Tag Archives: Newtown Cove

Images of 2013 – 2 – Swimming Locations

I didn’t think 2013 was a great year for swimming new locations for me, though early in the year I’d hoped that would be different. Unsurprising, I suppose, as the longer I’ve been swimming, the further I would need to travel to swim new locations. I’ve covered all the Copper Coast, much of the rest of the Waterford coast and I’m not a fan of river swimming, and there are no significant lakes anywhere near me. Also, I had no big swim this year, not being able to afford one, and the situation looks the same for 2014. :-(

But that didn’t stop me having a look through the year’s locations, and there were a few I’d forgotten to add to my favourites and in review the year wasn’t bad.

I’ll start with my watery home, Waterford’s Copper Coast, and most specifically Tramore Bay from my usual starting location of the Guillamenes Cove.

Tramore Bay_MG_8972.resized
A very calm day in Tramore Bay in December, made even calmer through use of a very long exposure. The orange buoy is about 450 metres out, can’t be seen from distance in the water, and what I use to test my navigation skills during the summer, requiring of myself that I reach it with no more than a 25 metre deviation to either side.

It wasn’t all good at the Guillamenes this year. The increasing litigiousness of Irish society and the nonsensical and fearfully reactionary approach of Tramore town council and my own club led to this steel monstrosity, which so incensed Wallace.

Wallace Guillamenes

Newtown Cove is only 200 metres away from the Guillamene Cove. Though I swim past it on at least half of all my swims, dependant of swim direction, yet I start there less than one time in a hundred. We did however start the distance camp swim from Newtown Cove.

Cove entrance_MG_8971.resized

My favourite other location on the Copper coast is Kilfarassey, providing as it does a range of reefs, caves, tunnels and swim distances and directions, centered around my favourite playground of Burke’s Island which sits about 600 metres from the beach. As a swimmer and blogger I use more representational images. But as an aspiring photographer, I’m increasingly drawn to try to capture more of how I feel about a place.

Burke's Island IMG_8614_01In the first two of the extraordinary five whole weeks of summer that Ireland received in 2013, while the water hadn’t yet risen above 10C, I swam more on the coast at the east side of Tramore Bay. Swimming out from Ballymacaw, Portally and Dunmore East, including finally swimming partway into Seal Cave between Portally and Ballymacaw, a scary place. I’ve never swum this wild stretch of coast without experiencing strong tidal currents running east or west.

One Saturday in June, I took some photos of an inshore fishing boat passing below the cliff walk. Three days later I heard of yet another boat from the local main fishing port of Dunmore East lost with all three hands, all of them brothers, off Powerstown Head, which marks the entrance to Tramore Bay and can be seen in the first photo above, and which is the terminus of the easternmost stretch of Waterford’s coast. When I checked my photographs, it was indeed the same boat, the Dean Leanne, with two of the three tragically lost brothers onboard, probably the last every photograph of the brothers at sea. I found a connection to the family and passed on all the photos.

Dean Leanne & Hook head

In January a group of us attempted an Ice Mile in Dublin at the Bull Wall, but the water wasn’t cold enough, even though I got quite hypothermic.

The swim route. Nothing much to see here.
The swim route. Nothing much to see here.

A few weeks later In March, the same group swam in the Wicklow Mountains at Lough Dan. For a variety of reasons I decided against the full attempt but the trip was great, and wading into ice-covered water measuring less than two degrees at the edges was … interesting.

Lough Dan_IMG_1304.resized

 In the coldest spring in over fifty years in Ireland, Dee and I took some Mexican visitors to the West Coast for the view. The howling Force Eight wind and five degree (Celsius) air meant they were unable to emerge to see much of the scenery. But apparently the most shocking thing they saw was me going swimming in Doolin harbour in a three metre swell in a howling wind and crashing waves, wearing a Speedo, with a dolphin and two fully dry-suited divers. How Dee & I chuckled.

