An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.

After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.

My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.

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Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)

Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.

Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.

YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.

One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.

So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.

I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles (which I have never worn)
  • Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)

David thought I was insane but humoured me.

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First swim at Derwentwater

Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.

  • Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
  • A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
  • To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
  • A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
  • Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.

And finally.

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The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!

Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.

I’ve found many Facebook pages relating to wild swimming. Outdoor Swimming Society has one, COWS or Cumbria Open Water Swimmers is a good page for the Lake District and nearer to home #ChesterFrosties have an inspiring page too. I’m sure there will be one for your area too!

The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.

I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Christine x

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Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

The Vivian Quarry Trail

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing about our most recent day out. As a treat for my birthday David and I planned another walk. My intention was to take a stroll around the Vivian Quarry overlooking Llyn Peris and then embark on another Welsh wild swim at Padarn. However it was only the walk we achieved, I couldn’t find a suitable, peaceful site to swim from at Padarn.

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Map

After an early start, we arrived at the car park for the Llanberis Lake Railway around 10am. Parking was a very reasonable £4 for all day. From here there are a number of walking trails you can take around Padarn Country Park. After a quick pit-stop, David and I headed towards the Vivian Trail which would take us past old barracks towards a viewpoint overlooking the Vivian Quarry and Llyn Peris.

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Dinorwig Power Station

The Vivian Quarry is part of the larger Dinorwic Quarry which was the second largest slate mine in it’s time. It has now become the back drop to the Dinorwic Hydroelectric Power Station. Tours of this engineering feat can be booked from here.

Our walk took us through woodland, the path creeping steadily upwards past disused quarry buildings and old barrack houses where the quarry-men would live in spartan conditions.

We spent a good four hours walking the path and taking pictures. I definitely see another visit to the area in future as there are many more paths yet to be explored. We returned to the car and went looking for a suitable place in which to have a birthday swim at Llyn Padarn.

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Llyn Padarn

Unfortunately all the beaches were full with canoeists so I forgoed a swim, until next time!

Have you visited Llanberis? What are your memories of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #39

This weekend, I wasn’t going to compile a Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), however after witnessing something amazing on Saturday, I just had to share it with you!!

Birthday: Monday was my birthday. I was kindly gifted some beautiful flowers and the 50th anniversary editions of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

#walk1000miles: As part of the celebrations, David and I headed towards Snowdonia for a 4.5 mile walk. We took the path overlooking Dinorwig Power Station before visiting the shores of Llyn Padarn.

With still counting my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, at the time of writing I am currently at, 1,102 miles!

Collecting: This week I came across the 2017 edition of the 50 pence Peter Rabbit. There’s still Tom Kitten, Benjamin Bunny and Jeremy Fisher to find! Have you found any?

Book I am reading: I am currently ploughing through Katherine Webb’s post WW1 mystery, The Hiding Places. I must admit there is a lot of preamble. However it is keeping me company on the daily commute. Have you read any good books lately?

Ok. Now for that something amazing I was talking about at the beginning of this blog! This Saturday our yarden witnessed a beautiful visitor. He was not enjoying the seed on offer but waiting for a tasty morsel of a goldfinch, or perhaps a starling? He was a sparrowhawk.

Now you maybe thinking, nothing special about that sighting, but living in a city, you don’t often come across raptors. David and I stood in awe for over five minutes watching the sparrowhawk survey the territory. We’ve had many charms of goldfinches and rowdy starlings visiting our feeders this weekend, so this activity possibly drew the sparrowhawk to our yarden. Ultimately it was a thrilling experience. He stood still long enough for me to grab my camcorder and film him. Have you had a close encounter with a raptor? What is your favourite bird of prey?

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Hans Zimmer Live

To finish off:  While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to tracks from Hans Zimmer’s Live in Prague CD. As you know I have seen Hans’ concerts twice now, more recently in Liverpool this year. When I heard he was releasing a compilation of the concert I just had to pre-order. I am biased as I love the medley’s featured of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight Trilogy, the music is skin tingling and exhilarating! I would recommend if you like movie soundtracks!

So, that was my diverse week. How was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

It Could Have Been So Much Better… But..

…it was a poorly planned day out!

This weekend, David and I decided to go on another Welsh adventure, but we did not give much thought, as to where the adventure should be. I suggested forest walks and lakeside jaunts, with the possibility of a swim. In the end, we decided on visiting Llyn Ogwen. I saw it as an opportunity to revisit Llyn Idwal, the place where my wild swimming bug originated.

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Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan

However, before sunrise, the alarm sounded at 6am. I dragged a feverish body out of bed. My throat, though not sore felt irritated. I didn’t feel 100%. As I made a quick breakfast I debated with myself whether to go out or not. I decided on the former, as I knew I would just been sitting at home feeling sorry for myself otherwise.

