I decided to take the opportunity of getting up early to enjoy the silence of the loch and admire the views from the veranda. I took my coffee outside and stood watching the woodland birds devour the seed we had topped up the day before. There were blue, great and coal tits in abundance, nuthatches flew like bullets to peck at the peanuts and chaffinches waited patiently in the trees. It was calming to listen to the bird song and to watch the mist drift from the mountains before me.
After breakfast, David and I packed our rucksacks and headed towards Aberfoyle, and the Three Lochs Drive. A seven mile drive through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, stopping at a lochan and two lochs along the way. We decided to make a day of it!
The charge per car was £2 which was reasonable given that we spent over five hours driving, walking the trails and swimming in the lochs. Our first stop was at Lochan Reòidhte, the smallest of the three lochs, very picturesque and tranquil. We found water access besides a picnic bench, I took to the murky waters while David gave Buzz (our Mavic Mini) a stretch of its blades.
After a peaceful swim and a gentle saunter through a conifer plantation, we parked up at our second destination. The car park of Loch Drunkie, which had a toilet block. We walked along a path overlooking the loch which finally lead us towards the water’s edge. The fair weather we had that morning began to change and clouds started drifting in. Loch Drunkie, though a nice swim, was very muddy and I crawled out of the water covered in mud!
Our final destination of the drive was Loch Achray, we managed to find roadside parking and I waddled towards the beach with tow float and dry robe in hand. Access to the water was very shallow and I felt I could have walked for miles in knee high water. It was a rather disappointing swim to end the Three Lochs Drive.
Here’s the video compilation of all three swims:
Back at the cabin, we spent the evening wildlife spotting at the feeders. We spied a hungry red squirrel nibble at the peanuts and even a shy, nervous great spotted woodpecker visited.
We went to bed that night, tired but ready for another great day of touring the Trossachs the next day!
David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!
Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.
We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.
After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!
Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.
After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.
An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!
I can’t quite believe that it’s almost the end of summer. August for me is a time for mourning. Mourning the warmth, the lighter days and all the wonderful wildlife that visit my yarden. I’m not sure if others notice it, but there’s a slight shift in the angle of sunshine, a scent of autumn is carried on the wind, and in my yarden there is the scratchy call of hundreds of starlings eating their way through all the fat cakes I make. August is summer’s swan song and the song of the starling, is for me, the sound of autumn.
The month began by celebrating David’s birthday. He wanted to go to Leighton Moss to get to grips with his new camera. So we headed up the motorway and spent a peaceful couple of hours spotting birds and enjoying nature.
The wildlife highlight for me this month has been watching the visiting bat, Batty and their friend hunt around the yarden. One night Batty was particularly energetic, hunting moths and midges, turning summersaults in the air.
The other evening we were witness to a spectacular sunset. I tend to miss many sunsets but this one made the whole sky look like it was on fire!
In June I sowed a packet of wildflower seeds for 30 Days Wild. This month they are finally flowering. I have field marigold and camomile growing with a host of field poppies, that are attracting bumblebees and hoverflies.
During the evenings David and I have been watching some older TV shows, both I hadn’t seen before. We started the month with Ricky Gervais’s The Office and now getting through the seasons of Stargate SG1.
At present I am reading The Mabinogion, a set of Celtic Welsh tales, suggested to me by fellow blogger Charlotte Hoather.
All of the Dyfi Ospreys have embarked on their migration south. Safe travels my gorgeous Ystwyth, (Bobby Bach). I wish them all well on their travels. I don’t know why, but the leaving of these beautiful birds makes me feel sad. Another sign that summer is ending. 😦
On a day off work, I was cleaning the bird feeders when I saw a bird strike the kitchen window with a thud! I rushed out into the yarden and discovered a baby goldfinch lying on its back, still breathing. I scooped him up and put him in the hospital cage with the heat lamp on and a hot water bottle. Within half an hour he had perked up and was fluttering about the cage. So, to lessen the stress, David and I let him free. I hope he recovers from his collision. Fly free little one.
My August 2021 ends in spectacular fashion! The Airbnb we had booked for my birthday last year, (and which we had to cancel due to Covid-19 restrictions), luckily we managed to re-booked in April. Thankfully Covid-19 restrictions have eased and we have finally managed to get to this beautiful loch side cabin in Scotland!
Well, that was my August, with a lot of wildlife sightings! How was your August? Did you get up to any adventures?