Beyond Doonagore Castle the Crab Beast roars
Beyond Doonagore Castle, Doolin Bay with Crab Island bearing a full Atlantic attack. This shot was taken three miles from that wave.

I don’t think my first Sandycove trip of 2013 was until April, but I managed more Sandycove laps in 2013 than in 2012. My lifetime total is still well below 200, so joining the Sandycove “D” Club of 500 lap swimmers seems distant at best and I shall to remain content with being  “C” club member. Most of the rest of the County Cork Coast eluded me this year, despite early promises from other Sandycove swimmers. And I guess I’ve written and shown you plenty of Sandycove before.

Morning view from the outside west entrance with the sun in the east. The slipway is on the left, some of the reefs at the first corner are appearing and the tide is dropping toward low.
The Red House above is no longer red.

April and May saw me returning to my usual caves on the coast, but leaving exploration for new caves until the water warms up later on in the summer.

Newtown Cave
It is impossible to capture the range of light visible to the human eye with a camera in one photograph but I love the reflections of this shot from inside Newtown Head cave.

I made it back to Coumshingaun in the Comeragh Mountains during both winter and summer. Coumshingaun is the closest lake to me, if one ignores the 45 minute climb, but only I swim it during summer as the edge is circled with rocks and being so far from a road the risks are too high to swim in winter. 

Coumshingaun in winter (Nat Geo filter).resized

Loneswimming Coumshingaun.resized

I’m not sure if I made it out to Carricknamoan rock off Clonea in 2012, but I was back there in 2103. It’s a swim that looks simple in the picture below, taken from the slight height above the beach, and is only about three kilometres round trip, but it still requires experience as the rock is so low that it can’t be seen until the last couple of hundred metres, and there are changing tidal currents.

Carricknamoan & Black Rock_MG_4927-resized.resized

 I also completed a short swim I’d scouted in 2012, swimming out of Ardmore Bay to the wreck of the Samson, under the cliffs of Ardmore Head. (Ardmore is the oldest Christian settlement in Ireland). You can take a shorter 10 minute swim to the wreck if you climb down the path to the angling point and start from there, but what’s the fun in that? While rounding Ardmore Head into the bay on the return swim, Dee took a favourite photo with mine.

Loneswimming IMG_4749.resized

While Distance Camp final weekend and the qualification and torture swims were on, I instead cancelled my planned attendance on the last weekend to catch up with a swim I wanted to do for many years, to circumnavigate Skellig Michael, the 800 feet high island peak the site of a 1500 year old ancient hermetic site, 12 miles off the Irish south-west on the end of the Continental Shelf. Another swim not for beginners, despite its short course.

NW reef IMG_7077.resized

During the summer, I also range out along the Copper Coast away from usual entry and exit spots, particularly liking to risk swimming across Ronan’s Bay, as the return trip can present currents strong enough to cut swim speed by two-thirds and generate a significant challenge.

Newtown Head and the Metalman & pillars from across Ronan’s bay

August is the summer peak for open water swimmers. Long warm(-ish) days (this is Ireland after all), warm water (16 to 17 degrees Celsius in August this year, exceptional) and races. Carol Cashell organises the local favourite Ballycotton 4 kilometres race, which is usually cursed with bad weather, late in August. It’s a challenging swim and the conditions the past two years have made it an experienced-swimmer-only race.

After the race, after the pub, I wandered back down to the tiny beach to catch the moon over the island.

Ballycotton Island moon IMG_8815.resizedSeptember saw two visits to Dover for Sylvain’s Channel Butterfly swim. So there were the usual swims in Dover Harbour,

Dover Harbour Entrance IMG_0196

…and a swim into France with Sylvain. Channel dawn.resized

Not a bad swimming year I guess, in reflection.

If the weather co-operates, when this post is published, I’ll be swimming at the Guillamenes for my Christmas day swim.

Update: The Christmas day weather didn’t co-operate. The swim was cancelled due to heavy seas, but I swam anyway and about 20 people foolishly followed me into the water. Foolish as the swell as almost three metres, and I’ve had a lot of practice at timing and rough water particularly in Tramore Bay. But everyone was safe and fun was had.

