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I went for a swim this week. Well, a muddy wade. It’s the first time my drysuit has been used in over five years. Last time was dinghy sailing at the mouth of the River Tyne, in the North East of England. I loved sailing here, cold, but great people, and a sense of history with the ruins of the Priory in the background. It’s an amazing site (you can read more about Tynemouth Priory on the English Heritage website here).

Sailing by Tynemouth Priory at the mouth of the River Tyne, Newcastle, UK

Sailing by Tynemouth Priory at the mouth of the River Tyne, Newcastle, UK

This outing was in aid of our irrigation system. We haven’t used it since we bought the farm, but the drought conditions in Tasmania this year have taken their toll on our olive trees, and we need to get it operational. So we’ve been getting some advice, and one of the stages in getting things up and running was to check the outlet where water is taken from the dam into the irrigation lines. The water level in the dam is pretty low, and we didn’t know what the base of the dam was like, whether the outlet was raised up, and whether it had a protective grille on it.

I remembered my drysuit, languishing in a box, and thought that’d be the best protective clothing option. I’d forgotten how hard it is to get into, and the comedy of the fleece onesie that’s worn underneath it. The boots were impossible to get on over the top, and I ended up using a pair of old trainers. I was exhausted by this point! Not sure how I used to manage to get dressed in this stuff, and then have the energy to sail too! We decided that I should use a lifejacket. And I had a rope tied on and held by Glenn, in case I got sucked into the mud!

Getting ready to go into the olive grove dam

Clean at the start! And a bit nervous…

We drove down to the dam, me feeling anxious, Glenn entertained by my safety gear! I waded in, feet sinking into thick, deep, squelching mud, eventually reaching up to my knees! The suction wasn’t as strong as I’d feared though, and I was able to keep moving slowly forward. Lifting my feet up high to clear the mud as I took each step, trying not to fall. Only Glenn was watching (laughing); the pair of ducks that have recently raised a young family here had flown off as we approached. There was a metal pole in the water which we hoped marked the outlet pipe. I reached it, now up past my waist in (very murky) water and extended my hand gingerly to feel down into the depths. I wasn’t sure whether any crazy Australian critters would be using the dam as a home. The relief when I felt the pipe was immense! I moved my hand cautiously along it until it came to an end. And then, joy of joys, I could feel a grille on the end, and it was above the level of the mud! Mission complete 🙂

Irrigation pipe located at olive grove dam

Hooray – I found the outlet pipe!

I’ve always wondered whether we could use the dam for swimming or other water activities, so while I was there, I thought I may as well have a quick swim. This was very brief however. As I moved away from the pole the water become much shallower, or the mud became deeper, and so I was only able to float briefly, before struggling to get back to my feet. Although I’m sure mud is great for the skin, I didn’t have a great desire for a facial!

Swimming in the olive grove dam

Swimming in the dam

Then I had to clamber out. Having been horizontal for swimming, I thought I was going to lose my footing and come to a muddy end as I tried to get back to my feet! Somehow I managed not to, but you can see the amount of mud from the next photo. I got hosed down after this, but there still seemed to be mud on everything!

Olive grove dam mud

Muddy and relieved. Time for some celebratory cake!

So we’re going to fill the dam up, but I think the muddy bottom means that swimming is out for most people. I’m not sure I could handle going in barefoot, and feeling the mud slowly, gloopily, envelop my feet and calves as I sunk in. Knowing that I was fully enclosed in my drysuit was all that kept me from freaking out. So that means that the haybale pool is likely to be our only swimming option! FFx

Haybale pool olive grove

Our haybale pool.