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

My First Christmas Wild Swim!

Fellow readers… I’ve finally managed to push my wild swimming season into December and have completed my first wild swim!

Christmas swim at Bassenthwaite

Since discovering the joys of wild swimming, it has been an aspiration of mine to have a Christmas swim and finally, this year, I’ve managed to achieve it, thanks to the help of David.

After all the Christmas shopping had been done, there was one weekend free before Christmas. On a cold, foggy Saturday we drove up the motorway in darkness to Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District. While most of the UK was covered in cloud, we arrived at the shores of Bassenthwaite at 9am to the sun rising golden in the east and low mist hanging seductively over the lake.

We accessed the lake at Blackstock Point where there is free parking just off the A66, though the car park is easier to get to while driving south from Cockermouth.

We walked around the edge of the lake looking for good access points. From where we made camp, the lake was very shallow and didn’t make for the best swim. I later read that Bassenthwaite Lake is only 21 metres deep, but I can attest that the water was cold. I think I need thicker gloves as my hands bore the brunt of the cold and kept clawing, so I kept the swim short. I swam for seven minutes, but maybe it should have been shorter as I am not cold water acclimatised and it took me ages to get dry and dressed! I did feel very cold after the swim and it took about half an hour to warm up (I had a hot coffee and cake afterwards), but I loved feeling the cold of the water, being surrounded by wonderful vistas, and seeing ducks and geese silhouetted in the low winter sunshine. Below is a video of my first Christmas swim, and hopefully not the last.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and hopefully a better new year than 2020 and 2021!

Thanks for your continued support.

Christine xx

My Wildlife Moments of 2021

Where has the year 2021 gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were hopefully welcoming in the new year and wishing it would be better than 2020. Though this year has been fraught with worries and more uncertainty, nature, as always has been a constant companion. A quietude among the madness of life. Here’s my wildlife moments of 2021!

I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool and the amount of wildlife that frequents my small walled, inner city terraced yarden is truly amazing. If you look closely, wildlife is everywhere and certain species herald the seasons! I know that spring is around the corner when I spy a passing chiffchaff hunting hungrily for insects in my yarden before it moves on to better pastures.

The yarden is a haven to an array of avian species; this year I managed to save a stunned baby goldfinch who recovered after 30 mintues of heat therapy. Then there is of course the male sparrowhawk who has been visiting over the autumn. The small birds may not like him, but I think he is spectacular!

One mammal that was seen frequently during the summer months in the yarden and gave me such a buzz whenever I saw him/her was Batty, the common pipistrelle (I think). Like clockwork, after sundown, Batty would appear swooping and looping as he/she hunted the midges and moths that the yarden flowers attract. Bats are fantastic!

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild this year, I made a hoverfly lagoon. Though I was not sure if it was successful, I did notice more hoverflies in the yarden than usual. So, perhaps it was.

Another insect that was a first for me this year was a four spotted chaser which I photographed at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Other highlights from a nature filled day out at Brockholes, was my first ever sighting of a common tern, a male reed bunting, Kevin the Kestrel hunting and having a dust bath, as well as an abundance of marsh orchids around the reserve.

Wildflowers have been the star of Liverpool this 2021. They sprouted in parks all over the city. Among the colourful displays was the gorgeous cosmos. Also during a walk around the city, I came across a strange flower to be growing along the sidewalk, a common flax. Not sure how that seeded itself there!

I’ve noticed recently that in my local park, a kestrel has moved in. Not sure if it’s just one or several but it’s nice so see him/her flying around when I’m standing waiting for the bus to work. I’ve also spotted a buzzard scouting the park too and one day I managed to get a photo, though sadly only on my phone.

During our wonderful week away to The Trossachs in Scotland, we spied hungry red squirrels and a great spotted woodpecker all enjoying the peanuts on the cabin feeders.

This year I’ve also been lucky enough to see some stunning sunrise and sunsets.

David and I kept our memberships with the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts’ this year and enjoyed many days out. At Burton Mere we were serenaded by a very gregarious reed warbler and photographed a bowl of spoonbills

During our visit to Leighton Moss, we saw a great white egret and there was a stand off between a dragonfly and a fly!

