On The Road: An icy plunge into moorland waters in Dartmoor

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The Independent Travel

"Ehaahhhhhhh." An open-mouthed, barely audible inhalation of breath signifies my arrival knee-deep in the chill waters of the River Dart. I stand there gazing down into water the colour of best bitter, with the tops of my legs turning schoolgirl mottled pink.

My mind begins to re-engage as I acclimatise and suddenly I realise that there is only one thing for it: all or nothing; no guts, no glory. Diving beneath the surface I hold my breath and open my eyes to see the dappled sunlight refracting through the water, transforming the hanging sediment into sparkling gold dust.

We camped last night on the southern fringe of Dartmoor within sight of the river. Sipping on a beer, we had watched the river – ducks all in a row, trout rising to break the surface tension and snaffle an unsuspecting fly or two. With reservoirs and rivers radiating from its heart, Dartmoor is one of the South-west's most important sources of water, and industries from tin to gin have benefited from its purity and flow. However, for water babies or those with an iron spirit, these silky streams and hidden pools also make for an excellent playground.

"Ehaahhhhhhh." Resurfacing, open-mouthed, eyes wide, I am again at a loss for words, but this time it is in sheer, chilly delight. I go with the flow, lazily stroking my way through the water, letting the currents carry me downstream. Hauling myself out – toes latching on to the sun-warmed rocks and head still tingling – I find that, almost unknowingly, I am already making my way back up stream for another go.

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