Overdue…

My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.

I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!

As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.

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Riley at Grasmere

Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!

Then lockdown happened.

At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.

Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.

That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.

With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!

In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.

With parking paid for all day, at £5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.

I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!

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Coniston Water

The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!

Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!

On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.

From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.

We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.

I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Thirty.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: For my final post of 2020’s 30 Days Wild, I shall look to the future. There are several questions I want to address.

  • How does spending time in nature make me feel?
  • What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year?
  • How can I help wildlife more?

Firstly, who would have thought that I’d be able to blog everyday during a pandemic? When lockdown commenced I have to admit that I became a little worried on how I would be able to make 2020’s 30 Days Wild exciting and interesting for my readers. Hopefully I have managed to keep you all interested and entertained and a little more educated along the way. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot participating in this initiative. Like badgers are the UK’s largest predator. There’s around 40 species of ladybird in the UK. Dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from each other. Great Tits have territory wars with pied flycatchers. The UK’s tallest tree, the Douglas Fir has a non-flammable bark which protects forests from fires. Gulls can drink fresh and salt water due to a special gland above their eyes that filter out salt. 

Part of what makes blogging everyday for 30 Days Wild a challenge, is which new topics to cover. Though the UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries, we do have an array of wildlife that should be celebrated. I’ve not even scratched the surface in my blog, and I know there is a lot more to learn. I may focus a lot on birds but that is because they are easily surveyed. I would love to know more about trees, insects, arachnids and marine life. Which brings me to one of the questions I want to raise, What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year? Keep being observant and open to wildlife is a positive thought. I think having a childlike look on the world isn’t a bad thing. Continuing to read blogs, follow nature sites and keeping an eye open for new wildlife sightings are easy ways to carry on being wild.

At the beginning of the year David and I became members of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust. Because of Covid I’ve not been able to visit sites in this area but I hope to do so in the future. Joining a Wildlife Trust, the RSPB or the Woodland Trust is one small way to carry on being wild and also to help wildlife more. Feeding the birds all year round is another small thing one can do and an easy task too. Planting nectar rich plants for pollinators is another positive action and can be done on a small balcony or in a garden. Sign petitions and shout out for wildlife by writing to your MP! Go on litter picks. Join webinars (I’ve recently watched two from The Wildlife Trusts, on owls and wildflowers), and even tweet, blog or Instagram your findings. Sharing your knowledge will help others learn too.

Lastly, how does spending time in nature make me feel? 

I believe nature is a great healer and it has been scientifically proven. From shinrin yoku or forest bathing to the joys and health benefits of wild swimming. Just spending 20 minutes a day walking in your local park, at the beach or woodland helps improve mood and promotes positive mental health. When I am feeling blue or struggling for motivation just observing the wildlife around me helps greatly. For me feeding the garden birds helped me overcome a bereavement. Do you know of when nature helped you during a difficult time?

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Thank you for joining in my 2020 30 Days Wild. Hopefully we can do it all again next year?!

Until then and for the final time, Stay Wild!

Christine x

Wild Swimming in 2020!

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Glaslyn

After a tremendous swim in Glaslyn, I had hoped to extend my wild swimming season by a month or so. Unfortunately I never made it into the water before Christmas, however much I had wanted too. Then I’d planned on a New Year swim at Coniston but with no planned walk for the day my hopes fizzled away like a firework. Though 2020 has been really slow to start (even slower than 2019!) my mind is already dreaming of the year ahead and I am looking forward to many wild swim/walks this year.

I’ve already booked a four nights break for my birthday, at a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossachs National Park. With 22 loch’s I am spoiled for choice! Just looking at the variety of lochs, such as Katrine, Venachar and Lubnaig, I’m already getting super excited!

For my first swim this season I am hoping to tick off the Eskdale Blea Tarn! I’ve already swam the other two! Langdale, and Watendlath. I’ve read blogs and seen pictures of the Eskdale Blea Tarn and I am eager to get back into the water. It’s just a matter of logistics with car parking.

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Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

Though I’ve always wanted to swim in Grisedale Tarn, perhaps it’s height position may deter me?

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Grisedale Tarn (Google Image)

The resting place of the crown of Cumbria may have to wait. However this year I do intend to swim in Helvellyn’s Red Tarn and Blea Water of Haweswater fame. I think both these tarns are achievable.

Again Coniston is the only ‘large’ lake I’ve not swam in and the Old Man of Coniston has many swimmable waters, e.g. levers and goat’s. I’ll aim for these this year.

Hopefully we’ll be able to bring Riley with us again on our Lake District adventures and introduce him to swimming in Ullswater!

In Snowdonia, I hope to tick off Llyn Padarn and Gwynant.

