Taking the Duck for a Swim…

Words and photos by Maureen McCoy (so apologies they’re not Paul’s standard!)

Helen’s Bay was a treat this morning, okay it was low tide, there was a load of sea grass on the near side to get through and we had to walk a fair bit out until it was deep enough to swim but there was a healthy contingent of swimmers, one of whom had the cutest companion.

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As she walked along the beach cradling this ball of fluff in her arm, I had to find out her story…

“Goose” is a baby Eider duck, possibly around three weeks old and has adopted Clare and her family to live and swim with.

On a kayak trip to Trasnagh Island, Strangford just over three weeks ago, Clare’s 14 year old son met with a morbid sight;

“he found a nest of dead birds, feathers strewn around and no adults to be seen, when he went back to his kayak this tiny duckling was on the seat. He lifted it out but it kept climbing back in again, so he brought it home.”

They think the duckling was only a day or so old. So they’ve looked after her, played with her and Clare regularly takes her swimming.

As Clare and her friends waded in for their swim Goose bobbed along happily swimming beside and between them. Looking for all the world as if she was thinking;

“Yes, I’m cute and yes, the conversation is all about me and yes, I’m fine with that!”

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After her swim she’s very happy to snuggle into the crook of an arm and sleep, secure in the knowledge that she’s safe with her adoptive parent.

At home Goose has no worries about her place in the family, she pecks the dog and cats paws to keep them in check and even made strides towards the family goat – Clare managed to scoop her up in time saying that might be a bit more than she could handle – yet!

(Mind you, if she lives up to her name, she could be a worthy adversary – I remember my Grandma kept geese when we were small & they chased us mercilessly!)

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A real character Goose is quite happy to be introduced to new people; preening for her photo…

 

 

 

“She also loves a ping pong ball…” Clare told me, “We roll it and she chases it to bring it back!”

Not worried that Goose will just wander away, Clare says;

“She’ll stay with us as long as she wants – she’s a wild duck after all.”

 

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Lovely to meet you Clare & Goose – Happy Swimming!

Supermoon Swimming

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There is something magic in a moonlight swim, with that disc gleaming pearly white.
The call of a bird across the beach, I can’t see her in this muted light
As I take off my shoes and press bare feet into the cool, damp sands,
I remember a time many moons ago, when I held my brothers hands.
Our first night swim, a Donegal beach, we begged our parents consent.
And scrambled our way down a steep sand-dune, there stood with nervous intent.
I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight but I remember that night so clear.
Adventure, excitement, the cold and damp, all tinged with an escence of fear.
Now forty years on and again I stand, as wavelets caress the shore
Silver threads dance that are soon to be lost, as the waves retreat once more.
As I cast my clothes in a heap on the sand, my skin glows a milky white
And I step into the water, a silver-tipped grey, under pearlescent moonlight.

Helen’s Bay – Co Down

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

Helens Bay is a very popular beach on the coastal path that runs from Holywood through to Bangor.  My swims here have been many and varied, including swimming right through the winter before my Channel swim in 2009. I have never had a bad swim here, even in the cold of February, when I felt the muscles in my back tighten, protesting against the chilly 3C of the water, but instead of resisting I relaxed my mind and concentrated on the winter sun shining down making the sea sparkle on the ripples I created as I swam. Getting accustomed to the cold I thought of the swims my Mum and I would take in all weathers when I was a child. How pleased she and my Grandpa would have been that I follow in their footsteps, loving the sea as they did. Other beach users, wrapped in puffa jackets against the cold, gazed astonished as I swam the length of the bay.

Helen’s Bay has always been a popular place for swimming and I’ve been told many times of a lady who swam there every day until she was well into her 80th year.  I can only hope that I remain fit and well enough to do the same.

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Now with face-book messaging it’s so easy to find like-minded souls to join for a dip. A swim was posted and, despite concerns raised of jellyfish, 11 of us met at the car-park at 10.30am. Some wet-suited some not, we walked down the grass to the beach, the tide high and the sand higher. The waves rolled into shore and shivers of anticipation ran down my spine as I searched for my goggles and hat. As the first few headed into the fray we were greeted by 2 Oceans Seven swimmers; Kimberly Chambers who completed Oceans 7 with her North Channel swim on Tuesday, and Darren Millar who completed last year. They had heard about our gathering from “a guy in a bar last night” and decided to come and meet us. What a pleasure to meet such accomplished swimmers, emphasising the community spirit and support in open water swimming. They wished us a good swim and admired the view before returning to Bangor.

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Kimberly Chambers, Rachel Smith, Maureen McCoy, Darren Millar

The choppy water was pleasant and no jellies to be seen, so after a couple of laps we gathered on the beach and urged the wet-suited to try a quick dip – sans suit. Well done to the brave boys who took on the challenge.

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Helens Bay          Co Down

Popular with families and dog walkers, the bay is well signposted after driving through Holywood and Cultra, good parking with toilet facilities.

Swim parallel to shore, spotting the last tall tree at the far end and the conveniently placed apartment at the near end make it easy to keep a straight course. Approximately 400 metres from the slipway at the apartment to the concrete steps at the far end.  With its’ gently shelving sand it is a super training ground for swimmers and triathletes as well as for family swimming.

(There is a patch of sea grass one will hit in the middle at low tide which can be disconcerting to swim through and seems to always get trapped in goggle straps. When the water is high though, it’s clear across the bay.)