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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#walk1000miles

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Welcome to my #walk1000miles post!

This has been the first year I have participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine.

For the past 12 months, I have been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the treadmill/cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog Riley and of course holidays and days out with David! My overall mileage for 2017 has been a wonderful 1,316 miles.

In this post I will split the year up into seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

With the dawn of longer days ahead, thoughts turn to days outdoors enjoying nature and the sunshine. Highlights from walks this quarter come from much fun with smiley Riley, taking a bimble through the famous bluebells at Rannerdale, Cumbria and many woodland walks.

Total miles for the month = 332.

Summer: (June, July and August)

It’s not surprising that the long summer months were best for my mileage. However what did amaze me was that in June I tallied my highest miles of the year! I think this was due in some way to the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This wonderful incentive does certainly make you focus on getting out more and noticing the world around you. Then add the #walk1000miles challenge and you have a partnership that goes hand in hand. During the month of June and into summer David and I ventured to previously undiscovered nature reserves, enjoyed a two night break to the Lake District and went in search of art in the streets of Liverpool and Birmingham!

Total miles for the month = 382.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on the 8th October 2017. I felt kind of numb after I calculated passing the 1000 mile mark! I had not planned on completing two months early but it soon dawned on me how much of an achievement it actually was! Among the many autumn delights, were days out to Snowdonia, North Wales and attending our first ever apple festival in search of British heritage varieties.

One pattern that has come from analysing the annual mileage has been how similar both spring and autumn’s totals were.

Total miles for the month = 321.

Winter: (December, January and February)

The shorter days and darker nights mean that winter miles are the shortest of the year. However there have been a few days out. New Years Day saw David and I head towards Coniston and a visit to Banishead Quarry. A Valentine’s treat of afternoon tea at Jam beckoned in February and December is about all things Christmas!

Total miles for the month =  281

Annual Total = 1,316 miles

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook page. Through participation on this page I have had a photo published in their magazine and my story also featured as part of their website to advertise 2018’s challenge. It also took me a while to find my name featured on the ‘We Did It’ page of the January edition.

Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal has pride of place on my gym’s wall.

I’ve signed up to do it all again in 2018, and hoping to better 2017’s mileage. I would love to get to wonder-woman status of 2,000 miles, but I aim to achieve a more feasible 1,500 miles. If I manage anything more then I will be satisfied.

How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

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If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

2017 – A Year in Food (and Drink!)

I wasn’t going to do a ‘flavour’ of 2017 post. I have struggled with finding new recipes to try this year. However after looking at pictures on my phone I have come to the conclusion that I have taken enough pictures to warrant a post. So here’s a ‘taste’ of my 2017!

I hope you enjoy!

January:

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Roasted Vegetable Parcels

Roasted vegetable parcels have become a staple to our yearly menu. They are full of roasted red onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes. Wrapped up in a toasted tortilla with tomato puree and mozzarella. Served on a bed of salad leaves, they are delicious!

February:

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Blind Scouse

28th February 2017 was World Scouse Day. The celebration of all things Scouse was in it’s fifth year! I celebrated by making a blind scouse.

March: 

While David made a Victoria sponge, I was enjoying red velvet cakes and cucumber sandwiches. Part of an afternoon tea at Jam Liverpool.

April:

Another recipe I go back to time and time again is Chungah’s, one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I use bulgur wheat instead of ground beef and add a little bit more water. The result is a delicious, wholesome meal.

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One pan stuffed pepper casserole

May:

After a meltdown in the kitchen, David took up the knives and oven gloves and managed to whip up a vegetable masala, with microwaved spicy Bombay potatoes.

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Vegetable Masala

June:

A first for David and I in 2017, was attempting to make elder-flower champagne. It may have only stayed fizzy for 30 Days Wild, but it will be something we will attempt to make again next year. It made for a refreshing early summer’s drink. The whole family enjoyed it!