They seem the two easiest of the llyns I have my eye on! Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and Llyn Du’r Arddu of Snowdon fame may be a bit of a hike.

However, Llyn Nantlle and Llyn Cwm Silyn Uchaf, again will have issues with logistics. If you know of places to park and walking routes, do let me know.

So there you have a brief glimpse into my mind for the wild swim year ahead. If you have any swim suggestions, do let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Hello to a New Decade!

I’m still quite traumatised that 2019 has finally come to an end. How did that happen? It was a year very much focused on family and wild swimming and oh yes, that trip to New York.

I enjoy making videos of the most memorable moments of the year. So here’s 2019’s! Enjoy!

Thank you for coming on the journey with us!

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2019

As December comes to a close and the end of the decade draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2019. The year was slow to get going but when it did it snowballed! The second half of 2019 has been a roller-coaster! Together, David and I have been on many exciting adventures. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight the year that was 2019!

January:

The year began with a ten mile walk around Kewsick, where I introduced Riley to the joys of paddling in Derwentwater.

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Riley in Entrust NT Hands

February:

During this cold month I embarked on many Riley walks with friends and family.

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Family walk to Formby Beach

March:

David and I became members of the RSPB and visited many reserves in the North West. A favourite of mine is Leighton Moss, Morecambe where we got to feed hungry robins and tits.

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Feeding a Robin

April:

We purchased our first female Lady Gouldian Finch. She is a nice addition to the aviary.

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Rize the Lady Gouldian Finch

May:

I managed to go on my first wild swim of the season in May. I took a gentle walk to High Dam near Windermere for a peaceful swim amidst nature.

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High Dam swim

June:

June had so many highlights it was difficult to chose just one, from raising painted lady butterflies to being bee-keepers for the day. However playing host to our American friend Jennifer who came to visit for a second time was even more fun than her first visit. We hiked in the Ogwen Valley and wild swam in Llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

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Selfie time at Ogwen Valley

July:

Work wise 2019 hasn’t been a great year for neither David nor myself. To outweigh all the negativity in his workplace David joined in a fun day with dalmatian puppies.

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David and Dalmatian Puppy

August:

Saving a poor gull who had fallen from its nest (high up on a roof) from uncertain death was ultimately fulfilling especially when a week later it flew off independently.

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Harald

September:

We finally managed to go on a short break to the Lake District after postponing earlier in the year.

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Grasmere from Grey Crag

October:

I finally ticked off Glaslyn after booking a short break away to Snowdonia for my birthday.

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Glaslyn

November:

David bought a new car! A Honda Civic but I still miss his old car the Renault Clio.

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Honda Civic

December:

Though December is all about the excitement (or stress) of Christmas, this year’s trip to New York overshadowed Christmas preparations. My most lasting memory of the holiday was standing on the shoreline before a magnificent Brooklyn Bridge.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

Let’s hope 2020 will be another kind year!

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

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

Wild Swimming – The Miners’ Track

For my birthday, at the end of October, I’d planned a few days away to Snowdonia. The main aim was to trek The Miners’ Track and swim in the tarns along the way. We attempted this route in 2018 but on arrival at 8am on a blazing summer’s morning, the car park at Pen y Pass was already full. This was a fear of mine come the morning of my second attempt.

We woke-up groggy at 6am, from our base, Plas y Coed, the car park at Pen y Pass was only 30 minutes away. The tremulous call of a tawny owl echoed from the surrounding woodland as we loaded the car for a pre-dawn drive.

The roads towards Snowdon were quiet as you would expect on a chilly October morning. We arrived at Pen y Pass car park which was half full at 7am and paid the £10 charge. I was silently celebrating that we had secured parking in a very tourist heavy area. Donning our swollen rucksacks and I, carrying my bulky Dryrobe® we embarked on an hour+ walk towards Glaslyn.

On our walk we passed llyns Teyrn and Llydaw, and my excitement grew with each step. The morning sky glowed, the mountains looked desolate and the path, though easy to begin with, grew steep after passing Llydaw. I was amazed that we didn’t see a living soul as we made our way towards Glaslyn.

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Glaslyn

I’d put up quite a sweat by the time we arrived at the shores of Glaslyn. Seeing the mirror sheen of the llyn and a moody, cloud shrouded Snowdon made me so enthusiastic to get into the water.

In planning the swims, in my mind I had made the cold of the water more than it actually was, though I did lose feeling in my fingers and toes. I had come prepared. I had my swimsuit jacket as an extra layer against the cold but I did manage a 10 minute swim.