Maybe we’ll get to swim together next year but regardless, have a happy holiday and my best to you all, my friends.

Related articles

Images of 2013 – 1 – Swimming People (loneswimmer.com)

Swimming 2012 – the pictorial tour continues – Almosts

This follows the 2012 Swim Locations post. I was considering calling it the My Swimming Life series. These photos were almost but not quite amongst my favourites for 2012, which will be coming soon. Like anyone with a camera, you notice that you sometimes take more photos on those really good days than you get to share. So here’s a chance to see some new ones, and revisit some others. Not all are chosen because they are good photographs, as some aren’t great, but they capture something relevant or interesting to me.

Also, I’ve been trying to improve my post-processing skills as well as my camera skills, the two in inextricable in the digital age, and I found a few that I didn’t take much notice of the first time around that have benefited from a run through the bit-machine.

Also, for a variety of reasons I’m struggling to write at the moment, so we’ll continue on this pictorial tour of 2012.

Alan Clack in the English Channel
Alan Clack in the English Channel

The day before Trent’s swim, I crewed for Alan. Despite all I’ve written about Trent, Alan’s solo was personally more important.  Alan first made in contact in 2010 after my solo and I guess we were on the Channel journey together ever since, (me in a supporting role of course). Alan travelled to Ireland three times, swum two full Distance weeks, (more than I’ve done). The risk of bad weather during his window was bigger for him considering the lack of travel availability from Canada. On the day, conditions were very choppy and not conducive to great photography, but I managed what has become a traditional Channel image for many swimmers. Alan swam a fantastic Solo, in a great time of eleven and a half hours.

Swimmers and crew.
Swimmers on the right, crew on the left.

One of the undoubted highlights of my 2012 swimming year was being on Sandycove Island for the final day of qualification swims. I was on crew on Saturday for the Total Brain and Body Confusion “torture” swim, as I was previously in 2011. However the last couple of years I’d swum on the final qualification day. This was my first time on the island, with Finbarr, Ned, Riana, and Andrew Hunt. It was an extraordinary day, to see from land-side what we put ourselves through. I know what it’s like to suffer unending hypothermia around Sandycove, to not be able to stand straight or talk clearly or use my muscles fully. To see it first-hand and up close was another thing again and to be able to help the swimmers was nothing less than a privilege with the level of marathon and Channel swimming knowledge and competence rising each year.

Tramore beach
Tramore beach

Just another day in Tramore. The photo looks black and white, but isn’t. These are the colours of late winter in Ireland.

Tramore pier
Tramore pier

Another wintery almost colourless shot, this was taken looking around the corner of Tramore pier out toward the Guillamenes, fractions of a second before the wave reflected back off the wall.

Blackwater morning
Blackwater morning

Some much-needed colour, motoring up a calm Blackwater on the late-summer morning with Owen for his swim from Cappaquin back down to Youghal.

Climbing to Coumshigaun
Climbing to Coumshigaun

Long-suffering Dee, accompanying me up the Comeragh Mountains so that I could swim Coumshingaun. Look carefully, the doglet is at her feet.

Simple pink.
Simple pink.

April is pinks (sea-thrift) month. I love pinks.

Trent
Trent

My other favourite of Trent, taken by hanging off the bow. I was sorry I didn’t take more from this angle.

Scout flying.
Scout flying.

Scout regularly accompanies us to the coast along with my older dogs. He refuses to demonstrate his flying ability for others publicly though. The Pomeranian breed’s tendency to go ballistic with excitement has earned them the term berserking. And there’s nowhere more exciting than the coast.

Huge Newtown Cove breaking wave
Huge Newtown Cove breaking wave

The post of the south-easterly summer storm was one of the more popular during the year.