July:

A chippie tea from The Old Keswickian was enjoyable, especially at the lakeside of Derwentwater during our summer visit to Keswick.

August:

A three bean quinoa chilli  (picture above), recipe from oh my veggies, is so filling and makes so may servings. I literally have three bean quinoa chilli for my work lunches, five days a week!! It’s as spicy as you want. I usually put in half a teaspoon of chilli powder! It’s so full of beans and vegetables, it’s become a staple in my repertoire.

September:

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During a week off work I treated mum to a rich cream tea at Leaf, Liverpool. It was jummy!

October:

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Brown Lentil Chilli

Another staple dinner I go to when I have no idea what to cook is a Brown Lentil Chilli, from Katya on A Little Broken. I serve the meal for two with toasted tortillas.

November:

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Spicy bean and sausage casserole

Another recipe I return to is The Vegan Household’s/Gourmet Vegan, spicy butter bean and (vegan) sausage casserole. I use different sausage brands from Asda’s own to Linda McCartney, so not always vegan. However the result is always delicious and very filling!

December: 

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Mince Pies

Unfortunately the only pictures of the little mince pies I made this year were taken as part of the #7dayblackandwhitephotochallenge on Instagram. I used pre-made short crust pastry, but I think I’ll make my own next year.

So there you are, a flavour of my 2017!

Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes featured? Or my post has inspired you to try some of them!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2017

Phew! What a year!

I think 2017 has been a wonderful year for David and I! What an adventure 2017 has truly been! I will think back at all the wonderful places and sights we have seen and feel blessed we were able to share them together! Here’s my twelve pictures that sum up our 2017!

January:

2017 started with an eight mile walk around Coniston. We took a detour to visit Banishead Quarry.

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Banishead Quarry

February:

Not everything was plain sailing in 2017. We suffered five deaths in our aviary. Poor Tarn, a Blue Faced Parrot Finch was one of the hardest to bare.

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Tarn

March:

I treated mum to a special birthday afternoon tea at Liverpool’s Jam restaurant.

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April:

Riley enjoyed many walks with David and I in 2017. None more so than at the beach!

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Which way should we go?

May:

I embarked on my first wild swim of the season! Crummock Water, was choppy, chilly but exhilarating!

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Swimming in Crummock Water

June:

June was all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. Part of the month long celebration we took a trip to Claremont Farm on the Wirral to pick our own strawberries!

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Strawberry picking

July: 

July was a fun filled month. We went wildlife spotting at Mere Sand’s Wood, took a visit to Birmingham’s Big Sleuth and had a two nights stay in the Lakes. A ten mile walk around Beda Fell and Angle Tarn Pikes was exhausting!

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Angle Tarn

August:

Following in much the same vein as July, August seen many more days out. Partaking in my my first Welsh wild swim was simply outstanding!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

September:

The dawn of autumn saw David and I head towards Morecambe and Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve in search of more wildlife.

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Grey Heron

October:

I surprised myself by completing the #walk1000miles challenge some two months earlier than expected. I completed on the 8th October 2017. 1000 miles + has been walked to date!

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Walk 1000 miles medal!

November:

The only highlight of this dark, dreary month was a theatre visit to The Liverpool Empire to see the 10th Anniversary of War Horse.

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December:

December is again undoubtedly all about Christmas. This year David and I played host to family for Christmas dinner. I have to admit it’s been a very tiring month! Here’s to a more relaxing start to 2018!

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Merry Christmas

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead! Let’s make 2018 a year to remember!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

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Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

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Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

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I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

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On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

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I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

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On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

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Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Plan B!

For our most recent visit to the Lake District I had planned Wainwright walks and double lake swims. However, in reality not all plans came to fruition, but that was ok. While we were out and about in the Cumbrian hills we tweaked our plans and covered as much as we could, with the time that we had. This was no more truer than our last day in the Lakes, when instead of driving straight from our base, Hermiston Guest House to Butteremere, we lingered a while in Keswick.

