Words: Rachael Brown
Wild swimming is the perfect remedy to lockdown-induced cabin fever and Dartmoor has a wealth of different pools and rapids to enjoy. As with all wild swimming take caution and judge the safety of the rapids before you take a dip.
A popular spot with wild swimmers, Sharrah Pool is a deep, calm pool of freshwater resting in between two cascades. Located on the River Dart, it’s surrounded by woodland and flat granite slabs for sun-bathing. To get there start at New Bridge car park, cross the bridge and keep on the forest footpath that follows the River Dart up through Holne woods. Cross a waterfall to get to a flat woodland area and you will be next to the Pools.
Just on from Sharrah Pool is Mel Pool, a more remote spot that’s slightly more difficult to approach. Water rushes loudly through these wild woods, lined with granite boulders, and there’s plenty of small rapids you can slide down if you are in a wetsuit. Mel Pool is marked on the OL28 Ordnance Survey Explorer Map.
Salmon Leaps is a long freshwater pool on the River Teign, secluded in woodland in the west of Dartmoor. The river pool flows into a series of Victorian plunge pools, made for sitting and feeling the rush of rapids flashing past. In Autumn you might spot salmon. The pool sits at the foot of Castle Drogo and you can wander down from their car park or pass the weir on the Fingle Bridge walk.
This river valley doesn’t look like typical Dartmoor, but the steep rocky walls form an impressive backdrop to the wild swimming pool. It’s shallower than other swimming spots but what it lacks in depth it makes up in scenery (there are mini waterfalls). Park at Lane End car park in Willsworthy by Ger Tor and follow the leat to Tavy Cleave.
Cullever Steps Pool, Belstone
On northern Dartmoor downstream from Cullever Steps is a smaller wild swimming pool, great for a dip and a picnic. It’s a remote spot on the open moorland that you find by following the East Okement River down from Cullever Steps. Park at Belstone or Okehampton Camp.
Double Waters, Yelverton
Not too far from Plymouth there are a couple of pools, a rope swing and water slides at Double Waters, where the River Walkham runs into the River Tavy. Find the river in a tangle of wild oak woodland that covers the valley. You can walk from the car park at Grenofen Bridge and follow the River Walkham to the fork where it meets the Tavy.