It was David’s birthday on Monday! To celebrate the day, he wanted to visit a nature reserve to test out his new telephoto lens. So we got up early on a bright August morning and headed up the motorway to … Continue reading →
Since we are still in the grasp of a third lockdown and I am far from the Lakes, I have been musing on making a top 10 video of my favourite wild swims. It’s taken me a while to finish the video, and it has gone through a few revisions since its inception, but here it is!
I thought I would write a little paragraph about each swim and why it made it into my top 10!
10. Blea Water
Blea Water, the deepest tarn in the Lake District, at 63 metres deep, had to make an appearance in this list due to the quality of the swim. It takes just about an hours walk to the shore from the Mardale Head car park, Haweswater. There is only a small beach area in which to access the water but the peacefulness of the area is astounding. Blea Water is on the route towards High Street and is a perfect stopping place to rest and recharge.
9. Llyn Dinas
Llyn Dinas is another llyn that could very well be further up the list. Though not our first choice for a swim on a very hot August day, it quickly dispelled any disappointment with the quietude of the surroundings and the 20° waters! It was another body of water I’d swam in with lots of tiny minnows in the shallows.
8. Loch Lomond
My first Scottish wild swim! I’d planned a short break to the Scottish Highlands in 2018, with wild swimming at the core of the itinerary. The weather wasn’t kind to us, deciding to unleash a tropical storm our way, but Loch Lomond was the least wild of the swims and was a joy. With easy access from the A82, the beach I entered the loch was lovely and soft with an easy incline into the water. I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area.
One of my loves in the Lake District. Derwentater was the first lake I swam, and I have been back several times over the years. The footage in the video is from my second swim at Derwentwater, when at 9am, it was just David and I and a cool sun rising. It’s a beautiful lake to visit for a walk or swim and we will probably revisit again in the future.
6. Loch Etive
One of the best swims during a brief holiday to the Scottish Highlands. Loch Etive is a sea loch and was shrouded in low lying mist on a drizzly morning the day we visited. We hadn’t been favoured with good weather but the mist and rain added to the atmosphere of this beautiful loch.
5. Llyn Idwal
Idwal was the llyn where all this wild swimming malarkey began in 2016. On that cold winters day I stood at the shoreline and wondered what it would be like to swim there. Fast forward three years and I visited Llyn Idwal again in 2019 with a swim buddy in tow to finally swim in its mythical waters. It was a fun swim and the llyn is very popular with day trippers due to its accessibility.
4. Alcock Tarn
I have many happy memories of our visit to Alcock Tarn, that is almost made it into the top three! Two friendly ducks and a beautiful early autumn day made this swim so memorable. Nestled in beautiful, peaceful scenery above Grasmere, Alcock Tarn was one of those perfect swims. I’d definitely recommend a visit for swimmers and walkers alike.
3. Rydal Water
Rydal Water is a lake I want to return to so desperately. It may be one of the smaller lakes of the Lake District but its atmospheric charm and quaintness makes it so unique. This was the only lake where I shared the water with swans, (at a distance of course) and have visited several times with Riley. Not far from a car park and with a wonderful walk into the fells or around Grasmere, it’s a place I would definitely recommend to other swimmers and walkers.
Buttermere has always been a lake close to my heart, and it was a tough decision to put this in second place. My final swim of 2020 was at Buttermere, and it was a spectacular day! The sun was out and for an early October it was pleasantly warm. There was no wind, creating a mirror sheen on the lake that reflected the rugged mountain tops. The water was silky smooth, and the view from the water was breathtaking. It will be a swim I won’t forget in a hurry!
Of my many swims, the beauty of Glaslyn has been unparalleled. On first sight, Glaslyn took my breath away. There was the imposing peak of Snowdon mirrored in water so turquoise I’d never seen anything like it! To have this beautiful llyn all to myself while I swam in its soft waters was pure joy. All other walkers seemed to prefer the Pyg Track to the Miners that day and David and I enjoyed the peaceful tranquility.
Do you agree with my selection? What is your favourite swim of mine, or indeed your own? Let me know in the comments below.
We are well into a new year and it’s taken me a while to compile the video for our 2020, but here it is! It may not have been a year where we had rich experiences but we came out unscathed, valuing the small things in life. The joy of family and friends, of hearing the birds singing or feeling the prickle of sunlight on your skin. 2020 was definitely a year to make you think and be thankful for all that you have.
Like everyone else, here’s wishing 2021 is a more fulfilling year.
Thanks for following my blog and for your continued support!
