A Small Measure of Peace

For the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, David and I managed to take a day out to the Lake District. I decided to revisit Brothers Water, the last time I was there was in 2017, and I was rather tired during my swim there after a mammoth five hour hike earlier that day. So, this time I planned on a more leisurely visit.

Brothers Water

We managed to dodge the bank holiday crowds but not for long. We arrived at Cow Bridge car park at 9am and already the area was filling up with cars and people. We luckily got a parking space and took a slow meandering walk along the shore of Brothers Water while listening to birds singing in the nearby woods. We only saw a handful of people during our walk. Luckily we didn’t have many spectators when I headed into the water either.

Wild swimming in Brothers Water
Wild swimming in Brothers Water

We spent about 2 hours at Brothers Water. The temperature was 12 degrees and I swam for about 20 minutes, while David took Buzz (drone) into the air for an extended fly. There were a few fish about but not many. We made camp on a small spit of land further up from my 2017 swim location and it was a far superior experience. Water access was a suggestion I found in Suzanna Cruickshank’s Swimming Wild in the Lake District.

Have you visited this small lake? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Revisiting Chester Zoo

A couple of weeks ago David and I took a day trip to Chester Zoo, a local haunt we used to go to every week! It’s had been a few years since we had visited and quite a lot of the exhibits have changed for the better. We paid almost £30 for day tickets for the both of us, a pretty pricey day out but spent all day walking miles around the zoo. We both took cameras, and it seems we focused mainly on the avian wildlife of show. I also took my GoPro and below fins a compilation video of what we saw and some pictures we captured.

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

10 Years in Our Home

It’s the house’s 10th anniversary! To celebrate, I thought I would write a blog celebrating the highlights of 10 years in our home.

It all started when we got the keys to the house on a sunny Friday in May 2012. There was a lot of hard work to be done before we could call it our home, but we had a lot of fun, shed blood, sweat and tears along the way. Our first job was to knock down a stud wall and build it back up so the bedrooms were proportionate. Then we needed a new roof, two new outside doors and new floorboards in the bathroom, with lots of cosmetic upgrades. The job took almost two years, but it was worth it!

There was also lots of work in the yarden, where David assisted in knocking down an old out house (shed) and then landscaping the garden. The yarden is always an ongoing project.

Here’s some of the lovely plants we have still thriving in our yarden, and the wonderful visitors who come to enjoy the food, water and shelter we have created.

Nothing quite makes a home more than a loving fury animal. In 2014 we rescued Artie from an animal shelter and for the past seven years he has brought much joy, tears, comfort, and love to our lives. The same goes for our aviary of foreign finches. Over the 10 years we have had such joys as having our first egg hatch, to sad lows such as Leaf (blue headed parrot) murdering Set (Lady Gouldian). Though the finches cause us much stress (when they get sick), they bring sweet sounds and vibrant colour to our lives.

Over the years friends and family have enjoyed our home along with us, sharing the joys of takeaway nights, Christmas roasts and games nights. We’ve even had a friend stay over while she was touring Europe, not once but twice!

At present, there’s been lots going on in our home, all rather stressful with sad endings and hopefully new beginnings. Here’s to the next 10 years in our home. Let’s hope it is filled with more love, laughter and companionship.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Meeting Max the Miracle Dog

It’s been a month or so since Max the Miracle Dog of Keswick passed away. I had intended for Riley (our border collie) and I to visit his statue in Hope Park, Keswick while he was still alive but that never happened. However, we managed to finally take a visit to Keswick one day in May.

Christine, Riley and Max

Riley himself has been having some health issues. He has been fussy with his food and losing weight. So before we took him to the vets, we spent a day at the lakeside of Derwentwater.

After parking by Keswick’s Theater by the Lake and paying £8 for six hours, we walked across the road to Hope Park where we enjoyed the flower displays before visiting Max’s statue. Riley thought the statue was a real dog and was rather reluctant to sit on the bench. We managed to get some photos before we decided to head toward the shoreline of Derwentwater.

As you know Derwentwater is my favourite lake, and Riley first visited the lakeside in 2019.

Riley in Entrust NT Hands

This time we took a slow walk towards Friar’s Crag, admiring the view of Castle Crag, before taking the meandering path towards the Centenary Stones at Calfclose Bay. Before we got to Calfclose Bay, we came across a wide stony beach with a perfect view of Catbells. From here we set up camp and I quickly headed into the 13 degree water. I love swimming here, and although the water clarity is poor due to New Zealand Pygmy Weed, it was a silky smooth swim. I didn’t want to get out. Perhaps I’m becoming a mermaid?