Come 7am David and I had hit the road heading for the A55 and the Llyn Idwal car park (postcode LL57 3LZ). We arrived just before 9am and paid £5 for all day parking. We crossed the A5 towards a National Trust sign Carneddau. This was the beginning of our circular walk around Llyn Ogwen.

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Llyn Ogwen walk

It would have been beneficial if we had 1. read the itinerary of the walk and 2. printed out the map, but we did neither. So come the beginning of the trail and finding the path littered with boulders was a bit of a surprise. If I had know the walk of two+ hours was going to be spent clambering over boulders and sinking my feet into muddy, sodden heath-land I would have chosen a different walk. I am not very happy climbing. I prefer a walk where there’s not much scrambling but we decided to plow on nether the less.

Though we did have nice views of Tryfan, (part of the Glyderau), there didn’t seem to be any decent shores in which to access to the lake. Legend says that Llyn Ogwen is the final resting place of Excalibur. Though having read that the lake is only 6ft deep, I have reservations on believing this tale!

We continued to stumble our way along a path that at times was none existent.

And then the rain decided to make a show.

We followed way-markers sign posted slate walk and thankfully the remainder of the walk took us along the A5. At last, flat ground! With being soaked to the skin, feet sodden with mud and feeling under the weather! We decided to take lunch in the car and see how I felt.

The weather did not seem to abate nor did my temperature. So we decided to forego visiting Llyn Idwal and a swim in either lake and made our way back home.

Though I wish I had managed a swim, I am grateful we got out for a walk. Perhaps next year in better weather we can revisit this area again.

Have you visited his area? Or had to postpone a trip due to ill health? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #36

I think its time for a quick catch up, in the form of a Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins! Though instead of just focusing on one week I have chosen pictures taken from the past few weeks.

The Yarden: The weather for the UK of late has been rather changeable. I have not enjoyed the cooler days and rain showers, but the plants in the yarden have been thriving! The wildflower seeds from the 30 days wild pack have started to flower. I am not 100% on the identification but think they are yarrow and viper’s-bugloss, do correct me if I’m wrong! I also bought a new plant to add to the perfect for pollinators collection, a vibrant rudbeckia! It definitely gives a flash of colour to the yarden!

Culture: Last weekend, David and I spent hours walking around the shops in Liverpool. A highlight was seeing The Umbrella Project. 200 umbrellas suspended over a street in the city centre, to aid awareness of ADHD.

#walk1000miles: My mileage this week has been a lowly 22 miles, though this year I’ve been making steady progress. I have now broken into 800 miles! My annual mileage is 829, just under 200 miles to go ’til I hit the target!

Wild Swimming: Much like my Lake District wild swimming map, I’ve purchased one of Northern Snowdonia and made a start on mapping my wild swims in North Wales. Llyn Cwellyn being my first!

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Membership: I’ve been a member of the Facebook page, I Love the Lake District since I fell in love with wild swimming. This year, a group of members came together with an idea of creating a badge to help members connect with each other while raising much needed funds for Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue. I just had to buy one and add it to my collection!

Collecting: After a drought of a few weeks regarding the Beatrix Potter 50p’s. This week I finally spotted my fourth, Mrs Tiggy Winkle! All I need is Jemima Puddle Duck and I will have the set!

The BBC Proms: For me this year has been particularly good. Many of my favorite composers, such as Elgar have been featured among the concerts. Last Sunday I enjoyed listening to a perfect concert of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no.3 and his Symphony no. 2 performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Gustav Mahler’s symphonies have featured heavily (surprisingly) this year! I have enjoyed the performances of his 2nd and 10th by the BBC SO and looking forward to my favourite of his symphonies, his 6th by the Vienna Philharmonic. Do you enjoy the Proms? Have you been lucky enough to see one at the Royal Albert Hall?

doorDIY: This weekend I have assisted (can’t say I helped much,) with the creation of our new back door. The old one did not open properly and was starting to disintegrate! David planned the design, purchased the wood, sawed and screwed them all together into a cohesive whole! The project took just two days to complete and cost £30! I think David is quietly impressed with his baby! I think it looks fab! 🙂 All we need now is to finish painting the yarden floor and walls and the outside of our home is refreshed!

And finally: Back to more culture! David and I topped off the weekend with a visit to Liverpool artist, Paul Curtis‘s For all Liverpool’s Liverbirds mural. I went for the angry liverbird look! 😀

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That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

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Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My First Wild Swim of the Season!

Debra from Cultivating Time asked me a while back where my first swim of 2017 would be. This got me thinking. I haven’t planned on a specific place to do my first swim this year. I just keep adding to the many walks/swims I could do in the future. So, I sat down and decided to make a list of possible first swims. Let me know in the poll below which one you would like to see me do as my first for 2017!

