In Search of the Fairy Island

Some weeks ago, David and I took a day trip to Snowdonia. The choice of swim spot was decided rather late so I had to research the legends after the swim. We headed west towards Llyn y Dywarchen. In fact there are two Llyn y Dywarchen’s in Snowdonia. We visited the one near Llyn y Gader, where I had taken an Easter swim that April.

Llyn y Dywarchen has it’s very own little parking bay directly outside a gate that leads to a boat house. The lake is leased by the Angler’s Society, which made my heart sink a little, but on arrival, the llyn was deserted.

We followed a path towards the south side of the llyn, from where I took my swim. The water had chilled to 13°c and the breeze was fresh. It was nice to see the changing of the light on the mountains all around and the colours come to life.

On coming home and preparing the video for YouTube, I researched several legends around the llyn. Much like Llyn Cwellyn, fairies featured heavily.

One tale was of a shepherd coming upon a group of fairies, falling in love with one of them and then having to guess her name to marry her. Once married she was bound by a curse never to be touched by iron, and during one mishap, she touched an iron object and vanished back to the fairy realm.

However, there was one truth about the llyn and that it once had a floating island. In 1698 astronomer Edmund Halley, (of Halley’s comet fame), swam to the island and said the island was a floating piece of turf that had detached from the shore. Others believed the floating island was fairy made. So the banished fairy could still see her husband, the floating island was made so she could float on the llyn while her husband was on shore, from there they conversed. When the winds blew the island to shore, you could see the lovers kiss.

The island is no longer, but tales of the fairy folk remain.

Do you believe in fairies?

Christine x

A Week at Osprey

I’ve been really neglecting my blog of late but I have a reason for that, and that is…

I’ve a new job! I got a full time job at the cardio-respiratory dept at the New Royal, doing general reception/admin work. I’ve been there over two months and still enjoying it!

A few weeks into my new job, we had a week booked at a boathouse on the shores of Loch Tay. The week before the UK had temperatures reaching the early 30°s but during our week in Scotland, it felt more autumnal. In fact the water was warmer than the air temperature!

Loch Tay is the sixth largest loch in Scotland, 15 miles long and 508ft deep. It shelved off pretty quickly from our beach by the boathouse and made for a dark, mysterious swim.

The boathouse we stayed in was called Osprey. A bird that has caught my wonder these past few years. So it was fated that we should holiday there. Here’s some photos of the boathouse and the lovely roe deer that walked silently around the wooded shore.

On our journey north it rained constantly, and the rain didn’t let up during my first swim that evening. It was a splashily, wonderful swim, with mist caressing the mountains and raindrops piercing the water.

Our second day dawned a little drier and after breakfast we headed out in search of a loch or two to swim in. I had planned on doing a few swims that week, but in reality, some of the lochs were difficult to get to. The first one was Loch Kennard which looked nice on Google maps but not with a massive deforestation happening all around. We drove further up the road towards Loch Freuchie but we couldn’t find anywhere to park, so decidedly deterred, we headed back towards the boathouse and ended up doing a circula waterfall walk called the Falls of Acharn which were pleasant enough. If it was good enough for Robert Burns and the Wordsworth’s then it was good enough for David and I.

After lunch we headed to the shores of Loch Tay where I had my second swim. It was a very windy, choppy affair.

Day three was our best day!

We got up for the sunrise, but I wasn’t feeling it for a swim, so I enjoyed the show from the shore.

Later on that morning we drove towards Loch of the Lowes, a small, picturesque nature reserve where ospreys breed. This year their adults had reared two chicks. On arrival we heard a begging chick chirrup for a fish dinner but when we entered the hides, we had to wait over an hour to see an osprey. We were very lucky as we saw both chicks and David managed to get some good photos. Mine I took from the telescopes. I was elated to have seen an osprey or two but we were chilled to the bone from the cold wind blowing over the reserve.

That afternoon, the sun seemed to gain some warmth and we drove a little further down the road to Loch of Clunie. We found some off road parking and I went for another swim. It was the warmest swim of the holiday, at 20° but it was the shallowest! I waded out for what seemed like miles to get some swimmable depths.

That evening after returning back to the boathouse, I enjoyed the best night swim I’ve ever had! The water was still, moths flew overhead, bats circled around me and a male tawny owl hooted from the shore. It was a magical experience. I’m not sure it can be bettered!