Riley seemed to enjoy his walk to Derwentwater. That next week we took him to the vets to seek advice. He was given antibiotics and probiotic paste, but the vet also mentioned a heart murmur. Hopefully, the medication will help Riley feel better. He is a 13 year old boy after-all!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Easter Bunny Went for a Swim

It’s taking me a while to sit down and write this blog. To celebrate Easter, I decided to do something similar to my Christmas swim. You can read about that here. So I purchased some fluffy rabbit ears and tail and this Easter bunny went for a swim in a Snowdonian llyn.

It’s getting harder now to find accessible swims in both the Lake District and Snowdonia, but one llyn was situated not far from the car park to the Rhyd Ddu Path for Snowdon. So on the Easter weekend, David and I took an early morning trip. On arrival I was surprised at how busy the car park was. I was not aware (at first) that the car park was for one of the six trails to Snowdon. Luckily, we managed to find a space and after paying a reasonable £3 for three hours, we donned our heavy backpacks and headed across the road towards the path which would lead us to Llyn y Gader.

Llyn y Gader

The path is wheelchair accessible for most of the way and is a distance of seven miles to Beddgelert. However, we were only walking perhaps one mile to the llyn. The day was overcast yet mild. We walked through conifer forest towards the lake shore where common sandpipers were flitting about. Careful not to tread on any ground nests we scanned the water’s edge for good entrance points. There weren’t many, but I found one where I could ease myself in and manage to clamber back out again. The water was murky yet had a silky sheen to it. At 11 degrees it was the warmest swim this year! There were fish in the llyn and one jumped out of the water which freaked me out a little and before I knew it, my mind was irrationally thinking what was in the water beneath me?

I was in the water for about 15 minutes, and it was a nice swim apart from losing my rabbit ears before luckily finding them in the shallows! After I got back on dry land and dressed, while sipping a hot coffee, I watched as the steamtrain from Beddgelert to Caernarfon billowed past.

Beddgelert to Caernarfon train

Not wanting to waste the day we retraced our steps back to the car park and headed towards RSPB Conwy’s reserve where we spent an hour walking the boardwalk and spying on the wildlife.

It was a nice way to spend a Saturday.

What is your favourite place in Snowdonia?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming in the Lake District

For mid March, David and I had an opening in the calendar for a few days away. Eager to get my wild swimming season started again, I booked a few nights away to our usual home from home in the Lake District, Hermiston, Braithwaite. We have been visiting this B&B since 2016 when the current proprietors took over, and Phil and Helen are always so welcoming and helpful. We will always recommend them for a stay in the North Lakes.

Ullswater:

Ullswater

My first swim of the 2022 season was Ullswater. It was not just any swim, it was a swim with a bevy of swans, who were very patient with me and almost seemed to be welcoming. Swans can be temperamental so I kept my distance, it was the swans who drew close to me. I was very calm and respectful and I think the swans realised that I was no threat. They were curious more than anything. The access point at Ullswater was Glencoyne Bay and was a wonderful gentle slope into the shockingly six degree water.

Loweswater:

Loweswater

Our day out to Loweswater was very different from the first time we visited back in 2016. That time it was a sunny autumn day, on this cold March day, the weather was dreary. We wrapped up against the elements of driving rain and scathing wind and walked the path towards Holme Force waterfall. After our walk through woodland, we managed to catch a slight respite in the weather and made for a wide shingle beach, where I took to the murky waters of Loweswater. This seven degree swim was so much better than the dip in October 2016, despite the lack of sunlight, and the entrance to the water was again a gentle slope. In the summer Loweswater can be a breeding ground for blue-green algae but in this cool March day, it was a joy!

Wastwater:

Wastwater

I’ve been trying to return to Wastwater for a more satisfying swim since 2016, but on several occasions, I’ve chosen not to swim due to poor weather. On our last day in the Lakes the weather gods were looking favourably upon us. The day dawned bright. We drove an hour from Braithwaite and managed to find parking at Over Beck car park. We crossed the road to a wide stoney beach with fantastic views of the head of Wasdale and the Scafells. The scenery was breathtaking. I could have stayed in this piece of heaven all day. After David managed to get Buzz, our drone up in between gusts, I waded into chilly waters of seven degrees. It was quite a surprise that Ullswater was the coldest swim of the holiday! I really wished I could have stayed in the water for longer and soaked up the wonderful mountainous views but not wanting to chance fate and after-drop, I spent 10 minutes in the beautiful water blue-green water and then sensibly returned to shore.

