Before I begin, let me say of this event that I was young, I was foolish, and I was easily led.
Now I am middle-aged, thankfully no longer easily led, and although occasionally and indeed professionally foolish, definitely not so foolish as to repeat the experience. I am glad that I lived to tell the tale.
It must’ve been around 1984 or 5. Newly resident on Dartmoor and fresh out of the big city, my boyfriend and I had mountain bikes and loved exploring our new surroundings in a very physical way; walking, swimming in the rivers, climbing rocks, and a lot of offroad cycling antics, which resulted in a fair few bruises.
One winter around that time, the moor suffered a lot of snow and ice. We lived up near Chagford and one day, accompanied by a visiting friend from London, we drove over to Fernworthy reservoir. It was stunning in its snowy monochrome beauty. The water had frozen, the wind had dropped and all was still.
We mucked about on the edge of the ice, jumping up and down trying to break the surface. No joy. It remained strong. Chris rode his bike out a little way, testing to see how thick the ice was. I figured the water must have been at least 6 foot deep under that frozen sheet, and marvelled at how strong the ice was.
I joined him and with the thrill of danger, we both rode further and further out onto the lake, not too far from the dam wall, where the water is deepest (not sure how deep; 50 feet? A hundred feet? Even ten feet would be life-threatening if the ice were to break and take us into those inky depths. My heart was pumping loudly, not with exertion but with fear and excitement. We were halfway across! Did I hear the ice crack? No, it was just my fragile nerves.
I sped up a bit then and miraculously made it to the other side before Chris. He soon joined me. It was a long way round the edge of the lake so we decided we might as well cycle back the way we came. I have to say I was far more nervous the second time as the danger of it dawned on me once the thrill of achievement had worn off.
But like I say, I lived to tell the tale.
And hopefully this tale shall be a cautionary one – unless of course you yourself are young, foolish, and easily led…..
Please don’t try this…. ever