An Introduction to Wild Swimming

via An Introduction to Wild Swimming

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I just thought I would update my Introduction to Wild Swimming post as I have recently made an addition to my swim kit, with the purchase of a tow float, affectionately named Doughnut!

Tow floats are safety devices that make the swimmer visible to other water users. They are also great for when having a rest. Instead of treading water you can just lean on the float and drift about. I even used Doughnut as a float during my most recent swim at Llyn Dinas and paddled along the shoreline.

The tow float I purchased from Lomo was relatively inexpensive at £18, inclusive of postage (other models/makes available). I purchased a small tow float (there are larger ones available), with top dry pouch to house items such as a phone or keys. I was very happy with my purchase and couldn’t wait to take it on my next swim to test it out.

That time came when we holidayed in the Lake District for a few days this June. Of course I took in a few wild swims and Doughnut’s first outing was at Stickle Tarn. The tow float has a connecting waist strap to safely connect the tow float to the swimmer. My phone remained dry within the dry pouch, but I placed it in an extra dry bag just to be on the safe side.

Doughnut has accompanied me on all my recent swims. I think it is a great addition to my wild swim kit and would suggest any newcomers to wild swimming to invest in one. It’s a relatively inexpensive visual device to keep the swimmer more safe in the water.

What are your views (if any) on tow floats?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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My First River Swim

On coming down from the mountains after my Stickle Tarn swim, it was evident that there was time for a further swim that day. So we headed the short drive back towards Elterwater. Elterwater is actually three tarns connected via the River Brathay. I read that the River was also an outflow of Elterwater. As all my swims have been in lakes and tarns, I have always wondered what a river swim would be like. I was excited to see if I could squeeze in a short river swim too.

We parked up at the Silverthwaite car park off the B5343. The car park has a number-plate recognition camera where you pay on departure. I carried my Dryrobe® along the river path towards Elterwater. The path was well maintained with wonderful views of the Great Langdale Valley. The whole area would benefit from a longer visit rather than this whistle stop tour.

At the junction where the tarn joins the river there is a decent shingle beach. This was where we set up base. I inflated Doughnut, strapped Wilson to my chest and donned my neoprene gloves and boots. I found an easy entrance into the river (not very deep) and after admiring the reeds that lined the river bank set off towards Elterwater.

I don’t know whether it was because I was swimming against the current or carrying a slight injury from my earlier fall in Stickle Ghyll, but it seemed to take forever to get to Elterwater. A couple sat and watched my slow progress as I swam into the tarn. I tried to ignore their looks but I tired easily. However I finally managed to emerge into the tarn with the Langdales in the distance. It was such a thrill to see them. Elterwater is beautiful!

I surprised myself by being in the water for longer than I thought. I managed roughly 15 minutes. After already having one swim that day and then an impromptu dip in a ghyll, I thought I would have been colder than I was. It was a cloudy and cool day with the weather closing in after the Elterwater swim. As I reached dry land, I vowed to revisit Elterwater again. A peaceful morning swim sounds bliss!

Have you visited Elterwater? Tried river swimming?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Doughnut’s First Swim!

It was the first outing of my orange tow float, and to celebrate this momentous occasion I walked 1.5 hours to Stickle Tarn, in the Langdales (and 1.5 hours back) to test it out!

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At Stickle Tarn

On a particular down day I decided that my swim kit just wasn’t complete without a tow float. I had read that COWS who swim at Derwentwater had asked swimmers to don a tow float so tourist boaters could see swimmers. For the sake of safety I decided to buy a Lomo tow float with pouch (other brands are available). It was only £19 including postage and arrived not two days after I ordered it. I was very happy with my purchase and was excited to test it out.

So when an impromptu break to the Lake District beckoned, the tow float came with me, along with a brand new Regatta rucksack. All this swim kit needs to be carried and the rucksack I had just wasn’t adequate.

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Regatta Rucksack

Our walk started from The National Trust Stickle Ghyll car park off the B5343 (nearest postcode LA22 9JX). David and I, didn’t know how long it would take to walk the route with a swim and picnic, so we paid for all day parking at £7.00. While David calibrated his steady cam I sat and enjoyed the woodland birds visiting the feeders a NT volunteer had put up. I even saw a yellowhammer but was unable to photograph it due to the poor zoom on my S6!

We followed a path from the north end of the car park. Passed a gate which traversed towards Stickle Ghyll and a path that had been stone pitched, that led steeply upwards. There were many plunge pools that looked inviting along the route.