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Glaslyn

Glaslyn was a wonderful swim! I’d have to say probably my favourite to date. I’d imagined I would have swam with an amazed audience of walkers but on the day, around 9am (which is always the best time for a swim), there was no one about. Just David, Glaslyn and me! Other walkers seemed to favour the Pyg track than the Miners.

Glaslyn, means blue lake in Welsh and I have to say it was very blue even on a cloudy day. Nesting 600m above sea level, it’s supposed to be the resting place of Excalibur. Glaslyn is also where the afanc (we met this mythological beast at Llyn Cau) was finally defeated.

We jumped across an outflow stream and found a secluded shingle beach. From here I quickly stripped to a new tankini (one of three I’d bought that week) and wriggled into my swimsuit jacket. Wearing my neoprene gloves, hat and boots I eagerly waded into the silky, cold waters of this glacial corrie. I would have loved to have swam for longer but 10 minutes in below 10° waters was enough for me. Whilst swimming, the clouds lifted and I saw Snowdon tower impressively above.

Buzzing with adrenaline I waded back onto shore and struggled to get dressed. Even David had to tie my boot laces! I was hoping to have a bite to eat at the shore but the weather turned and rain began to fall. Dressed in the warm folds of my Dryrobe® we ventured back down the path towards Llyn Llydaw. The walk thankfully warmed me up.

By the time we got to the wide shingle beach of Llyn Llydaw the path was swollen with walkers from every walk of life. Despite this and the heavy rain I ventured on a second swim. Llyn Llydaw is another resting place for Excalibur. However all I saw was rain drops splashing from the waters surface and swathes of grey clouds drift in. I spent another 10 minutes in the chilly water, though the temperature didn’t seem as cold as Glaslyn. Perhaps I was still cold from my first swim? The main factor in my enjoyment of this swim was the rain and worrying about David on shore.

As I waded back on land a police helicopter flew overhead as it practiced manoeuvers. Trying to get dry and warm whilst the rain falls is a little more difficult. However I was entertained by two young men who had been inspired by my swimming escapades and had pulled off their shoes and socks and paddled in the shallows. Gasps and ohhs and ahhs followed. I couldn’t help but smile at their attempt.

Thankfully Llyn Llydaw is a 30 minute walk from the car park so after getting relatively dry we headed back to the car park for a well earned lunch. Though a little disheartened, I decided that Llyn Teyrn could wait for another day as there was no defined path and the way was steep and boggy. I’d been wet and cold enough times that day!

Have you walked The Miner’s Track? Which llyn would you have liked to swim in?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Birthday Swim 2019 – Llyn Geirionydd

It’s taken me a while to write this blog. Feeling under the weather and a bit blue with all this rain and dreary weather we have been having this November has really knocked my inspiration.

This year, for my birthday I booked two nights away to a gorgeous renovated mansion house, Plas Y Coed, part of the Penrhyn estate.

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My plans were for a few days of wild swimming in gorgeous Snowdonia. I had plumbed for Llyn Geirionydd to be my birthday swim of 2019. On the day we drove the two hours from Liverpool towards the llyn, on narrow tracks through the Gwydir Forest. We arrived at free parking and toilets. The car park wasn’t easy to find!

Between 1850 and 1919 Llyn Geirionydd was part of a lead and zinc mining area. Reputedly the home of 6th century poet Taliesin, the llyn now has been restored for modern day visitors to enjoy.

After having lunch, we donned our heavy rucksacks, (you can’t believe the amount of equipment I have to bring for a swim!) and headed towards the llyn-side. Llyn Geirionydd wasn’t as picturesque as I had hoped but I experienced a wonderful walk around the llyn, met many curious onlookers and enjoyed a chilling swim.

The swim itself was much colder than I had expected. The temperature of the water really made me gasp! I’d prepared myself for future (high altitude swims) but not this one. Over the few days away in Snowdonia, Llyn Geirionydd was the swim that made me complain the most! :p


Plas Y Coed, after falling into disrepair has been given a new lease of life following extensive renovations. This grade II listed building was built between 1863 and 1878. Originally built for the home of the Penrhyn estate manager, Captain Pennant Lloyd. It has now been developed into 12 apartments. We booked a cosy and warm one bedroom apartment through airbnb.

Have you holidayed in Snowdonia? Where did you stay?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Gummer’s How and Windermere

This June I’d organised a few nights away to the Lake District, however I had to cancel due to David being floored by a virus. Thankfully we managed to book again for September. David and I had three days of fun filled adventure.

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On the journey north we stopped off at Gummer’s How and Windermere before heading to our B&B for the two nights, Hermiston Guest House, Braithwaite.

