Notes on swimming the River Dart

A Brief History of Viper’s Quay

“The original ‘Viper’s Quay’ was a small quay or jetty at the Southern tip of the property, downstream of the Anchor Stone. No traces of this remains and indeed the access to it has been greatly eroded over the years. It is easy to imagine how its sunny position might have been appreciated by a snake, though we have only ever seen lizards and slow-worms.

The boathouse with its jetty originally served the Rectory. At the time transport was much easier by water than by the steep and often very muddy Devon lanes. Indeed, the importance of the river as a means of communication can scarcely be overstated. The fact that there were until after the war two completely separate villages, Higher and Lower Dittisham is entirely a result of the convenience of water transport. Many houses, such as Gurrow Point, had their own little quay or landing stage to bring in coal etc. and the Rectory, as the most important house in  the village after the Court, was no exception.

The original boathouse was a single storey building with a pitched roof and it had no residential accommodation. It can be seen in the old photograph in the laundry room. It is not known when it was built but by the 1900s it had become a roofless ruin, almost lost in the oak trees which then covered the whole river bank. The original jetty was much lower than the present jetty and was also  in a ruined state.

After the war the jetty was occasionally used a berthing place, in particular by a rather beautiful motor yacht called the Melisande which sometimes moored there in the late 1940s or early 1950s.  It can be seen in postcards of the period. It disappeared after being caught smuggling and was later said to be involved in gun-running in North Africa.

In 1959 River Farm was acquired by our father, who also farmed at Dittisham Court, and in 1962 he began to build the present boathouse using the old buildings as the base. The builders were the men who worked on his farm (and when they could not avoid it, his children). The building was topped out in 1964.”

Copied from a guide book found at Viper’s Quay 

Dear friends,

I wanted to say a very deep “thank you” for supporting The Roddy Scott Foundation’s Dart10k swim on Saturday.

The river was cold and choppy, and there were almost 800 swimmers trying to make it from A to B so it got pretty crowded in places. Highlights included 2 feeding stations moored in midstream which dispensed jelly babies and squirts of lucozade, wonderful views of the oak woods that line the valley side below Totnes, and the fleeting concurrence of rhythm and river current which made it feel like one was flying through the water. Low points included the last 2 km, a strong headwind in the estuary, swell from passing pleasure boats and oafish pairs of feet one just couldn’t find a way around. Roddy, who was killed in Ingushetia ten years ago tomorrow, would have looked on from a hilltop and called the whole display ridiculous.

(I finished in 2 hours 49 minutes.)

The three of us – Harry Nicolle, Tom Loyn and me – have so far raised almost £4,000 for The Roddy Scott Foundation, which means young children in the Pankisi Gorge will continue to receive an education which would otherwise be unavailable to them.

Bravo and thanks to you! And if you haven’t yet donated, please do so here (I am fundraising for Nicholas Scott) and help us break through the £4,000 mark.


One thought on “Notes on swimming the River Dart

  1. Tim Maltin

    Wonderful! I love it when “Stuff Happens”. The guide book description Viper’s Quay is beautiful, especially the ethereal, transient nature of the history which comes and goes on the river, while the oak woods watch on, at a different, but still mutable pace! Your pace was much quicker and I liked your description of seeing those oak woods along the river bank. Well done and I will log on with £20 early next week. I really miss your writing and nowadays it only seems to flow from challenges! Therefore the next one beckons, methinks, and possibly the greatest challenge yet! My cheque for the DCC and application form is still safely in my bag! Perhaps we might both throw our hats in the ring before too long?! Great Stuff, Tim
    Best regards,

    Tim Maltin
    Managing Director

    Maltin PR
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