The date for my first swim of the season will be around mid to end of April, (hopefully around Easter). The water should be just as cool or warmer than when I last swam in October.

1 . Blea Tarn. 

I have had many opportunities to visit Blea Tarn, but as yet none have materialised. On a fine day you get to see wonderful views across the tarn towards the Langdale Pikes.

2. Loughrigg Tarn.

As yet, I’ve yet to see the Langdales, and Loughrigg, like Blea is another tarn with these mountainous views. Both tarns have miles without stiles walks, so are in easy reach of little legs like mine. 🙂

3 . Bowscale Tarn. 

As featured in William Wordsworth’s 1888’s, Song, at the Feast of Brougham Castle. According to folklore there are two immortal fish that swim in the depths of this tarn and if you are lucky, they may talk to you!

 And both the undying Fish that swim
Through Bowscale-Tarn did wait on him,
The pair were Servants of his eye
In their immortality,
They moved about in open sight,
To and fro, for his delight.

4 . Brothers Water.

I keep seeing some lovely pictures of this tarn on the ILTLD page on Facebook. The shots confuse me, as in some angles it looks like Wast Water (or to me at least). Perhaps it’s a mini Wast Water? There is an easy two mile walk to the lakeside.

I’ve decided to leave the Welsh Llyns for later in the year. LLyn Cau of Cadris Idris and Llyn Glaslyn of Snowdon beckon later on this summer.

Let me know from the above which is your preferred lake.

Wild Swim Bucket List for 2017!

I’m not one for making resolutions or planning challenges at the beginning of the year. I don’t like the idea of setting myself up for disappointment if I don’t achieve the goals. So I am keeping this list simple. Many of the wild swims featured are swims I have wanted to do in 2016 but had not had the chance. So 2017 will see more of the same!

Snowdonia National Park, Wales:

1 . Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

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Llyn Cau, Pinterest

I simply adore the name of the mountain that Llyn Cau sits half way up, Cadair Idris, it rolls off the tongue lyrically. I was looking at maps for llyns to walk to when I saw this south of Snowdonia. It was going to be the walk David and I took at the end of 2016 but we ended up walking towards Snowdon instead. I have fallen in love with the dramatic scenery of Llyn Cau. It is definitely one for 2017!

2 . Llyn Glaslyn, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Teyrn

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Llyn Llydaw

After reading Kate Rew’s reference book and researching wild swimming, these three llyns have been on my list ever since. All three are located below Snowdon on the Miner’s Track. I think after the walks David and I have managed in 2016, that these three llyns are very much achievable in the future!

3 . Llyn Gwynant, Llyn Dinas, Llyn Cwellyn

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Llyn Gwynant

After having visited Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Cwellyn late in 2016, I have planned a return visit some time in the new year. All three are close to each other and David and I could spend a whole day in the area, walking and swimming these very fine llyns.

4 . Llyn Padarn

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Llyn Padarn

As one of the longest llyn’s in Wales, I thought I would include Llyn Padarn. I had intended on visiting the llyn in November after viewing the poppies at Caernarfon Castle but plans changed and Llyn Padarn was added to the ‘to do’ list.

5 . Llyn Idwal

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Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal is the place where the wild swimming seed was planted. David and I visited on an icy February day, the rest they say is history. I would like to revisit Llyn Idwal and actually swim where my wild swimming journey began.

The Lake District National Park, England:

6 . Grisedale Tarn

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Grisedale Tarn, fellsphoto.co.uk

It seems that all the swims on my bucket list are in Wales. However there are still many in the Lake District I would like to visit and revisit, one is Grisedale Tarn. Grisedale was one of the first tarns I wanted to swim, after watching YouTube videos by Trek and Run Online. With a two hour walk to the tarn, Grisedale became overshadowed with easier swims in dramatic scenery such as Wast Water. Nonetheless, Grisedale Tarn firmly remains on my bucket list.

7 . Blea Tarn

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Blea Tarn, National Trust

Yet another tarn that is still on my list is Blea Tarn nestled in the Langdale Valley. There have been many opportunities for myself to swim here but somehow none have materialised. With only a short walk from the car park to the tarn there is really no excuse to not swim here in 2017!

So, there you have it, a small selection of some of the wild swims I would like to accomplish in 2017. There are many, many more, not to mention a few of the lochs in Scotland, (if I ever get up there that is,) but I thought I would keep the list simple and achievable.

As yet, we have no plans for 2017, no holidays or weekends away booked. That’s not to say I don’t have any ideas though.

If you know of any wild swims that I have left off my list or think I should try, then let me know in the comments below.

I wish you all much peace and happiness in 2017! 

All the best,

Christine x

Goodbye 2016…and Hello 2017!

Happy New Year from David, Artie and myself. I hope your 2017 is filled with love, laughter and contentment.

Below find a short video celebrating our 2016. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

Christine x