Haling Island

The seagulls swoop about looking for picnic leftovers.

Now I am alone and ready for my first swim.

Equipped with a towel and directions I head through the grass and along the path until it opens out onto a whole load of Sea Pink. The Sea Pink is lush and abundant: not at all like the sparse tufts clinging to bits of exposed rock along the coastal paths in County Down. Beyond the pink is the sloped beach of pebbles. And then the sea.

The pebbles are difficult to walk on as they constantly slip from under me and bruise the soles of my feet through my shoes.  But the water off Haling Island, Portsmouth Harbour, is warm and easy to slip into.

1405 portsmouth sea

‘You are missing so much!’ a friend along the Camino had exclaimed in shock and exasperation when I admitted that I never opened my eyes under the water. I carry this statement with me with every encroaching wave and finally, I put my head forward and under, opening my eyes for a split second. It is wonderful. A cloudy teal.

After several minutes swimming I see a black shape below me, out of the corner of my eye, and nearly have a heart attack. My legs flail trying to anchor and steady my movement until I identify what it is. But it’s too late and my foot whacks the mollusc and seaweed encrusted wooden bollard.

Out of the water and drying off I look down at my foot, which is now beginning to throb and sting: my toes are totally covered in blood. I will, however, carry this injury with pride: a reminder of my first swim of the year.

I awkwardly and tentatively make my way back to where I came from. The strong, Southern English sun evaporates the salty water left on my skin.


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