It was a wonderful few days away to the glorious Lake District and I am sure I will return sometime in the near future. There are so many mountainous tarns I need to visit. Until then…

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Looking Ahead – 2022

Truthfully, I’ve been feeling rather overwhelmed and worried about what the future holds this new year. There was and still is some health concerns regarding David, and then there’s the squeeze on the cost of living here in the UK. However, I’m fed up of feeling sad and was wondering what to write for my next blog. I have to admit my previous posts have not been filled with much joy! So, I decided to write a post that looked ahead with optimism, to all the good things I’ve planned for 2022. Here’s with faith my hopes and plans for the year go ahead.

Hopefully, I’ll finally get to see Hans Zimmer Live! Booked in 2020! It’s easy to almost forget that I’d booked tickets to see this as it was supposed to be for 2021.

Hans Zimmer Live

I love going to the theatre and have not been since 2020, so I went and booked seats for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Liverpool Empire. I’ve read the Mark Haddon book but can’t remember the synopsis. I’ll have to read the book again before watching the play!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

To celebrate our 16 year anniversary, I’ve booked a few days away to The Lake District this March. Of course we are staying with Phil and Helen, the lovely proprietors of Hermiston Guest House. I hope to revisit some lakes such as Ullswater in preparation for a forthcoming YouTube project.

The Knowsley Borough of Culture celebrations, have planned a sculpture trail of 30 pairs of owls and cats in commemoration of Edward Lear who penned the famous poem The Owl and the Pussycat while staying at Knowsley Hall with the then Earl of Derby in 1871. So, I will be looking forward to following this trail as I’ve not been on a sculpture trail since the robins at Nottingham and The Snowman Trail at Manchester in 2018! It’s been too long!

Much to David’s consternation, I loved staying at the lochside cabin by Loch Venachar, The Trossach’s. So when a week in August became free for me, I just had to book and plan another swim holiday to Scotland. This time booking a rather pricey boathouse on the shore of Loch Tay. I simply can’t wait to stay at this luxurious cabin and experience some wonderful Scottish wildlife and scenery!

2022 also sees the 10 year anniversaries of both the passing of my father Graham, and of buying our first home. Where have those 10 years gone?

Of course I’ve lots of other plans inside my head, I wonder if any of them will be realised?

What exciting opportunities lie ahead for you in 2022?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

10 Years of RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch!

This weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve participated since 2012, when feeding the garden birds helped me through a bereavement. Since then, I’ve seen some wonderful visitors to our urban yarden.

In 2012, two blue tits sparked my feeding frenzy and every day since then I’ve left seed out for the garden birds.

Steven the herring gull is a recent superstar of the yarden. He started visiting after the 1st lockdown in March 2020 and since then he has brought his spouse and six of his babies, along with him. He gets fed left over eggs, chicken, cat and dog food and fish. He is a very spoilt gull but my aim is to just supplement his food not be a replacement.

In 2012 I was amazed when droves of goldfinch charms began visiting the feeders. During the past years I have spent hundreds of £££s on sunflower hearts for these gorgeous and gregarious finches.

My favourite garden bird is the dunnock. Sporadically, over the years the yarden has been host to one or two dunnocks who are a joy to watch hop about the undergrowth.

Over the years swathes of starlings have alighted upon the yarden, devouring the fat balls on offer. Numbers of up to 20-30+ are not uncommon. Their delightful squabbling is a feast for the eyes.

David is a friend of the pigeon, once war hero, now lowly street scavenger. Hoppy was a prima donna among the pigeon superstars who frequented our yarden. Sadly she passed away in 2021 but her memory lives on to this day. She is buried under the honeysuckle and this spring will become a beautiful crocus.

This January 2022, the yarden has been eerily silent. Where there were large charms of goldfinches feasting on sunflower hearts, only a lone bachelor visits. I’m not sure what has happened to my visitors? Is it the impact of the avian flu epidemic or have they just found better feeding grounds? Sadly, I am not so excited about this years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, though being my 10th anniversary, I should be celebrating. Here’s the data from my 2022 Birdwatch.

I did the count 11am to 12noon on Sunday 30 January 2022. The weather was cloudy but mild and then gradually became calm and sunny. It was a very quiet garden birdwatch. Over the hour all that visited were the regular pigeons, Steven the gull and a curious magpie who was on the look out for monkey nuts. I knew this years birdwatch would be my worst to date, there just isn’t the variety that usually visits, which makes me feel sad. A lone goldfinch, robin and two blue tits all visited afterwards, which didn’t sweeten the mood.