Owen in the Blackwater
Owen in the Blackwater

Speaking of the Fermoy Fish, there were a few minutes early in his Blackwater swim that couldn’t have been better for photos. You’ll recognise this as his banner picture.

Inside the Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral

Looking out from inside St. John’s Island. I seem to have become a cave-swimmer over the past couple of years.

Near. Far away.
Near. Far away.

Now, I’ll explain again Dougal.

Please welcome, the Purple Stinger
Please welcome, the Purple Stinger

2012’s special guest appearance, at every swimming location.

More to come …

Western end of Kilfarassey beach

Explaining a critical open water swimming factor: Tidal Range

Recently I wrote about how I consider safe entry and exit points and possibility of swimming at all tide times to be a critical requirement of a good open water swim location.

Kids growing tend to think the whole world is the same as their local experience. Though I didn’t live by the coast growing up, it never occurred to me that the seashore was different in other places. In Ireland, if you were visiting a new beach, you knew you had to be careful of incoming tides and of not being cut off. The first time I visited the Mediterranean I was really surprised by how little the tide seemed to move. So even now I tend to forget that tidal access and depth is not an issue in many places in the world. But it’s far safer for someone who comes from a high tidal range location to travel to a low range area than the opposite.

Many people now know the Bay of Fundy in Canada has the world’s highest tide, due to estuarine forcing (pushing more water into a smaller space), with a height of up to 15 metres and the lowest tidal regions are called amphidromes, with no height change.

Tidal range is the height difference between low tide and high tide. The tidal range in Ireland averages six metres. This is called a Macromareal tide, a tidal range above four metres. The average open ocean tidal range is only just over half a metre. And the Mediterranean is micromareal, less than two metres range. In between, from two to four metres range is mesomareal.

Why this is the case I explained a long time ago in Tides for Swimmers, Part One and Part Two.

In the English Channel the range about seven metres. Even average is misleading. During a low neap tide, the range in Ireland can be as little as four metres. During a high it can be as much as seven metres. In Ireland on a neap tide the low will not drop to as low as the open water mean of 0 metres, but might only drop to 1.3 metres, and will only go up to over just over 4 metres, whereas during a spring tide, the range may be from 0.0 metres to over during the spring spring and autumnal spring tides. Spring spring is not a mistake, it the spring tides that occur during spring.

Today in fact is a neap tide, and in Tramore the neap tide is 0.5 metres and the high tide is 4.2 metres.

There are a few serious safety implications of this.

  • Will you have a planned known safe exit if the water is going to be a different height to when you start swimming?
  • What will be the effect of the tidal current where you are swimming? The greater the tidal range, the greater the tidal current.
  • What different challenges will come into play on your planned route at different tide times? Will dangerous reefs appear? Will swim landmarks disappear?

What happens if you show up in a new country and have no idea of the tidal range and want to swim? Well as always, first check with locals before you swim.

But how do you recognise a high tidal range? The simple answer is to look for the high tide line.

On a beach that will be a line of debris, twigs, leaves, kelp or rubbish or even a change in the sand quality.

Don’t assume that a high tide line won’t happen the day you are swimming. Was the moon full or dark the previous night? If either, it’s a spring tide. A half-moon is a neap tide.

If there’s no beach, rocks are even better indicator. The difference between the low and high tide point is called the intertidal zone.

Français : Verrucaria maura, Kergulan, Goulien...
Around Ireland and elsewhere, rocks that close to the high tide mark will get covered in a salt resistant lichen, Verrucaria maura, making the rocks black.
Verrucaria maura doesn’t start at the low tide mark by the way, it generally starts at about the mean high tide point, HWA.

The rocks beneath the low tide point will retain their original colour, the rocks above the high tide line will often be yellow or orange with less salt resistant lichens such as Xanthoria parietina or Caloplaca marina, all of which are visible in my Copper Coast Swims. Of course sometimes the rocks are dark anyway, but high tide lines are easy to see. Here are the rocks on the far side of the Guillamene Cove at about mid tide.

