in the distance as we drove into the car park.

As soon as we got out if felt decidedly blowy - was that really only 8mph winds like it said on the weather app? I wasn't going to go in if it was rough, as I'm just not built for rough and cold seas (that's a combination way out of my comfort zone). Well, all that was going through my head but still we started the walk down to Durdle Door and Man O' War cove with my wetsuit in the bag and a vague plan of getting in there and trying to swim under the arch. It was something I'd been wanting to do for ages.

Once down on the beach the wind dropped and the sea looked calm enough - except under the mighty arch itself where it would be calm one second and churning the next as the onshore breeze drove the water quickly through the narrow gap and sent up waves and surges that made it look scary (despite the photo above where it looks as flat as your local pond). I got my kit on and strapped on my new tow float and got straight down to the water. Whatever the temperature was, and I guess it was 14-15, it felt fine wading in and I had no trouble rolling over and pushing out into the sea then getting my head under for some freestyle. I was soon beyond the breaking waves and although my face turned numb, the rest of me was fine and I quite happily swam for around 15 minutes up and down the beach. The challenge of the arch remained though, so I turned towards it and began to swim purposefully in its direction. The wind came up a little and by the time I came within a few feet of the opening there were quite big waves that made breathing difficult. I persevered and pushed myself forward until I was there, between the sides of the arch with the rock ceiling above me and some mean waves breaking into my face. I was there, in the arch, so that felt like Job Done. I wasn't about to push through and out the other side into open sea where nobody on the beach could see me, that didn't feel smart, so I turned and swam hard through the waves breaking over me from behind back into calm waters.

One time I want to come back in a kinder season of the year and swim from Lulworth or Man O' War into the open sea and through the arch to the shore. Not a task for November on my own though. I warmed up pretty quick after exiting, but the promise of a warming cup of tea from the trailer at the top of the path was not fulfilled as she had closed for the day (already). Fortunately that meant we discovered Vibes in Dorchester who had some of the best veggie food I had ever tasted. Mind you when you have been in a cold sea, food always does taste pretty good!


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