We crossed a bridge which overlooked a hydroelectric scheme, that harnessed the power of the ghyll, from there the path steadily gained height. There were many scrambles which I wasn’t too happy about. However I manged to scale the rocks and overcame the stepping stones across the turbulent ghyll, before we took the final steps towards the tarn.

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Stickle Tarn

The summits of Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark and Pike O’ Stickle once formed the outer rim of a volcano. Many a climber has enjoyed ascending Jake’s Rake. I preferred to sink my body into cold 14°C waters. It was an ancient volcano after all!

I lasted about 15 minutes in the water before I decided to call it a day. While I looked the part, my technique let me down, with turbulent waters I struggled. The water was cold, and the wind that chopped the waters was equally as cold. I suffered badly from shivers on land afterwards. The tow float had a good swim and remained visible. Also the pouch with dry bag kept my phone dry (which I used to measure my swim), even after a capsize! David kindly filmed me swimming, the result can be seen above.

Once warmed up and had lunch we took the descent back to the car park. However we missed the boulder crossing at the ghyll and ended up looking for a way across further down. David found a site he thought was broach-able. For his long legs it was, but I failed in this leap of faith and hit the side of the ghyll. David reached for my left arm and as he kept a hold of me, to stop me from falling down the waterfall, I felt my tendons twist. I managed to climb onto dry land, having taken an impromptu dip in the ghyll. My boots were soaked and I was in the water up to my knees. I had just got dry, and now I was wet again! Add to that a throbbing wrist and I could be forgiven for giving up on the remaining plans for the day. However I did not. I fought the injury to go on a second swim that day.

I am happy to report that the remaining journey down the ghyll was uneventful. Thankfully there were free toilets at the car park and I managed to change into fresh swimwear.  I will write about about my second swim of the day in my next post.

Have you visited Stickle Tarn, or had an unexpected swim? Fallen into fast flowing water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

It Would have been Beautiful.

If I had known beforehand that Esthwaite Water was a no no for swimming, I wouldn’t have attempted it. However online searches suggested to me that it was a hidden beauty spot, thanks to Outdoor Swimmer and The Guardian! Even my go to guide, SwimmingTheLakes had swam Esthwaite Water in 2015.

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Esthwaite Water

So imagine my excitement when I donned my swimming kit and strolled out into blissfully warm waters of 19°C. The shingle beach was a welcome from scrambling over boulders and slipping on stones.

Esthwaite Water lies between the busier lakes of Windermere and Coniston and was a favourite of local champion Beatrix Potter. There’s even a car park right next to the lakeside. Perfect!

However my relationship with this tranquil lake came to an abrupt end when an angry Scotsman pulled up in a jeep and shouted aggressively, ‘get out of the water, there’s no swimming!‘ No please or thank you to be heard! To say I was shocked was an understatement!

Sadly I was only in the water for two minutes, before I retreated to shore with my tail between my legs. I did not see the no swimming signs until we pulled out of the car park. Oops!

Later research informed me that Esthwaite Water is in private hands and is a favourite for trout and pike fishing. D’oh!

So there you have it, my escapade into a forbidden lake.

Have you flouted rules, (conscious or not) to get somewhere?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_20Day 20: During our Lake District break we booked an alpaca walk with Alpacaly Ever After. Alpacas can live up to 20 years, mature around two, have only one cria (baby) and females chose when to go into labour. Their wool is oil free and fire retardant. They are grazers and roam the mountains of South America. They are predated upon by mountain lions and can run up to 30mph!

This and other information was given by our guide for the day, Ruby, however, I’ll go into more depth in a future post. At present, David is busy making a video of our experience which I can’t wait to share with you all!

The two alpacas we walked around the grounds of the Lingholm Estate were Beast and Milky Joe. I even guided Milky Joe for a dip in Derwentwater.

Have you walked alpacas? If so what was your experience of them?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Nineteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_19Day 19: Only a quick post today as we’ve just got back from a short break to The Lake District. For me, no trip to The Lake District is complete without a wild swim or two. I’ll go into more depth in later posts on the escapades from below’s swims. But for now here’s a selection of pictures from my most recent swims. Stickle Tarn, Elterwater, River Brathay and Esthwaite Water.

Have you tried wild swimming? If so what were your experiences?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eighteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_18Day 18: For today’s Close Up Monday, the animal (I believe) most synonymous with the Lake District, is the Herdwick. Their name stems from the Old Norse, Herdwyck, meaning sheep pasture. Herdwick sheep are the most hardy of Britain’s hill sheep. They can roam some 3,000ft around the central and western fells, and territoriality keep to their heaf, which is a learnéd bit of fell they graze.