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Derwent Water

Morning in Braithwaite dawned bright and crisp, a perfect autumn day. While having breakfast, we watched as clouds from the mountains drifted down to the lower valleys and lakes. We left the B&B shrouded in mist hopeful of seeing some cloud inversion over Derwent Water. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late and only captured the fierce sun burning the remaining cloud away.

Depending whether you are brave enough to face the Honister Pass or not, Buttermere is some 30-40 minutes drive from Keswick. We arrived at Butteremere around lunchtime and had difficulty in finding parking. Both National Trust car-parks were full, (due to it being a beautiful day and the Half Term holidays). Thankfully we managed to find a lay-by beside Crummock Water, though being a good 20 minute walk to the lake of Buttermere.

Plan A: I had prepared a one mile walk from Buttermere to Bleaberry Tarn via Burtness Wood, where I would take my 10th swim of the year. However we arrived at the lakeside of Buttermere around 12.30pm and with the best of the day behind us. I decided to deviate from the plan.

Plan B: To take a walk to a sheltered beach around Buttermere (eastern side), and from there embark on a swim, before lunch. I wanted to savour the sunshine as my last swim in Buttermere was cold and dreary. We passed the lone tree and as the path alongside the lake became broken with fallen trees and boggy with mud, we found a wide shingle beach with unparalleled views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

David had his lunch, while I stripped to my tankini and waded into the water. The water was warmer than Small Water the previous day. Terence clocked 12°C, but in the sunshine it felt much warmer, deceivably so.

I swam back and forth along the bank for about 20 minutes, my longest swim this year! At one point I had an audience, and another time a woman asked me what the water temperature was like! I don’t wild swim for the spectacle it creates. I do it to feel closer to nature, to the environment. Since the dawn of indoor swimming pools, wild swimming has took a step back in the nations’ psyche, but hopefully with its recent resurgence, less people will be shocked at seeing someone swimming in a lake!

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Buttermere swim

Back on land, struggling to get dry and warm, I experienced one of the worst shiver attacks I have had while wild swimming. I should have known from my Wast Water swim that being in cold water for over 15 minutes tends to affect me more, more so in autumnal temperatures! This blog post from Open Water Woman is very enlightening about the affects of cold water swimming on the body and resultant hypothermia if not adequately monitored.

Buttermere maybe my 10th and final swim of this season. If so, I have certainly ended on a high! My final swim of 2017, in one of my favourite lakes. I couldn’t have planned it any better. Sometimes plans are not meant to be followed.

Have you visited Butteremere? Been convinced to try wild swimming? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks so much for reading,

Christine x

Small Water By Haweswater

Another swim/walk was on the agenda today. This time a one hour walk from Mardale Head car park at Haweswater to Small Water. David and I visited the area in 2016 when we rushed to see the sun rise over the fells. That morning the temperature was  -7°C, today it was in double figures, around 13°C.

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Small Water

A blogger friend of mine, Sharon visited Small Water during her stay at Haweswater in 2016 and her post aided my decision to visit this tarn. Since Haweswater is a reservoir and swimming is prohibited, (though it did look inviting), I decided Small Water would be the swim of the day!

From the small car park (we were lucky to find a space), David and I followed the Nan Bield Pass which crept steeply past Mardale Beck towards Small Water. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and within an hour we were at a wide shingle beach. The area was popular with families but we managed to set up camp and when no one was about I made an attempt at a swim.

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Small Water Swim

From pictures I thought the entrance of Small Water looked inviting but unfortunately from our beach, it was very shallow. More suitable beaches were water logged. The lake should be called Shallow Water not Small Water as it took me a good few minutes to walk into any depth of water that I could squat in and push myself forwards. With walking for so long in knee deep water and with a wind (again) whipping around the valley I was frozen before I got swimming.

I swam for about 5 minutes, but I did not enjoy my time in Small Water. The water temperature was about 9°C and I floated above rocks and grasses. I would not recommend Small Water to swimmers, perhaps best for a dip during a hot summer’s day.

