After not swimming at Hathersage last weekend, I checked around to see if any other outdoor pools are still open. I discovered that Nantwich Brine Pool isn't due to hibernate till 4 October, so I resolved that by hook or by crook we'd sneak a swim there before it shuts. I earmarked today for the jaunt. I've not been before, but internet reports were full of praise. Its name both intrigues and repels me. It's too visceral - I associate brine with preparing onions for pickling, and I don't like to mix up that image with swimming, but find I can't stop myself.
The journey took over an hour as the satnav led us on a mystery tour through Cheshire countryside, instead of straight down the M6. As we pulled up in the car park, I had the familiar sinking feeling I always get when I reach an unknown swimming spot. A mixture of nervous anticipation and dread, probably a leftover from school swimming lessons at Rowntrees pool in York. More of that another day. It lingered on in the changing rooms, despite the cheery gang of girls who were dressing after their swimming lesson in the adjacent indoor pool.
Autumn has arrived and there's a chill in the air. The sky was overcast so I didn't hang about on the edge. The steps down were broad and tiled, the water silky and warm. I eased myself in with breaststroke and accustomed myself to the surroundings. The dread was still there, but counting lengths helped focus my mind and convert anxiety into enjoyment. I could smell smoke from coal fires faintly and I started to relax and revel in the pure pleasure of being outdoors and swimming - in October! The emptiness of the pool let me concentrate on my stroke, in time I broke through the gasping to an easy one - two - three bilateral freestyle which felt like it could go on forever. The water was mild and the saltiness pushed me higher than usual. I stopped after 54 x 30m lengths as Troy was waiting. When I got home I found this piece in Roger Deakin's book which perfectly sums up Nantwich today:
'When swimmers talk of fast or slow water, this is the sort of thing they mean. The absence of wavelets, or other bathers, means you can breathe and move in perfect rhythm, so the music takes over. Mind and body go off somewhere together in unselfconscious bliss, and the lengths seem to swim themselves. The blood sings, the water yields; you are in a state of grace, and every breath gets deeper and more satisfying. You hunker down and bury yourself in the water as though you have lived in it all your life, as though you were born to it, and thoughts come lightly and easily as you swing up and down in the blue.'