Info taken from Herdy® states that, Lake District Herdwick farms are granted commoner grazing rights, which set the number of sheep on any given common by the grazing capacity of the fell.

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Herdwick Sheep

Each farm has its own way of identifying straying herdwicks. Lug marks are small notches on the sheep’s ear, whereas smit marks are coloured marks on the sheep’s fleece.

The herdwick’s body has evolved to withstand the extreme winters of the Lake District. They also have resistance to diseases and ticks. They are primarily bread for meat.

The lambs are born black, but within a year they turn brown (at this stage they are called hogglets/hoggs). After their first sheering their fleece lightens to grey.

Their grazing of heather and grass, keeps bracken and scrub under control, which in turn helps keep the Lake District look.

Their wool is best suited to carpet wool and is a good insulator.

What animal do you think is synonymous with the Lake District?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Seventeen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_17Day 17:  Today we visited Grizedale Forest. I forest bathed (Shinrin-yoku, a Japanese mindfulness medicine), felt drizzle on my face, smelt the sweet smell of Scots Pine, while birds noisily chattered in the trees.

We enjoyed many art installations along the path.

We took the trail towards Grizedale Tarn, walked six miles and spent a good three hours at the forest.

Have you visited Grizedale Forest? Enjoy forest walks?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_13Day 13: This Wednesday I had time to sit down with pen and paper and plan a wild adventure!

There’s something exiting about planning for a forthcoming trip. There’s what activities to do, sights to see, places to eat; the possibilities are endless!

This latest trip to the Lake District has been rather impromptu, (not that I’m complaining!) 😀

I don’t know about you, but I like to make a list of all the places to visit, opening times, prices (if applicable). I print out all the relevant booking information and also trail maps and an itinerary. Even if plans go awry, I like to have a back up plan re: wet weather, late arrivals etc.

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Planning a trip

My intention is to organise swim/walks, lakeside jaunts and perhaps sunset vistas (depending on the weather). So with Google at the ready I am poised to plan a really wild adventure!

Where in the Lake District do you think I should venture too?

Have you planned a wild adventure? If so where?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

High Winds and Temperatures!

The Sunday of this years Spring Bank Holiday, saw temperatures rise to the mid 20°’s. However the westerlies were gale-like and even though they were refreshing from the heat of the sun, they did knock us about a bit as we climbed though Burtness Wood and on towards Bleaberry Tarn. Bleaberry Tarn was the destination of our walk. We watched as many continued up the staircase-like steps towards Dodd and Red Pike, but David and I decided that the walk to Bleaberry Tarn was enough for us.

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Bleaberry Tarn

Our day began at 6am. A two and a half hour drive was ahead of us. Thankfully the roads were quiet and we made good timing, arriving at Buttermere around 9am. Even at that time, Buttermere was humming with walkers and day trippers alike. We found a space at the National Trust parking by the Fish Inn and paid £8 for all day parking. Then paid 30p for toilet privilege before we began our walk from the car park.

We followed the path towards Buttermere before heading right, over a bridge and left through a gate towards steep steps through Burtness Wood. The tiring two hours walk took us 497m through woodland and then over a boulder field with views from the paths overlooking a glistening Buttermere and Crummock Water.

We passed the unfortunately named outflow, Sour Milk Ghyll, the second of that name, (the first we encountered at Easdale), before we came upon a corrie surrounded by Wainwright’s, Red Pike and High Stile. There were many people enjoying a well earned rest before Bleaberry Tarn and David and I did the same. We picnicked and rested at the waterside, looking at mountains all around.

I think Bleaberry Tarn has been the smallest body of water I have swam in (to date)! Where we picnicked the water was very shallow. There was also a captive audience which I wasn’t happy about. I prefer to swim in more seclusion. We decided to walk to the western side of the tarn. From there the entrance to the water was better, less stones to scramble over and the water was deeper. From here you got swimming pretty quickly which was a godsend as the water, though 16°C felt pretty chilly.

A good two hours was spent at the tarn. I swam in clear, silky waters, floated before craggy peaks and a burning hot sun and even braved dunking my head for an underwater shot!

Our return walk took one hour. Hot and tired, David and I enjoyed an ice cream from Croft House Farm Cafe, before we struggled past cars that were parked on double yellow lines, on our way out of Buttemere and Lorton.

Bleaberry Tarn was a most enjoyable swim. The second of 2018. I wonder where my 3rd will be? Have you any ideas on where I should swim/walk next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x