2020 has been the fourth year I’ve participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine. For the past 12 months, I’ve been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the cross-trainer, walks to work (they’ve not been many this year!), exercising the family dog, Riley and of course holidays and days out with David!
Though 2020 has been a challenging year in itself, my overall mileage for 2020 has been 1,495 miles, only five miles from the 1,500 milestone, but some 484 miles from 2019’s total. However, I’m pleased with my tally for 2020, what with lock-downs, not working for eight months and not going on many holidays, I’m amazed I walked as much as I did!
This year I’ve also been counting the miles Riley has walked with me. My daily Riley walks have kept me sane. His grand total for 2020 is: 792! Well done Riley!
As in previous posts, I’ve split the year 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 and how it differs per season and against previous years totals.
So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!
Spring: (March, April and May)
Before the chaos that was Covid-19 and of people stock pilling the likes of toilet paper! David and I managed to go on a few day trips: the first to Grasmere, the Lake District, the second to Snowdonia, Wales. Then lock-down, part one was initiated and I was (eventually) furloughed. I made the most of the days off work and walked Riley every day.
Total miles for spring = 379. 2
Previous year totals: 2017 – 332, 2018 – 481, and 2019 – 495.
Summer: (June, July and August)
Thankfully lock-down was phased out and it felt like life was getting back to some semblance of how it used to be. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild eased David and I back out walking at local nature reserves and in July we took a day trip to the Lake District to tick off some wild swims. My swim tally this year has been abysmal! We took our one and only weekend break in August to the Lake District once again, and chose walks/lakes that I knew would be less crowded.
Total miles for summer = 384.5
Previous year totals: 2017 – 382, 2018 – 442 and 2019 – 461.
Autumn: (September, October and November)
Sadly there was talk on the wind of a second lock-down and the country was put into tiers which limited travel. David and I kept local, save for a perfect swim/walk to Buttermere with 500 miler (Proclaimer), Riley in tow. A cancelled birthday trip to Scotland was replaced with a laughter filled walk to Formby Beach.
Total miles for autumn = 348.1
Previous year totals: 2017 – 321, 2018 – 479 and 2019 – 457.
Winter: (December, January and February)
The beginning of 2020 was a bit slow adventure wise, a broken toe did little to aid walking. Daily Riley walks were the only highlight of this dark, damp season.
Total miles for winter = 383.2
Previous year totals: 2017 – 281, 2018 – 469 and 2019 – 566.
Grand Total for 2020 – 1,495miles.
Previous years totals: 2017 – 1,316, 2018 – 1,871 and 2019 – 1,979.
Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying and addictive, why not give the challenge a go yourself?
#walk1000miles also has a fun, supportive Facebook group. Through participation in this group my name was among the many others on the We Did 1000 Miles page of the January 2021 edition of Country walking Magazine.
I’ve not signed up to 2021’s challenge, however I am continuing my walking but just not counting my miles as religiously as I have in the past. Walking is such an easy, free activity, much underrated if you ask me. I will continue walking the miles I do and see how I go. How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?
If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join thousands more, walking that little bit more than they did last year!
What an unprecedented year 2020 has been! From a stormy beginning to the new year to a global pandemic the likes no one had seen in a hundred years. We were told to work from home or be furloughed. The roads were quieter and the air felt fresher for it. Then we were allowed out but it wasn’t for long as we were soon all told to stay at home, again! People lost their jobs, their homes and small businesses suffered. It has been a year of struggle and stresses untold. Every day blended into one and mental health issues took its toll. Now Christmas is upon us but there’s not much cheer to be had. This year in photos has been the hardest blog to write. How has your 2020 fared?
Our 2020 started off slowly with lots of walks with Riley. If I knew what lay ahead I would have gone on more adventures.
Our aviary welcomed a new friend in the form of Nova, a Star finch.
If I’d have known that this was the last time I’d see a live concert at the Philharmonic Hall, I would have made an effort to enjoy it more. However I was less than satisfied with this performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony.
With all the uncertainty around lock-down it was nice to escape for a while. A favourite RPG of mine which I last played in 1997, had been remade and was released in time to save lock-down.
Social distancing meant that we didn’t see family as much as we would have liked. So we had many family quiz nights to catch up and have a much needed laugh.
Sadly we had to say goodbye to Evie, the family cat who passed away aged 18.
Once Covid-19 lock-down restrictions had been relaxed, we took a day trip to The Lake District. Wild swimming at Beacon Tarn was a reset button to all the anxiety of the year.
