By: Blonde Two

The Dart 10K route has two feed stations, one at 4K and the other at around 8K. This, I am sure you would agree, is an impressive feat of logistics as both of the feed stations are floating in the middle of the River Dart. These feed stations had been given, in my nervous Blonde head, the status of nirvana-like respite from the swirling depths of the river (not least because I knew that they were manned by Jelly Babies as well as human volunteers). Feed Station One at Sharpham (beautiful house, which I saw from the river and the world’s best cheese and which I didn’t) was my initial goal, I knew that if I could get there I would be able to judge my progress in a state of relaxation and, if I felt it necessary, decide to get out.

Photo by Ju Lewis

As it turned out, feed stations in the middle of rivers are not as easy or as relaxing as I first imagined, particularly if you are approaching them under the control of a fast flowing tide. Hanging on to a raft with one hand whilst trying to cram Jelly Babies into your mouth, control a bottle of drink and help other people find a handhold with the other is as tricky as you might imagine. Despite the warm and friendly raft welcome at Sharpham I didn’t stay long and I am not sure today whether I let go on purpose or not. All thoughts of stopping abandoned I bobbed off through a mat of seaweed and sticks, down the river again.

Feed Station Two at Bow Creek (at least I think that is where we were, the swim had become a blur by then) was exciting for three reasons:

  1. I had made it there despite all my imaginings that I wouldn’t.
  2. The next stop was the finish, only 2K away.
  3. The raft appeared to be rushing up towards me.

As it turned out (it is amazing how addled a river soaked brain can become) Feed Station Two wasn’t being pushed up river by an invisible power boat, I was rushing towards it really quickly on the now even faster tide (check out the tidal rule of 12ths here). I only just managed to swim across to it before I got swept downriver and it was so tricky to hang on that I am afraid I lost my table manners, swigged a few gulps of water, rammed a handful of Jelly Babies into my mouth and let go. This time I stayed upright for a while as I chewed my jelly mouthful and it was a great feeling watching the raft slip away behind me and realising that there was, after all, a chance that I might make it to the finish.

I think I can remember the last section of the swim better than any of the others. Realising that I could finish finally calmed my state of slight panic down and the scenery was beautiful. The last bend was long but we had been warned it would feel like that. I couldn’t see many other swimmers left in the river but I wasn’t last and as the giant white 10K marker on the bank appeared I knew that I was going to make it home.

Photo by Ju Lewis

That last 300 metres or so was probably the first part of the swim that I truly enjoyed, but the feelings were so good that I stopped for a while to take the moment in before it was all over. The river was wide, the sun was shining and the boats were bobbing. The River Dart was doing exactly what it was supposed to do and I felt at home. I had made it!

If you love the River Dart as much as I do and would like to share its story with the youngsters in your family, you might be interested in our children’s book ‘Dart the River’ (£6.99) available from Amazon and from our online shop. It tells the story of Dart from his source high on Dartmoor, right down to the sea at Dartmouth and includes grid references to encourage a bit of family exploration.