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Sawtell Memorial Pool – and thanks to Mr. Ted Adams

by Jan 4, 2022

We are running on a very tight schedule. To do 59 pools in 26 days means we don’t have a lot of wiggle room so despite not getting in at Yamba yesterday, we have to keep going forward to get ahead of the cyclone off the coast.

That meant saying goodbye to Grafton (an unremarkable town according to newspaper reports, but we quite liked it) and heading south to the Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool before bunkering down in Urunga for the night.

I had been disappointed at not being able to swim at Yamba and reports were coming up the coast that Sydney beaches and pools were closed because of the cyclone, but Sawtell came good. We didn’t think that on approach – grey skies, pelting rain, and raging seas clear to see. However, we parked next to the pool and ventured out despite the gale and, peering over the cliff we were rewarded with the view of a very protected pool. Small waves still came over the east side of the pool, even though the rain and wind were fierce, we seized the opportunity.

Sawtell is a lovely pool with good access. There’s a path down the small cliff and then steps to the pool. There is great access with a ramp and steps at one end and steps at the other end. Tucked into the south end of the beach it is protected from the surf and I would say there are rocks further out which take some of the power out of the waves.

Despite all of this I can’t do a long swim because of spiteful pellets of rain biting at any bit of skin you have above the water. I count my blessings at having got in at all and retire to the toilets to change after 4 laps (there are no changing rooms).

Looking at Sawtell, I thought it must have been a natural rock pool which has then been built up by human hands. Sure enough, there is a reference in 1954 in the Coffs Harbour Advocate to a ‘splendid suggestion put forward by Mr. Ted Adams for forming a swimming pool in the natural rock formations at the southern end of the beach’. The Shire Engineer would be asked to give suggestions for the project, the Advocate informs us. It became a war memorial pool in 1963.

It’s good to think when you get into the water about how many people over how many years have come to that particular spot to swim. Australia’s history means that for more than 40,000 years people have swum at spots that are now recognized pools. If you go to the Andrew Boy Charlton Pool in the Sydney harbour, stop to read about how it was an ancient site for swimming long before it was popularised by settlers in the 1800s. When you are in that place, you are part of a long lineage of water-people.

For me, swimming is the highest form of communion with nature. The whole-body immersion makes it an experience you cannot ignore. You might walk in nature with the air on your skin, but your mind is elsewhere. Water does not let you do this. If you are fully immersed, then you must pay attention.

So, thank you, Mr. Ted Adams. Your actions remind me of one of my favorite quotes by Mr. George Orwell. ‘The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root, it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.’

PJ Message – Shout out to Salty Simon from the pool 🙂