If you participated in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, how did your count go?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My December

This will be my final post in this monthly series. December 2021 has been rather a quiet affair for David and I. Christmas spent with family, was a tiring couple of days and after all the excitement of the preparations, I somehow felt sad and forlorn. The weather this month hasn’t helped either with very few sunny days. I’m writing this post with grey laden clouds diffusing the light, giving me a headache. Here’s what happened in December.

The beginning of the month saw me sign up to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2022. I wonder what bird visitors I’ll count on the day?

The aviary also got a new resident, Beau, a Lady Gouldian Finch, a friend for our lonely female, Rize. Beau, has settled in well and seems to be of a amiable disposition.

During the long, dark nights David and I have been watching box sets with a syfi theme, from the 90’s comedy of 3rd Rock from the Sun, to the more dramatic final series of Lost in Space.

To top the month off I a managed to get in a Christmas swim at Bassenthwaite!

How has your December been?

I wish you all health and happiness this happy new year and thanks for your continued support.

Take care,

Christine xx

A Year in Photos – 2021

I can’t quite believe it’s that time again, time to sit down and reflect on the past year. Though we have had far more freedoms than 2020, sadly Covid-19 is still hanging around and affecting daily life, be that buses not running, Asda delivery being three hours late to appointments being rescheduled. In some ways 2021 has been far more stressful than 2020, with concerns over David’s health. However, we have both tried to use our time together wisely. Like anyone’s year, we have had some ups and downs, from pet finches passing away to our boiler breaking, laughing during family games nights and silly fun during the summer in our £3 paddle pool. Below, find 12 pictures from my 2021.

January:

Our 2021 got off to a great start. Just before lockdown three was announced, David and I took a trip to Formby Beach with Riley and blew away the new year cobwebs!

riley-at-the-beach

February:

February was a slow month. Though I didn’t actively participate in Country Walking’s #walk1000miles this year, I did take daily walks. On a cold February day, I dragged a less enthused David and a more excitable Riley to our local park, Sefton to feed the coots and gulls.

feeding birds 2

March:

Though the UK was still in lockdown during March, Liverpool hosted River of Light, a trail of 11 illuminated art works dotted along the waterfront. David and I, with Riley took in some of the sculptures.

absorbed-by-light

April:

To our sadness our boiler decided to give up the ghost and broke in April. It beeped at us scarily, so we switched it off and hunted for a new one. We had had this boiler since we bought the house in 2012 and it had been used by its previous owners, so it was time for an overhaul. It took us three weeks to decided on a new replacement but ‘touch wood’ everything has been working smoothly since it’s installation.

new-boiler

May:

Eager to restart my cold water swimming season, come the Spring Bank Holiday, David and I took a two hour drive to Snowdonia, for my first swim at Llyn Gwynant!

llyn gwynant

June:

Though June is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, June for me was a very traumatic month. Five years on from helping Hoppy the pigeon, and seeing her regularly since then, we took her in a second time after noticing she had become sluggish and was having difficulty flying. We fought for two long weeks to treat Hoppy but sadly we couldn’t save her, and she quietly passed away 😥 I shed many tears for this beautiful soul. She is now resting under the honeysuckle in our yarden.

hoppy and harri

July:

I revisited the Anglican Cathedral’s art instillation of thousands of Peace Doves. Each dove had a message of love or remembrance written on it. Many of the art exhibits I’ve visited this year have had light central to their displays. From the dark days of 2020 to an emergence of light in 2021?

Peace Doves

August:

August is David’s birth month and we spent his birthday walking along the paths of RSPB Leighton Moss. We never saw the bearded tits but we did have a nice walk in nature and David tried out his new telephoto lens.

david

September:

During the Covid restrictions of 2020, I had to cancel my much awaited trip to the Trossachs. Luckily, we managed to book for 2021 and in hindsight we had much better weather! I took in over 10 swims and we watched some beautiful sunsets from the loch-side cabin. It was perfect!

sunset

October:

October is my birthday month and since it’s around Halloween, I’ve always loved this time of year. For my obligatory birthday swim, I took in the tremendously inspiring Snowdon Massif from the cold waters of Llynnay Mymbyr.

Birthday swim at Llynnau Mymbyr

November:

David and I managed to get in another short break before the end of the year, and spent a few days in the Lake District. As the weather wasn’t great on our journey north, we took in a visit to Safari Zoo and saw one of my favourite animals, the red panda!

Red Panda

December:

For the past few years I have tried to do a Christmas swim but been unable to make plans. Thankfully, this year I managed to get to a very cold, misty but beautiful Bassenthwaite Lake and have my first swim in December. It was baltic!

Christmas swim at Bassenthwaite

So that was a snapshot of my year, how has your 2021 been?

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx