Isolated and eerie, the River Severn had drastically changed over the last two days. Its only a couple of kilometres from the finish point for the swim on Day 16. The river was moving very very fast. I only had 2 foot of depth in the water. I was standing on quick sand and was getting ripped along with the river. There was tree after tree lodged in the riverbed. Each movement I made it felt like something horrible could happen. I felt incredibly vulnerable in such a hostile environment……
Earlier that morning:
I was very relived this morning knowing that it was the last day of swimming. Even though I was feeling terrible. I thought I’d be more enthusiastic about the prospects of finishing the swim today. But over the last couple of days, I was struggling to demonstrate enthusiasm about jumping into the water.
We started at Minsterworh Ski Club at about 8am. The river started off quite tame. After only 30-minutes I had to get out to drink tea as I was freezing cold. Normally I can go one hour before stopping to warm up. But I think my body was in turmoil at this stage.
After our first break we were moving to Longney. The river turned into a balloon shape, where there was a massive sand bank in the middle and a left and right channel. SARA (Severn Area Rescue Association) had told me to take a specific side of the sand bank, but I had forgotten which one. We took the left channel and after about 100m of taking this route, I realised that we taken the wrong one. I was fuming! But there was nothing I could do to change this bad decision now, and we couldn’t turn back do to the speed of the flow.
There was only about 2-foot of water under me. The river must having been flowing at about 10km/hr. There was no point in me swimming freestyle. I just walked or floated down this channel. I was getting a bit panicked as the process just felt so sketchy. I was out of control and there was nothing I could do. I was at the mercy of the river and had to just go with the flow (literally). In an environment like this, you feel so vulnerable. You can’t do anything to control the situation. You have to just stay on alert and hope the river spits you out the other side.
It did! We had reached Epney, where Kev Brady said “Keith” the female seal was living. Not that I would have seen Keith under the water as it was full of silt. But she might have popped her head up to say hello. She never did unfortunately. Gutted!
Patch and I took another break on a massive sandbank. There was loads of evidence showing how powerful this river can be on this sandbank. There were dead trees everywhere.
After this much needed break we went for our last swim. We knew we were close to Newnham. We only had two more bends and we there. I could see a very distinctive red cliff in the background and knew that indicated our last bend in the river. The red cliff seemed miles away, but only after about 20-minutes we were there. We approached it so fast, as the flow of the river was incredible. It was still very shallow and now had large rocks on the riverbed under my feet.
We turned the bend and we could see the large sea wall outside the White Hart Inn. This was our end point and it was approaching very fast.
As a fitting end to the swim, the rain came pouring down just before we finished. Patch and I stopped to look at the rain bouncing off the surface of the water. It was creating these large rain drops as it bounced of the incredibly silty water.
Caitriona was standing on top of the 4m high sea wall. We were approaching way too fast. I was getting a bit worried that we would miss the steps. I swam viciously across the flow to get to the steps. As I put my hand on the steps, I could feel the pressure of the water pushing against the right hand side of my body. It was overpowering and I had to get out fast. I clambered out as fast as I could. We had done it! I had swam around 240km in 12-days.
Decision to terminate the swimming section at Newnham:
In the weeks running up to this swim, I sought advice from SARA (Severn Area Rescue Association) about how I’d go about doing the last section of this swim. I wanted to swim all the way to Severn Beach (just past the new Severn Bridge). I was told not to swim past Newnham as the river turns into an evil beast with countless dangers. When I started this adventure, I was indecisive about whether or not I’d do this section. I kept on telling myself, “nothing risked, nothing gained”. After only a couple of days into the adventure I decided that I wouldn’t be carrying out this last section, and I would terminate the swim at Newnham.
This was a heart braking decision for me to make. Besides the fact that I’d have been risking my own life and the peoples lives on the river with me, the main reason for not attempting to tackle this section is to set an example to fellow wild swimmers and future River Severn swimmers.
Over the last 16-days I’ve travelled about 316km. Of this, I’ve swam about 236km down the River Severn in 13-days. I’d consider myself to be a very competent swimmer. But even at that, you can never out power Mother Nature. You have to know when your entering dangerous waters, and know how to access the dangers and take a step back if required.
Rivers are one of my favourite places to swim. But certain sections can be very dangerous. Things can happen so quickly in rivers while swimming, so I always give them my full respect.
The last section of this adventure involves walking from Arlingham to Severn beach.
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Start Location: Minsterworth
End Location: Newnham
Distance travelled: 14.47km
Exercise Duration: 3hr:21mins
GPS Track: //connect.garmin.com/modern/profile/RossSwims