The second late summer heatwave swim cycle was an all day trip in the company of three other ‘wonderful wild women’ – a fun filled day of sun, cycling and swims in the west of Norwich.
I had posted the day before in the local swim group a plan for a swim cycle in West Norwich, and didn’t know if it would appeal so was very pleased that three women agreed to join me. We met at Longwater Lane. I already knew Nicky and we had done a swim cycle a year or so before. Sue and Carol were doing their first swim cycles so didn’t quite know what to expect, though were keen to combine the activities they loved doing.
We set off on another gloriously warm day, cycling through Old Costessey and gathering a convoy of cars behind us going up the hill, unable to pass us on the narrow lane. We freewheeled down to Costessey Mill, locked up our bikes in a clump, and went in to explore the amazing looking curved weir. We waded upstream through waterlilies until we could swim freely towards it, then up the steps to enjoy the cool jacuzzi pummelling and frothing around us.
The photos captured what fun we were having in the bubbles and posing as mermaids on the weir edge. Noticeably warmer than my dip the previous day at 16.8 degrees. I was delighted to have a swim here having often seeing the local youth having such fun (despite efforts to put them off by putting up a fence round the weir that just makes it less easy to get out safely).
On to the next stop, especially enjoyable cycling as Drayton Low Road was closed to traffic. Green Lanes, also known as The Beauty Spot, is an unusual inland chalk cliff clothed in beech trees with winding walks and recently restored steps down the slopes to a chalky shallow beach. The water was delightfully clear and soon became deep with a noticeable current. We swam upstream and drifted back down under willows and past lush flowers. We got dressed quickly and rode on, as we had become a bit chilly in the shade and the 17.1 degrees water.
The Beauty Spot, Drayton
At Hellesdon Mill we warmed up while having our picnic lunch in the welcome heat of the sun, and were entertained by some lads jumping into inflatable tubes in the water. We were soon keen to get in, and walked up in the shallows to the mill pool where we jumped and dived into the white water, filming and photographing each other in front of the No Diving and No Swimming signs that deface what’s left of the old mill. As we were dressing the lads returned, disappointed that they couldn’t find the rope swing, so we told them about the mill pool. Water 17.6 degrees.
Hellesdon Mill pool
We were enjoying our day so much that we decided to extend the route to take in Anderson’s Meadow. This is just along the Marriott’s Way, a marvellous cycle and walk way that stretches from Norwich out into the countryside in a loop to Aylsham following the route of two closed railway lines. This stretch of the Wensum used to be called the ‘Back River’ and was very popular for boating and other recreation, as illustrated with old photos in this blog piece.
Marriott’s Way viaduct, corner of Sweet Briar marshes and river Wensum
Anderson’s Meadow in Norwich is very popular and it was heaving with young people having great fun sliding down the canoe launch and playing with the many lifebuoys from the paddleboard hire place. At first this seemed like rather bad behaviour – and they were told off – but they didn’t seem to be doing any harm, and though not ideal surely it is better to see them out being active and enjoying the water with enthusiasm than glued to phones and inactive?
The others swam up to the bridge while I explored the beach in the garden of the Gibraltar Gardens pub opposite (a bit muddy, but ok, and handy for combining a swim with refreshment). (17.2 degrees.) It’s an area with an interesting history, including of river swimming baths, and this walk has info, old photos and maps.
Gibraltar Gardens, Mile Cross Bridge
We retraced our route back along Marriott’s Way, past Hellesdon Station platform, along to where it runs close to the Wensum. A popular spot with local youth, with a long rope swing and steep cliff with tree roots exposed. Just two of us did this fifth swim of the day, in a green tunnel with glimpses of the sun beyond the tall trees. It was lovely and though 17.5 degrees felt a bit cool – which generally happens after multiple swims. We don’t know what the kids call it, but we named it The Wonder Spot, in recognition of The Beauty Spot just upstream on the opposite bank.
‘The Wonder Spot’
Nicky left us to return home along the cycle way (making her day’s cycle about ten miles longer than ours), while we cut up Red Bridge Lane through the little Gunton Park, crossing the river Tud at a popular paddling spot, and back up the roads to our cars.
We all pronounced it a successful outing, and one tech savvy cyclist set up a WhatsApp group to arrange more trips, share photos and invite more to join us – as it is so much fun to swim and cycle in company.
As Carol said: “What a great day – it was a proper adventure – we went off exploring under our own steam and discovered amazing water with weeds and weirs and slime and sludge which made it all the more real and wonderful. Imogen the intrepid encouraged us to sit in a weir, dive off from a weir and generally embrace nature with a carefree ‘we can do it’ attitude. Thank you all for being such wonderful wild women!” Nicky: Wonderful day! Thank you for organising and laying on glorious sunshine too.” And Sue: “… a fabulous day …feel fully inducted now …here’s to the next one!!