My brother Sean says that you should never pass up a chance to go swimming in the sea and, true to this philosophy, he will leap into the cold Atlantic whenever he has a chance along with his kids. It takes some cojones to do this and, because the Atlantic is cold as hell even in summer. Those cojones, however large they might have been to start out are bound to take a hit, becoming greatly diminished in size once immersed in icy seawater.

I go along with Sean up to a point. There are times that I will draw the line. For instance I didn´t even consider leaping over the guard rail of the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry crossing in July.

The last Atlantic swim I had with Sean and his kids was in Valentia Island, off the coast of Kerry, a couple of years ago. When the tide is high enough you can jump off the pier in Knightstown. I think Sean and I are the oldest people who do this. Everyone else swimming there is a kid. Or a dog.

I might ordinarily have chickened out of that particular swim. It was windy and a light rain was falling as you might expect during the height of the Irish summer holiday season. It was also not before evening time that the moon contrived to drag in enough water to let us leap safely from the harbour wall. Anybody the age of me and Sean with half a brain would have been across the road at a time like this having a pint in the Royal Hotel. I swam that particular evening mainly out of a sense of guilt after having paddled out on Sean´s kayak to do a little fly fishing and lost his rod and reel overboard. If he asked me if I wanted to spend a rainy evening immersed in Knightstown harbour I wasn´t going to say no.

Sean is right about sea swimming. That last pier swim, however difficult it was to motivate myself to do it, turned out to be invigorating. The shock of the cold water takes the breath away but if you climb out and jump again it is never so bad and if you manage to resist the temptation to make a bee-line for your towel and instead remain in the water for a little while it becomes less numbing than you might imagine. My understanding of this adaptation to the surrounding cold is that the skin surface cools and reduces the temperature gradient and the subsequent rate of heat loss. Of course before this happy equilibrium is reached it feels absolutely bloody freezing and you have no cojones to speak of.

And so I will sign up, with some reservations, to Sean´s philosophy that you should take the chance to swim in the sea if you can. It is something you never seem to regret. I am even more enthusiastic about swimming in lakes and reservoirs or at least here in Spain (I´m not planning on hurling myself into Lough Corrib any time soon!).

Unfortunately river quality seems to be too poor these day to advise swimming in rivers in many places. In July a Sunday Times report on the state of English rivers stated that the number of rivers in England where the water quality was good enough for swimming was precisely zero and that the water quality protection people (the Environment Agency) were understaffed and under-resourced while the privatised water companies who are among the villains in this particular pantomime were making money hand over fist.

Yesterday my daughter Pippa and I went to the Conde del Guadalhorce reservoir for a swim. We have only a couple of days left before she heads back to university and so we wanted to make the most of our remaining time. The Conde del Guadalhorce is one of three large reservoirs that make up “El Chorro”. This is a popular spot. For one thing is that it is a starting point for the Caminito del Rey walk but visitors come too for camping and swimming and there are kayaks and pedalos available for hire.

Pippa and I wanted to avoid the crowds and so I was keen to show her a “hidden” rocky outcrop that I came across by chance when I was bass fishing. The best swimming spots allow you to jump straight in to water that is out of your depth and this was one of those. We have christened our little discovery “Pippa´s Rock”. The big draw is that you are unlikely to find it by chance and that when you get there you will have it to yourself.

To get to Pippa´s Rock you have to park up and take a walk along a gravel track that winds down a hillside. There is a road of sorts but it is four wheel drive country and the trek on foot is not too long or arduous. As soon as we parked we saw a griffon vulture sweeping along above us. It was not alone. We crossed the road to take a better view and counted 28 vultures some reasonably close and others mere specks in the sky.

All in all we spent an hour or so on Pippa´s rock, jumping in, climbing out, jumping in again and just lying around in the sunshine. There were no other people to be seen apart from one guy who was paddling a kayak. His dog was standing at the bow looking forward. The guy who was paddling was reasonably senior in years and his dog was no spring chicken either. The old guy was wearing a life vest and the dog was too.

It occurred to Pippa and I as we sat on our rock that paddling around on a reservoir with  your dog surrounded by serene and beautiful countryside was a very fine way to spend an afternoon.

That guy, whoever he is, has his head screwed on right.

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Why not?