At Lunt Meadows, we spent half an hour with a family of swallows and I snapped a picture of a greylag goose and a black tailed godwit.

I’ve enjoyed looking back at all the wildlife I’ve been lucky enough to see? What wildlife moments of 2021 have you enjoyed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Swimming in November

Finally, I have managed to push the boundary back in terms of how long my wild swimming season lasts for. In recent years I have been wanting to see how I cope in colder temperatures. This year, I had a week off work in November, so I booked a two nights stay in our favourite Lake District B&B, Hermiston. The plan was to do a couple of swims, but where? I have sadly swam in all the accessible lakes/tarns in The Lake District and now have to gather fitness and resources to go further inland and up mountains!

Luckily, the Eskdale Valley, west of the Lakes, was a destination we had not visited before and the area seemed to be less frequented by tourists. Correct me if I am wrong! So during our stay, I planned on doing two swims. The first was Blea Tarn (the last of the three) and the second Devoke Water.

Blea Tarn:

There are three Blea Tarns, the first in the picturesque Langdale Valley, the second in Watendlath and the third in Eskdale. Eskdale’s Blea Tarn can be accessed via Beckfoot, a train station on the Ravenglass and Eskdale 15″ gauge Railway. David and I were going to park up in the station at Dalegarth but we managed to find off road parking right opposite the Beckfoot platform.

Beckfoot Crossing

After donning our backpacks, we crossed the train track and headed through a gate towards the hillside beyond. The walk only took 30 minutes, it was steep in places but not too strenuous. At the top I thought we would find Blea Water looking resplendent but we had to traipse over sphagnum moss a little further inland before the tarn appeared.

Blea Tarn

On the day the weather wasn’t very inviting, a mean wind whipped across the tarn and cloud drifted over the hills. After the restrictive swim season that was 2020, I have been desperate to just get into the water and swim. So, we quickly made camp and I stripped to my swimsuit; strapped Doughnut, my tow float to my waist and new GoPro to my chest and I was ready for a dip in chilly waters!

I had prepared myself for cold waters, but in fact Llynnau Mymbyr was much colder! I managed a 15 minute swim in Blea Tarn, though I could have swam for longer. I was weary of not being cold water aclimatised, so I stayed close to shore and had a short swim. The wind kept splashing water in my face while I gazed at the mist enshrouded hills around me. Mentally, I didn’t enjoy the swim as much as I should have, but I am glad I have managed to tick this tarn from the swim map!

Getting dry back on land was a chore with a cold wind and rain falling steadily. I think it took me as long to get dry and dressed as I did swimming! But wrapped up warmly afterwards, we headed back down the hill towards the car.

Devoke Water:

Much like during the swim at Blea Tarn the day before, the weather for the Devoke water swim was very inclement! In fact the wind was more blustery and whipped up white horses on the water!

As Devoke Water is in the same region of the Lakes as Blea Tarn, the journey from Braithwaite took just over an hour. We found roadside parking a 20 minute walk from the tarn and followed the sign post towards Devoke Water. I knew this tarn would be less popular than any other tarn I had swam in but I had thought I would have seen people on our swim/walk. However, it was just David and I who traipsed the unremarkable path towards the tarn, then tramped though marshy, wet land to a windy swim.

Devoke Water

We made camp and I took to the waters with the same enthusiasm and a little bit of nervousness I have for all of my swims. Despite the wind being raucous and throwing water into my face, I really enjoyed this swim, the wind was cold but the water wasn’t so bad. I swam for about 15-20 minutes! The scenery around Devoke Water is as bleak as it gets but occasionally there were shafts of sunlight piercing through the clouds. It’s definitely a tarn I would visit again.

Have you visited any of these tarns?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My November

Happy holidays! I’m a bit late in writing this round up of my November. In some ways 2021’s November has been a short month, I’ve enjoyed getting all festive and planning Christmas and also David and I took a short break to the Lakes mid month. We also visited a zoo, something which we haven’t done in a few years, it was one activity that cemented our relationship. Here’s what I’ve been up to this month.

With the long, dark chilly nights drawing in, I’ve been catching up on some TV shows. The new season of Dexter is meeting expectations and the new series of Shetland is as compelling as usual.

