Coledale is one of our favorite pools. Nominally it sits to the south of Coledale beach, but the rock platform it is in is so big and wide that the pool has little relationship to the beach. It sits rather proudly on its own on the rock, in no need of a beach to complement it. You don’t come to Coledale Pool accidentally via a trip to the shore, you come to Coledale Pool as a destination in itself.
It is possibly the briniest pool on the coast. The vastness of the rock platform divorces it slightly from the ocean. It has a pump, but locals have already warned me that it needs a big tide for a good clean. The last time we swam here the overwhelming brininess made me think fish had died in the pool and today was not much different. While the water was clear, it was full of seaweed that had been washed in and had no easy way out. I don’t mind so much – we come to ocean pools to be in the ocean – but others might find it challenging.
There are two black girls in the water with an older white couple who are on the land. The lady tells us they are from America and have not seen the sea before. “Aren’t they wonderful,” she says, followed by: “Aren’t they lucky.” The girls are on a blow-up floaty unicorn and somehow seem to be on show – as though I should agree that they are lucky for being there. Nothing can hide under the all-seeing eye of the Australian midday sun, yet things are not clear. Is she being patronizing – would she say this for white girls that have never seen the beach? Or am I seeing things that aren’t there? Despite the clarity of the light, it is at the intersection of water, sun, and sky that the mirage forms. Things are made and unmade as tides go in and out.
We have come to Coledale from the Austinmer Pools. There are two fine pools – a pool for playing and then, very sensibly, a pool for lapping. My girls play in the water while I lap. We have arrived at a time when the waves are still breaking prettily over the east wall and they add an element of resistance as you approach the wall, the last few metres you are a salmon swimming uptide.
There is a welcome discovery at both pools. Although we have been here before, at each there is an extra pool that we have never seen until today. At Austinmer, over to the south, there is a charming little pool that you could easily miss. This is the first rock pool that was built here, before it was replaced by the two existing pools in 1923. It relies completely the tide to fill it and warm water waterfalls in with each wave.
At Coledale, to the north of the main pool is a square baby pool, no more than 5-metres wide and half-a-metre deep. It’s not deep enough for anyone to swim in and the walls are so low – almost equal with the rock platform, that it is easy to miss. Come close however and the water is iridescent.
These pools are new to us but old to the sea which is steadily reclaiming them. Here, where the elements meet everything is in transition and things may not be what they seem.