So, it turns out, I have been looking after other people’s children for over half of my life. I first qualified as a Nanny back in the Dark Ages(90’s) after being the eternal student at college, trying to find the right direction in my working future. I had wanted to be a PE teacher, but failed maths 3 times. I knew I enjoyed working with children and I finally landed on the NNEB Diploma, (which doesn’t exist any more) a two year course alternating every week with working in college and working on placement. This was, at the time, a world wide recognised qualification and higher than the basic BTec in Caring. I qualified and then went on to do nannying after a year of working in a nursery. I loved being a nanny and my families that I have worked with have all been great. I am very aware that I was extremely lucky in this case, as I have heard some horror stories!
The summer holidays are now in full swing and we (my other half and I) have the last three weeks with his 2 girls (10 and 11). Matt had to go up to London on the Monday for a meeting so I was in charge. Luckily, I can do this with my eyes closed and one arm tied behind my back 😉 We already had plans to go Dartmoor in the evening to stay with friends, so I decided that we would go to Dartmoor for lunch and try and find one of the Wild Swimming places from my Wild Guide. I’d had a message from M to get them outside ASAP as it was such a lovely day, but I needed no reminding. My whole ethos with children is outdoors, outdoors, outdoors. I worked with an arctic explorer and his family on Dartmoor many years ago and contrary to popular belief, Dartmoor is not bathed in sunshine; not in the summer or the winter. I would get those kids((18mths and 4yrs) out in all weathers. Granted, this was before social media, but my saying is (which I suspect I got from Sir Ranulph Fiennes) “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
I had purchased earlier in the day a couple of ordanance survey maps. I can remember poring over these as a child and it was so nice to look at them again. Phones, etc are all very well, but they lose connection, the battery runs out or you can drop and smash them. Give me the real thing any day (and they are conveniently now covered so they won’t rip). After a bit of deliberation I decided on Piles Copse, Cornwood, which is just north of Ivybridge. We got going as soon as we could, with a stop off halfway to pick up a packed lunch. I would normally, of course, make a picnic for us all, as all good nannies do, but I was pressed for time so a small detour off to that well known food store that also gives me a free latte 😉
About an hour and a half later, after a few reversings back down single tracks (luckily something I’m pretty good at :)) we had managed to park. Now we had to gather our belongings and walk for about a mile. I was so glad that I had my map as, I suspected, there was no signal from Cornwood onwards.
The girls did brilliantly; non stop chatter all the way until finally we spied the Copse. It’s a spot that’s popular with wild campers and we could see a couple of tents pitched up beside the stream. Somehow, though, we had to get down there. We rounded a corner and decided to go off roading through the bracken with Grace leading the way. She led us to a part of the stream where we could hop, skip across and finally came to a clearing, where campers had obviously been, as there was the remnants of a campfire. We hadn’t quite reached the spot that was mentioned in the book, but, as we were all quite hungry by this point, we decided that this was a perfect spot. We were alone and there was also a perfect area to get into the stream.
The girls tested the water before lunch. It was pretty chilly! Food was more important at this time so that was next on our list. Apparently, it’s on old wives tale about leaving an hour after food before heading into the water. My sis-in-law informed us of this on our last wild swim (QI brings up some amazing things). So back to the water we went after a good lunch. G was the first one in with Esme not far behind. There was moss on most of the rocks which weren’t as slippery as the orange ones. (“Don’t stand on the orange rocks,” was G’s advice). There were small sections that came up to my waist which you could plunge into, if you were feeling brave. I managed a small submerssion, but G was the one who went under. We explored up stream and we explored down stream. Small fish were spotted and there was a “ploop” as a fish dived out, probably being chased by a larger one.
We spent a happy few hours there; paddling, eating, playing exploding kittens (which was a weird card game). And then, as we were expected on the other side of Dartmoor for tea, it was time to pack up and go. We crossed the stream (I nearly lost a flip flop), scrambled up through the bracken and walked back along the track, with G nearly losing her flip flop in the mud and then back to the car to spend the night near Burrator.
The next day dawned beautiful and sunny again and I had orginal plans of driving us back home to spend the day at one of the beaches that is close by. But then I had a text at 8am from my sister-in-law.
“….coming to Tintagel for a day of castle, swimming and picnic….”
Well, I couldn’t not join them. We had all we needed from our previous day of water fun and Tintagel was about an hour up the road. I replied that we would be there. After a lovely morning walk on the moors we were back in the car (with small detour to another supermarket to get lunch). It didn’t take us long and we were soon walking down the steep hill to the cove.
Tintagel is a very popular tourist site on the North Coast of Cornwall. The castle ruins are linked to King Arthur when, in the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth named this as the place where Arthur was conceived. On the beach you can explore Merlin’s Cave when the tide is out.
Down the many steps we went and then finally we were on the shingle beach where my sis-in-laws had bagged a spot for us all. My neices had two friends with them, so there were 6 girls of about the same age. As usual, it didn’t take M’s girls that long to get in the water to catch up with the others. I went in with Ali and boy was it cold! It was definitely colder than the stream yesterday. But, I was determined to get in. G and I struck out to the rocks where we could see Louise and her friend along with Harriet and her mate, climbing over the rocks. “Look how brave I am!” I called to L. “Because you’re not wearing a wetsuit?” deadpanned L. “Well, that too, but look! I’m swimming in deep water!” They so don’t get it…
G climbed out and did a bit of rock climbing and by this time Helen had joined me, balancing on a submerged rock. She was wearing goggles and I asked if it was clear underneath. “Yes, apart from the fact you can see all the rubbish on the sea bed.” She popped her head under the water and swam off again, after warning me to look out for jellyfish. Great.
The girls were done with their cave exploring and we went back to our rugs to enjoy our food. Simple food always tastes so much nicer outdoors. The afternoon drifted by with the girls exploring the beach. There was a waterfall off to the right, Merlin’s Cave off to the left and straight ahead was a rock. The girls had already swam out there and now L was back on top of it. G decided to swim out there too and we could see both girls on the top, debating over jumping into the sea from it. A guy jumped in before them, and he was obviously telling the girls that he would dive down to see how deep it was as he disappeared below the water. Apparently, it was fine. We waited as L worked up her nerve. And waited. I glanced over at her mum and asked if she thought she was L was waiting for permission. “I’ve already given her the thumbs up,” said A. So we waited a bit more.
And then suddenly L jumped. We watched as she swung her arms back and forth and then launched herself into the air to land in the water. We all cheered and clapped along with a few strangers who were watching on the beach, which was amusing.
Grace needed no prompting. As soon as L was safely out of the way, she jumped. And then there was no stopping them. So many times they swam around the back of the rock to clambour up and jump again. 2 of the girls swam over to the rock and by this time the tide was coming in and the rock was getting further and further away and our beach was was getting smaller and smaller. The day was coming to and end and the girls were called back. They had a quite a swim to the shore by this point.
We climbed back up the hill and said our goodbyes to Helen, Ali and the girls. They were going on to the castle and we were going home. Two perfect outdoors days. Just how I like it. Cornwall is quite beautiful when the sun is shining. I think the girls enjoyed their water adventures.
P.s My mum insists it’s not an old wives tale…