Bill

Sadly our aviary had another death. This time it was Bill, the silverbill who passed away. He survived his mate Silvie by two months. I was saddened by Bill’s loss as he was such a loving, friendly little chap. Fly free little one!

During our short break to the Lake District David and I took in a visit to Safari Zoo, which used to be South Lakes Zoo before all the turmoil regarding the owner and malpractice. We spent a leisurely three hours walking around the enclosures. My favourites by far were the Giant Otters and Red Pandas, of course!

The main reason for heading back up to the Lakes was to extend my wild swimming season into November. I assumed that the water would have been colder than my birthday swim in October where I swam in Llynnau Mymbyr, but sadly the water wasn’t breath taking as it was in Wales, although the wind was! The tarns I swam in were Eskdale’s Blea Tarn and Devoke Water, both remote and atmospheric.

The remainder of November was all about looking forward to the festive season. Mid month, I put up my Christmas tree for some much needed cheer and ordered a new wreath for the front door as the old one had given up the ghost. I love buying presents for all our fur babies, and couldn’t resist in purchasing another Christmas jumper for Riley to wear. Doesn’t he look cute?!

What are you most looking forward to during the festive period?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Birthday Swim 2021 – Llynnau Mymbyr

For the past couple of years (excluding 2020), it has been a tradition of mine to have a cold water swim on my birthday! This year was no exception. Having tried to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr a couple of times this year, it was the obvious destination. David and I awoke early and drove two hours towards the village of Capel Curig. We arrived at 9am and unlike the last time we visited, when there was a triathlon on, the area was quiet and subdued. We found roadside parking overlooking the two llyns (llynnau) and donned our new walking boots and heavy rucksacks.

A short path snakes along the south side which we followed looking for lakeside access. The walk was pleasant through a conifer forest, where sheep grazed and coal tits flew among the boughs. We had to course over swollen streams and pools of mud. We walked to the end of the path where a barbed fence blocked our way, so we had to retrace our steps and look for a path through sphagnum moss and fallen trees for lake access.

We finally got to the lakeside. The water levels were high and most of the beach was submersed. We quickly made camp as there was a cool wind blowing and I got dressed into my swimming paraphernalia. David had gifted me a new GoPro to replace Wilson, so I strapped him to my chest and slowly waded in.

The last time I was in water was in September and swimming in October I found the temperature had cooled to single figures. Due to the water levels being so high I plunged into the water, waist high and decided to just go for it and swim! So I did, and boy did I gasp aloud! The cold of the water took my breath away but in my head I just kept saying, ‘keep swimming!’ The water made my skin tingle and it was an effort to move my limbs but I soon got used to the chill and swam for about 10 minutes. The views from the water were spectacular, the Snowdon Massif was lit in golden autumn light and I was mesmerised. I wish I could have stayed in the water longer but that would have been foolish. As I was climbing out of the water I spotted a flash of blue and a kingfisher bobbed past. Glorious!

I got dry on land using my new OS towel map of Snowdonia. It was soft to the touch and made me feel warm and dry. I had a quick hot coffee when I was dressed to warm up my core.

It was a blissful birthday swim and I was so lucky to have been able to experience it with David who stood on the shore and took video for our YouTube channel. I look forward to using my new GoPro on the next swim/walk adventure, especially with the superior video quality.

Have you visited Llynnau Mymbyr? I couldn’t find any Welsh myths regarding this lake but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any.

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My October

My birthday month hasn’t been so kind to me this year. It’s been a month of severe stresses and worries and not much fun in between. David has had many trips to the hospital this month, after his pneumonia diagnosis during the summer. We all feared the worst but after a PET scan, we finally got some good news that it wasn’t the disease we all dreaded. However, the specialist doesn’t really know what is wrong with David’s lung and there will be another scan in three months time. Fingers crossed all will be well.

The beginning of October, saw David and I take a visit to the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. However, this years festival wasn’t as good as previous years and the selection of apples was limited. We did come away with some sunset and ellison orange but even the apples weren’t at their best this year.