A visit to a local sunflower maze with family was enjoyable, even though the sunflowers themselves had passed their best!
One of the best days of 2020 was when we took a visit to Buttermere in The Lake District. The weather was perfect, just like a summers day!
Like many who had plans this year, I had to cancel my birthday holiday to Scotland. I settled for a walk at Formby Beach with David and Riley instead.
During the summer, on a walk with Riley, I spotted the Google Maps car. Fast forward to the end of the year and during a search I spotted Riley, Mum and I on Google Maps!
With the country in differing Covid-19 tiers, there seems to be less hope and cheer this Christmas. Whoever you celebrate the season with, I wish you all the best.
I’m keeping everything crossed that 2021 will be a kinder year to us all!
I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!
It’s the time of year for reminiscing and after the year its been, a little dreaming will do us some good.
Last December David and I jetted over the Atlantic from Manchester to New York City. It was our first holiday abroad in over ten years, so we were a little nervous. The anxiety levels weren’t helped when our shuttle taking us to the airport was 40 minutes late and wouldn’t have arrived if David hadn’t complained! Thankfully another taxi driver stepped in and we arrived at Manchester Terminal 1 in time to check-in and get through the stressful security, which in reality wasn’t as bad as expected.
We traveled with Jet2 and the service we received I thought was decent, though being a budget airline there was no in-flight entertainment. The flight reached heights of 37,000 ft and took eight hours, which we whiled away by reading, eating a pre-booked lunch, writing about my observations and watching a Christmas film on my laptop. Looking back the eight hours flew by and before we knew it, we were looking out from the planes window onto a snowscape of Canada and north-east USA below.
The landing on American soil at Newark Airport, New Jersey was bumpy, with relieved passengers giving the pilot a round of applause as we touched down. Our first look of the New York skyline was of the Empire State building from the runway. We disembarked the plane to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York! Cheesy!
We spent another hour standing in a queue for passport control. I felt that this was the most stressful part of the whole procedure, the last hurdle to US soil. Having taken digital shots of our finger prints and mug shots I finally got a stamp in my passport and we were allowed through. We collected our luggage and went in search of a Jet2 representative who had details of our shuttle to take us to our hotel in Manhattan.
We sat for what felt like an eternity with other holiday makers in the airports lounge awaiting shuttles to take us to our hotels. Finally David’s name was called and we were on our way! Newark Airport is about an hours drive from Manhattan and it took longer than this due to driving through the heavy traffic of New York City’s roads, and watching as every other passenger was dropped off at their flash looking hotels before we arrived at ours. We were the last to be dropped off at our home for the next six nights, The Redbury.
While we were thinking of going to New York we had been looking at staying at The New Yorker but after the collapse of Thomas Cook all hotel and flight prices doubled, so we had to search for another hotel. It was the room colour scheme of The Redbury that I liked and reading about its history, being a woman’s only hotel, that clinched it for me. The hotel has its very own restaurant, Marta which is where we went after check-in.
After stuffing our face with thin crust pizza, David and I donned our winter coats and headed out for our first foray on the streets of Manhattan. We took in the night-time views of the Empire State Building. Walked along a bustling 5th Avenue, watched a light show beamed onto the building of Sacks and Co, before heading towards the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Our first night in New York was dazzling and we were eager to start on our itinerary the very next day!
After a comfortable night at The Redbury we made an early start come the morning. We walked two hours south towards the One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower, taking a pit stop at Washington Square in Greenwich Village along the way. One World Trade Centre is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776ft and we spent a good hour at the Observatory, enjoying 360° views of the city before visiting the Oculus and the 9/11 Memorial.
We found it easy to navigate around Manhattan and before we knew it we were at the terminal to the Staten Island Ferry, so we jumped on that to get free views of the Statue of Liberty.
For me the highlight of the whole vacation was seeing the Brooklyn Bridge. For years I’ve been in awe of the bridge’s history. Of the Roebling family and the tragedies that plagued them and of Emily Roebling’s determination to get the bridge completed even when the strength of the men of the family had failed. It felt like I was in a dream when I saw the mighty suspension towers draw closer as we walked towards them.
Once we’d crossed the East River we meandered around Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), and took in views of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park. David snapped a photo of the Instagrammable Manhattan Bridge, and we shared another pizza, this time at Ignazio’s. As night fell, we bathed in the lights of the city, before we headed back across the Brooklyn Bridge on our two hour walk to our hotel.
