Squeezed at the foot of a shady lane, in the heart of the Salisbury Plain, lies one of England’s finest river swimming holes, in an area scarcely changed since the days of Neolithic man.
A flypast of two kingfishers greeted our arrival at Figheldean, while a pair of dark Apache Attack helicopters duelled menacingly above, as a single bar of sun spotlighted the pool in a green hue.
The world was at peace as I lunched on a Wiltshire pasty, the silence broken only by the whirring choppers and the tuneful tinkle of water over a concrete slide.
Orange dragonflies danced in the trees. Was this too good to be true?
Then; spitting stones, fired staccato-like into the grass by fat rimmed tyres, heralded the inevitable chav arrival. A multi-car convoy of the dervishes swept through, surfing the insects on their shimmering wake, as I fumbled desperately through my copy of Rob Fryer’s ‘Wild Swimming Guide’; strategising our retreat to a quieter location.
Refusing to leave without a quick paddle, I waded across the ankle deep ford beneath the footbridge, through water which was toe-numbingly cold…
After a good twenty minutes of sitting in the car on the A303, in a traffic jam caused by nothing more than motorists rubber-necking Stonehenge and its ever-present Paganist circle of tourists, we finally took a turn to the Langfords, down the pleasantly named Duck Street.
Ducks usually mean water, so we were confident that a river would appear in due course.
Squeezing the car into some brambles, we clicked through a gate into an enchanting little meadow, complete with a barbecue-scorched wooden bench.
The chalky green pool, crystal clear in the shallows, was bypassed by a burbling brook and overlooked by a wooden footbridge, where a path led into the pastures beyond.
A noticeboard allowed swimming at your own risk, however not in the main River Wylye or above the bridge.
I couldn’t resist a dip in this timeless slice of Wessex, so I waded into the pool and was quickly out of my depth in the middle, swimming up towards the footbridge and back for a few lengths.
The water, though chilly, was not quite the ‘freezing’ declared by two screeching local girls who arrived, in a civilized manner, complete with wicker picnic basket and tartan rug.