Gummer’s How is just a short walk from the (free) Forestry Commission car park, two miles drive from Newby Bridge. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path, (steep at times) and admired the views of Windermere and surrounding fells from the 321m summit. Though the weather was overcast it remained dry and mild.

From Gummer’s How we continued on our journey along the A592 which hugs the eastern shores of Windermere. Our destination was Rayrigg Meadow car park. Surprisingly I hadn’t swam in Windermere, partly due to it being too commercial and touristy. This I wanted to address, so we parked the car and carting my bulky Dryrobe®, we took a five minute walk to the shore.

Windermere is a busy lake, much busier than the small lakes and tarns I am used too swimming. Whilst in the water with the shrouded Langdale Pikes in the distance, I was weary of speeding boats and leisurely cruisers. I kept close to the shore and watched as the boats drifted by. Due to this activity the water was choppy and I was buffeted by the wake the boats caused. That aside I enjoyed my 20 minutes in Windermere. The water temperature was around 10° but once out of the water I was kept toasty by my Dryrobe®.

Have you visited Windermere? Been on one of the cruises?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scales Tarn – Blencathra

The room we were given for our stay at Hermiston Guest House, was the compact and cosy Blencathra.

I felt this was a good omen as the next day I had planned on hiking up Blencathra to its beautiful and remote tarn, Scales.

David and I started out early and managed to get (free) roadside parking not far from the village of Scales. The weather forecast was perfect, the sun was out with a gentle breeze which grew in strength the higher we walked. As par the course we took a wrong route and had to back track to find the path towards Mousthwaite Comb.

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I knew the walk up Blencathra would be long and arduous. It took us three hours to finally get to the shores of the glacial corrie, Scales Tarn. The tarn sits some 598m high and is ringed by Sharp Edge, Tarn Crags and Hallsfell Top. From the shore we marveled as people clambered across Sharp Edge just the thought of it makes me shudder!

Tired and hungry I decided to embark on my swim and quickly stripped to my swimsuit. The entrance was rocky and shallow, and with a chilling wind that scudded across the tarn it made for a very cold swim. The water was around 8° but the wind made it feel much colder. I swam for around 15 minutes but it wasn’t the most enjoyable swim I’ve had. Once back on land and upon getting changed into dry clothes I struggled to hold my hot cup of coffee as the afterdrop struck me quite violently. It took me a while to warm up but with hot drinks, lunch and layers of clothing I managed to recover.

We were both physically tired after our five hours traipsing around my favourite mountain Blencathra, though I was thoroughly satisfied I had swam in Scales Tarn. Perhaps this success means I could attempt Red Tarn in future?

Have you walked Blencathra? Tackled Sharp Edge?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Alcock Tarn and Grey Crag

‘A dreary sheet of water named Alcock Tarn.’

Apparently Alfred Wainwright was rather disparaging of Alcock Tarn, nestled below Butter Crag east of Grasmere. Personally I enjoyed my swim in this peaceful small tarn. The views from Grey Crag were a bonus!

We managed to find a lay-by with free parking alongside the A591, and took the path behind the Swan Hotel, following signs for Alcock Tarn. The walk, though steep in parts was very picturesque. We followed a babbling Greenhead Ghyll and had luscious views of Helm Crag and Grasmere as we quickly gained height. The whole walk was beautiful, possibly attributed to the blissful weather we were lucky to have. The whole walk was a positive experience for me.

It took about an hour to get to the shores of Alcock Tarn, previously called Butter Crag Tarn. In the 1800’s Mr Alcock of Grasmere had enlarged the tarn to stock with trout! There were lots of minnows in the shallows when we set up camp.

Our arrival was welcomed by two female mallards who quickly made a beeline for us. Both came onto land and one, searching for food pecked at my toes as I got undressed. The ducks were so cute, one even sat next to David whilst I took to the waters.

The swim itself was divine. I entered the water when there was no other walkers about and had the tarn to myself, David and the two ducks. I thoroughly enjoyed the 8° waters and wish I could have stayed in longer. The wind was not as cutting as it was at Scales Tarn, Blencathra. Even though I swam through reeds they were manageable. Pipits called from the hills and peacefulness pervaded. I was in the water for about 15 minutes before I started to feel cold.

We picnicked on shore, sharing our lunch with the ducks while I warmed up. I could have stayed there all day.

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David wanted to explore the area and so we ended up walking towards Grey Crag overlooking a resplendent Grasmere with Windermere glistening in the distance. I was drunk on the colour green! The whole countryside looked vibrant in the noontime sunshine.

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Sadly it was time we retraced our steps back towards the car. The whole day was wonderful. It was the best swim/walk of the weekend. Perhaps this was due to having no expectations?

Have you visited Alcock Tarn? What are your favourite walks around Grasmere?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x