After walking a mammoth 20+ miles the day before, we were tired and sore when the next day dawned bright and crisp. However, we ended up walking just as much but instead of walking south, this time we headed north, taking in sights such as Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.
Our itinerary for the day was to visit the American Museum of Natural History, famous for being where the Night of the Museum was filmed. We spent a good few hours walking the halls of one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
For lunch we headed even further north passed w110th street towards Tom’s Restaurant, made popular by Jerry Seinfeld’s 1990’s comedy series Seinfeld. It was very busy but we were accommodated and ordered burgers and fries which sated our appetite. It was nice to just sit down for a little while as my feet and back had started to ache from all the miles we’d walked.
For the rest of the afternoon we explored Central Park.
As you can guess we never took the subway but opted to walk everywhere instead. In total we walked over 70+ miles in six days of sightseeing. Everyday we saw something different. A 9 am appointment at Top of the Rock began our next day. Though The Empire State Building is taller than the Rockefeller, the latter has better views of the former and of Central Park. We spent a good hour viewing the iconic 360° views of the city from the Rockefeller.
For the rest of the day we walked along the streets of Manhattan and souvenir shopped. We visited the 1.7 mile former railway line, The High Line, now an elevated park with art work dotted about. A spur of the moment decision saw us taking a pit stop at Max Brenner’s Coffee Bar. I really wanted a warming, restorative coffee and we ended up ordering chocolate desserts as well!
The next morning was our last full day in New York City. It was also the only day that it rained! We walked an hour, dodging the puddles towards museum and air craft carrier, The Intrepid docked at Pier 86 on the Hudson River. David was excited to visit this iconic venue as he wanted to see the space shuttle Enterprise.
After lunch at 5 Napkin Burger, we decided to walk back towards Central Park to see some of the sights we hadn’t seen previously. It was a gloomy, wet day but we managed to see The Met, The Guggenheim and The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir of Central Park before we were soaked through and called it a day.
The shuttle to take us back to Newark Airport was booked for 2 pm the following day. This didn’t leave us much time for sightseeing, so we walked up 5th Avenue, to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree one last time before relaxing in the hotel’s lounge.
The shuttle thankfully turned up on time, we were the first passengers onboard. The next two hours were a reenactment in reverse of our arrival, picking up other passengers along the way. By the time we arrived at Newark Airport night had fallen. Check-in and security went smoothly. The waiting area wasn’t very large, so we stood around for an hour waiting for the call to board. Everything seemed to go swimmingly but once we had boarded the plane and got comfortable in our seats that was when David noticed a kerfuffle with the luggage. Suitcases were taken out of the hold and then put back. The pilot informed us that there was a discrepancy with the luggage paperwork. Then the suitcases were counted by hand and this added a one hour plus delay.
We left American soil with a strong jet stream behind us, cruising at 41,000 ft at a speed of around 700 miles p/h. With no meal provided for our return journey, David and I ordered runny pot noodles to sate our hunger. Again there was no in-flight entertainment so we watched another Christmas film. The flight duration wasn’t as long as the outbound flight and as we crossed time zones back to UK’s future time, we watched as the rising sun pierced the dark horizon.
We touched down at Manchester Airport after 8.30 am, tired after a stupendous vacation to New York City! I struggled to get through an automated passport control but thankfully after a few tries it recognised my face! Our shuttle to take us home was already waiting our arrival and dropped us punctually outside our home at 10 am, to a whingey Artie who couldn’t believe his eyes on our return. Think he missed us!
I’ve really enjoyed this walk down memory lane and I hope you have too? I’ve loved sharing some of our pictures with you! Our visit to New York City seems just like a dream now. In a time where our liberties have been restricted, reminiscing about past travels will get us through the dark nights of winter. And would we go back to New York? Absolutely! There’s still so much to see and do.
Not from want of trying, I haven’t been able to link in with any of the previous Scavenger Hunts hosted by Hawthorn this year. However December’s hunts are looking a little different, posting a picture on Friday’s instead. So I’m linking in with this first Friday’s Hawthorns December Photo Hunt of: Decorations – a favourite one – was it inherited, did your kids make it or was it one you bought on a whim and love dearly?
This year, the one decoration I was looking forward to get out of storage and putting on the Christmas tree was this Statue of Liberty decoration I bought from a 5th Avenue store in Manhattan, New York City!
Looking at the smiling statue, surrounded by twinkling lights makes me reminisce on a wonderful trip David and I took last December.