Day four dawned gloomily. We took a long drive towards the shores of Loch Rannoch. It needn’t have been as long but I’d planned on swimming from a certain point and when we got there the car park was closed, so we had to find an alternative entrance. I can’t say I enjoyed the swim that much as it was rather choppy, and I was frozen to the bone by the chilling wind.

I had planned on another swim at Loch Faskally but being rather cold I decided I’d had enough and we headed back to the boathouse to enjoy our last remaining evening.

With a glass or two of wine in me, wrapped up in a blanket and listening to relaxing classical music, I sat on the veranda and watched as the gloaming settled. Bats flew over the surface of the lake, clouds parted revealing a bright half moon, and ducks snuffled on the beach below. It was a most relaxing evening.

I would definitely recommend staying at a loch side cabin, whether at Loch Tay or another loch. I may not have had the amount of swims I did as last years holiday to the Trossachs but sharing my moments with wildlife, being ospreys or hooting tawny owls was magical!

Have you shared a wonderful moment with wildlife?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Another Swim/Walk Adventure

Lots of stresses and strains have been going on behind the scenes recently, and wild swimming has been one of the few distractions.

Last week David and I had a day off mid week and so we planned a swim adventure. The tarn in question was Hayeswater, Hartsop, which had been a reservoir up until 2005. The dam was removed in 2014 and the tarn was returned to it’s natural state.

We parked at a free car park in Hartsop, but donated to the village school as a thank you. We followed the left hand stony path which ran steeply along Hayeswater Gill, before crossing a bridge and continuing the path on the right hand side. Further up we then crossed another bridge to the left hand side of the tarn. The walk took about one hour. At a shingle beach we made camp and I accessed the mild 16°C water which had an abundance of minnows darting about the shallows. The swim was peaceful and remote and we didn’t see any other people until I had climbed out of the water. David got Buzz up and managed to capture some wonderful scenery. It was indeed balm for a stressed out mind.

Have you walked in this area of Patterdale? What were your observations?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

1001 Outdoor Swimming Tips

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Vertebrae Publishing regarding publicising a new swimming book that was being published. I thought about it and decided to agree. They sent me a copy of Calum Maclean‘s book, 1001 Outdoor Swimming Tips.

After a week or so of planning, David and I headed towards North Wales to Llyn Cwmorthin a slate quarry we had previously visited in 2016. I had already sketched a rough plan of the video, we just needed lots of footage. The day was a mix of sunny spells and gusts. It remained dry and we got some great footage of the old quarry buildings and of the 14°C swim. The location was very busy with walkers and tours of the mines below. The swim wasn’t very secluded and there was a mean current that made swimming difficult. I was in the water for around 15 minutes and was tired after I got out.

Cwmorthin Slate Quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog (slate capital of the world), was established in the early 1800’s, and was in operation until the late 1990’s, changing ownership on several occasions. Visiting today it’s like stepping back in time. A walk around the old ruins of terraced houses and chapels, feels like walking alongside ghosts. Indeed, during the late Victorian era, poor working conditions gave rise to the name locally as The Slaughterhouse due to 20+ deaths during a 20 year period. Once Cwmorthin was connected to Oakeley Quarry it became part of the largest slate mine in the world. 90,000+ tons of slate left the quarry between 1861 and 1876. The area today is marked with the signs of slate industry, huge scree mountains of broken slate dominates the land.

Have you visited a quarry?

Tempted to try wild swimming?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

#30DaysWild

June was and will always be all about The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, an annual challenge, asking participants to do something nature based each day for 30 days. Though I may not have blogged every day this year (I’ve been feeling too jaded for that – and there’s lots going on behind the scenes here too), I managed to post daily on Instagram. Here’s a small recap of some of the wild things that I’ve been doing this June.

I’ve Visited Brockholes and Lunt Meadows, Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Reserves, wild swam in Brothers Water, the Lake District. Spotted Wild flowers while on a walk to work. Gave a bumblebee sugar water for energy, watched lovely sunsets. Enjoyed a trip to the beach and discovered apples growing on my apple tree.

Have you spotted any wildlife where you live? What have been your highlights?

Thanks for reading and stay wild!

Christine xx

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