It is still difficult to appreciate just what that range can mean. So … some more photos I’ve taken.

Here’s the Guillamene from the cliff top road. At low NEAP tide, all the steps are exposed. At low SPRING tide, there’s a ladder below the steps which is exposed to about 4 or 5 steps. Look at the colour range of the rocks. At the lowest point and up they are a sandy limestone colour (and covered in barnacles) and get blacker as they get higher. On a high spring tide, without any wind, the water reaches to just under the front triangular platform. Just above that line the rocks are completely black from the lichen.

Newtown Cove at high neap tide.

Considering hazards, this photo below of the west end of Kilfarassey gives an indication. With the tide only about one metre below high in this image, various reefs are starting to appear. Almost all are covered at high tide, some of them only centimetres below the mean high water surface on a calm day.

A 6 metre tidal range (almost 20 feet) is the height of a house, three times the height of a tall person. It’s very very significant.

 

So be safe, and take note of the conditions, tide and tide range and plan accordingly.

Newtown & Guillame swimming website

Some of you may have noticed a new link in the sidebar.

I put together another site for Tramore’s Newtown & Guillamene swimming club some time back. We’re just starting to add content to it. There are plenty of photographs going back up to 80 years to come (probably slowly), along with stories and anecdotes.

Now I talk enough about the location here that many of you who’ve never visited it will be quite familiar with it from my pictures.

Newtown Cove. Click for very large image for detail.

This is the photo I took for the title image on the site, giving you a better view of the location itself. If you enlarge it you’ll be able to have a reasonable look around.

Like Sandycove, it’s one of the great Irish swimming locations. It regularly features in broadcast and print media due to its great tradition.

Visitors and tourists are always welcomed and are often surprised by the vibrancy brought by all generations having proper waterside fun together.

Rock and pier diving and jumping, triathletes, family picnics, scuba diving, kayaking, recreational swimming. I saw a stand up paddle boarder recently, and surfer vainly searching for waves there. There’s a seal that occasionally pops up during the winter, though I haven’t seen it in a year. There’s even a Channel swimmer or two around fairly regularly. :-)

I won’t be writing regularly for it, but will admin the site and work with the club hopefully to keep it updated.

Please visit it either IRL or virtually.

 

 

Spring at the Guillamenes

Problem: Out of ideas of what to write about next.

Solution: Go for a swim.

From the Guillamenes down to the pier and out the headland, ( the “Guillamenes Double” as I call it, though I only went halfway out to the headland yesterday, due to Half-Claw). Water was 9.c C under the ladder, maybe quarter to half a degree warmer than outside, though with a warm spot out past Newtown Cove.

Result: Come back with a list of ten possible things to talk about.

Renewed by the sea once more.

Here’s a picture popular with the tourists that I should have posted a long time ago, but kept forgetting because I’m so used to seeing it, in fact I never actually took one myself until yesterday. The well-known sign from the Guillamenes.

Guillamenes sign-resized

The context for that sign , with Tramore Bay and Tramore beach and town behind.

 

Here are my two travelling companions, who haven’t appeared enough here also, elderly siblings (14 years old) and along with Dee my best friends Toby and Jo-Jo.

Though siblings, the Tubster (aka The Small Emergency Backup Dog, no longer small) likes water, (but not waves) while Joey (the boss) prefers hills.

Club Chairman Eddie Kelly was around but I forgot to take his picture or the Cabin ( a converted shipping container, much used for summer lunches by the Club, with sausage sandwiches of the traditional Waterford Blaas being popular). A blaa is a soft bread bap and is pronounced like the sound a sheep makes by the way.

Much work has been done at the Guillamenes since the end of last summer. There are new wider steps down to the water, new railing on the steps, all the steps have been re- concreted, a new stone and wood picnic table, all the metalwork repainted and in some cases replaced, new signs, new fencing along the top cliff and a new retaining wall added on the outside of the platform to increase the area for changing, mostly funder under a European Partnership Funding initiative, with plans for further work if the Club can raise more funds.