For the rest of the afternoon, we decided to walk back down the path to explore The Rigg at Haweswater.

Overall, we spent an enjoyable day of walking around Haweswater (and surrounding area), savouring the quietude and taking lots of pictures. There is another tarn nearby, Blea Water which is the deepest tarn in the Lake District. Perhaps it should be on my swim list for next summer? What do you think?

Have you visited Haweswater? Been to any of the tarns? What are your stories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine

Yew Tree Tarn and Tarn Hows.

Nestled next to the A593, Yew Tree Tarn is one of the most accessible tarns in the Lake District. There is a rather expensive National Trust Car park across the road, (£6.50 for four hours) or if lucky free lay-by parking alongside the tarn. David and I have past this small tarn many times, journeying from Coniston on our way north to Keswick.

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Yew Tree Tarn

I’d planned on a longer walk to Holme Fell before testing the water temperature of Yew Tree Tarn. However the walk didn’t pan out, due to time constraints and being stuck in slow moving traffic around Ambleside. It was decided that after David befriended the local Belted Galloways, I’d take a dip in Yew Tree Tarn before taking a walk around the popular Tarn Hows.

On our walk around Yew Tree Tarn we found a bench overlooking a shingle cove which was a good entrance into the water. Terence registered a cool 12°C, but it felt much colder with the wind that always seems to appear every-time I strip off to my swim-suit! I hadn’t been in the water since August (Llyn Cau), which was probably why the cold affected me. I admit my mindset wasn’t on wild swimming that day, so I cut the swim short after five minutes.

After struggling to get dry and dressed, David and I headed towards a walk around the picturesque Tarn Hows via the Glen Mary ravine and Tom Gill. If there had been more time, I probably would have been tempted to take a dip. In hindsight both tarns I think would benefit from an early morning or evening visit during summer-time.

Tarn Hows is partially man made. Three tarns (The Tarns) were joined together in the 19th Century, lending a very park-like feel to the area. In the 1920’s Beatrix Potter bought the area before selling to the National Trust. You can see why the tarn is so popular today, as the two mile low level path is ideal for all abilities. However for David and I, Tarn Hows didn’t have the special appeal such as Blea Tarn or Wast Water has. Perhaps we are being unkind?

Have you visited Tarn Hows? If so what were your thoughts? Have you been tempted to take a wild swim/dip?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #38

This week’s Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), comes mostly from the Lake District where I’ve had a wonderful few days away with David.

B&B: Yet again we stayed at Hermiston Guesthouse in Braithwaite for our two night stay. We were given the very comfortable Latrigg double room!

Birthday: This third ‘Lakes holiday’ of 2017 was a birthday treat. Phil and Helen, the proprietors of the guest house, gifted me a bottle of bucks fizz to celebrate!

Wild Swimming: Of course I planned some wild swims alongside our many walks. I spent a wonderful impromptu 20 minute swim at Buttermere! The water temperature was about 12° but in the sunshine it felt much warmer. However the shakes on shore afterwards were some of the worst I’ve experienced. It was hard to drink my hot cup of coffee!

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Buttermere

#walk1000miles: Even though I have completed the walk 1000 miles challenge, I am still counting my mileage. David and I walked a good seven miles around Haweswater where there are gates made for giants!

On returning home, among the post was my completers medal! Yay!! 😀

Derwent Water: Of course no visit to Keswick would have been complete without visiting the shores of Derwent Water. I think this picture of the Borrowdale end of the lake is among the best I’ve taken.

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Derwent Water

Tux: Unfortunately on our arrival home, we were dismayed to have had yet another death in the aviary. Poor Tux, who was our eldest owl finch, was found at the bottom of the cage. We have buried her in the yarden with her partner Troy (who died earlier this year).

I’ll finish this post with a photo of the beautiful flowers David bought me for my birthday!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x