Our aviary lost yet another resident, the lady gouldian finch, Nero. Nero suffered from neurological issues and had become paralysed down one side. He did manage heroically but in the end he passed away. Fly free little one.

During an early morning start at work, I witnessed a wonderful autumn sunrise with mist enshrouded fields. It was a beautiful beginning to a day.

We had another success with our pigeon rehabilitation. Mocha came to us with a runny tummy and breathing issues. We treated for coccidiosis, a parasite that affects the digestive system. We saw an improvement after two days of giving the medication and then Mocha stayed with us for a further five days when we treated for canker, and kept her warm. Her respiratory difficulties eased and we released her back to the wild, but not before giving her a white leg ring, so we can keep track of who we have helped. Soon our yarden visitors will all have leg bracelets on. 🙂

In October, we finished watching all 10 series of Stargate, which we thoroughly enjoyed! We also watched the controversial Squid Game, which was both horrific and sad in equal measure and we have just finished the second series of the supernatural Locke and Key. Do you have any recommendations on what to watch next?

It’s that time of year again when sparrowhawk visits increase. One Saturday we were visited by a male sparrowhawk who stayed around the area for over half an hour. He managed to get a meal a few days later.

At the end of October we made a quick visit to Liverpool’s City Centre to see the River of Light Festival. We visited the light festival in March, but I though this October’s selection of lights were better than in March!

David’s family had a get together for Halloween. Some of us dressed up. I went as a Jaffa from Stargate. I wanted to go as Teal’c but the bald wig I bought didn’t cover my hair so I had to go as a makeshift Jaffa instead. Did you do anything fun for Halloween?

For the past couple of years I’ve celebrated my birthday with a cold water swim! This year, since The Lake District was underwater with streams that were once paths, I decided to choose Snowdonia as the place to celebrate. Llynnau Mymbyr was the llyn I chose and it was such a wonderful birthday swim with the Snowdon massif looking glorious in rich autumn sunshine. I dried off with my new towel, the ordinance survey map of Snowdonia.

That was my October, how was yours? Do you like this time of year with the crisp mornings and golden trees or like me, just want to hibernate?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Touring the Trossachs – Day Five.

Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.

The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.

During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?

Perhaps I can do a birthday swim in October?

Where would you like to see me swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My September

I’m not much of a fan of September. I don’t particularly like the encroachment of the darker mornings and evenings and I still have echoes of the dreaded ‘going back to school’ feeling, even though I am in my 40’s! The beautiful season of autumn as the leaves change colour is no consolation. September has been a mixed bag for David and I, but oh boy how fast it has gone! I can’t quite believe I’m writing this review!

At the beginning of September, David and I were in the middle of our holiday to the Trossachs in Scotland. I had many swims, including a sunrise, sunset, afternoon and even a night time swim at Loch Venachar and also visited the chilly waters of Loch Chon, Lubnaig, Earn and Katrine. It was a fab holiday! 😁

Our cabin for the week in Scotland had a feeding station and not only woodland birds visited but red squirrels and even a shy great spotted woodpecker!

The aviary saw the sad passing of our female silverbill, Silvie. It was a shock as Silvie had been in good health previously. I feel sorry for Bill her partner, singing all alone. 😪

September is the month we got Artie, he was a big seven this year! We celebrated by buying him a new cat tower.

One mid September weekend turned out pretty bad for our wild bird rehabilitation. We picked up two birds, who were sadly too far gone to be helped. All we could give was palliative care. We took in a pigeon who was so weak and diseased with canker that she only lasted one night. The next day we picked up a poor goldfinch who was so ill, he only lasted a few hours and passed away in David’s hands. Our only solace was that both were safe in our home, and not left vulnerable outside.

This September I have been enjoying watching some TV. I am a big fan of Silent Witness, so I am busy catching up on the new series. While visiting my mum, we are enjoying A House Through Time, which is more a social history lesson, but so interesting!

Since I am back working five days a week and my hours have changed I am doing a lot more reading while on the long commute. This month I have read the Agatha Christie thriller, Witness for the Prosecution, and have now started Libby Page’s The Island Home.

To cheer up a wet and cold end to September, here’s a picture of a cosmos, there are many of these growing around work which does lift the spirits.

How has your September been?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x