You coming?

Most of the maintenance of this area is carried out by the Club members, some of them swimming in this area for well over 50 years. In an era long before the modern concept of environmentalism, these people looked on the sea as a shared heritage for all, and sought to protect it and improve the local amenities. This is true local environmental action.

The steps down to the platform, not as long nor as steep as they seem in this picture, only about 30 steps.

And then there are the sea and the rocks. It was low tide when I took this, on a nice semi-sunny day, mixed clouds and sun. It was afternoonish so the sun had moved west from it’s usual southerly position when I’m there allowed a few better pictures.

Looking from the top of the steps toward Donerail Head and the Pier. It’s about an 18 minute swim down to the pier (average) and 25 minutes to below Doneraile Head. Down and back to the Pier is 40 to 45 minutes. Currents often form off the pier end. At low tide there are heavy kelp stands that need to be negotiated.

Here’s the platform from above. You can see the Compass Rose which indicates why this is a good spot in a westerly or southwesterly. In fact yesterday there was a brisk southwestly but the swim route was nicely sheltered. The blue pillar marks one side of the tiny covered alcove that gets more used in windy winter days.  The far end of the platform was the location of the diving board until it was broken the year before last. Hopefully we’ll have a replacement this year. There are also two locations where it’s possible to high jump from rocks, one of them is more visible as the light coloured area about half way up the nearest tall rocks, above the high tide line, the height obviously tide dependent, up to about 40 feet and another far more dangerous higher spot on the far side, which had a fatality a few years back.

Those No Fishing signs are important. The rocks are popular with local anglers. These ones between the Guillamenes and Newtown Coves have the favourite spot, and I’m the only regular who swims that way, just where the rocks stick. I’ve yet to be caught in a line.

And below are some Sea-spray flowers with Brownstown head across the bay in the background.

Below, looking out toward the headland, over Newtown Cove, with the three Navigation Pillars on the headland visible.

Rocks are more interesting than sand don’t you think? A landlubber can walk along a beach, yes, in itself a pleasant activity. But show a sea swimmer some cliffs or rocks and what do you have but something that divides us from our landlived lives. You must enter into or upon the sea to navigate and appreciate the obstacle and the view.

And where would this be without a picture of the famous Metalman, now redundant as so many navigation aids, yet which retains the affection of seafolk and locals.

Now I see him point not at danger, but at enticement, at my other home.

Hope to see you all down here for a visit sometime. He’s pointing the way

Guillamenes and Newtown images.

Took a slightly better picture this morning. Nice view of the Guillamenes concrete apron area taken from the road above.
As you can see from the reflection path, we’re facing directly south here.
Two series of steps for entry or project yourself from the lip.

If you look to the below the top of the horizon line on the second picture, there is a lighter blue line running across from the left. This is the “Scarf” current I’ve mentioned previously and which moves about.

The third image is Newtown cove, just around the corner, about 200 (swimming) metres away.

Click for full size.

Newtown Cove, “next door to the Guillamenes”.

My eldest son is a great photographer. (His travelling Flickr account)
I’m not.
The picture is Newtown Cove, the other swimming spot (unless likE me the see the whole bay as a single spot), around the corner from the Guillamenes. (Shot into a morning rising sun, which is why the lens-flare).
I swim past this all the time but rarely swim out from it, except on South-easterlies.
Outside this (on the left) is the section I call The Washing Machine.
Nothing wrong with it though. Beach or pier entry.

Two of the three Metalman pillars on the headland can be seen in the distance, (I turn below them on shorter swims). Maybe one time out of forty there may be someone on the cliff top or a fishing boat out there. Mostly I’m by myself, one of the reasons I swim open water.

One time out of about 200 there maybe someone having sex on the rocks below the cliff. That is, I’ve swam out there a lot. Once there was a couple having some al-fresco fun, thinking they were perfectly private and could see anything coming for miles, when I swam around a rock about 15 metres away. Imagine how they felt!