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