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 Twenty-eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_28Day 28: For today’s 30 Days Wild, David and I, with Riley in tow took a three mile meander around Port Sunlight River Park. The weather was showery, with a light breeze. The sun was warm but not warm enough to coax butterflies from their shelter. On arrival we spotted a kestrel hunting, house martins flew over the lake and we sat and rested while listening to skylarks nesting in the scrub. I even saw a new plant, St John’s Wort which a bumblebee was enjoying.

What’s your favourite place to go nature spotting?

Thanks for reading, and 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

A Year in Books 2019 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books. My aim for 2019 was 40 books, however I managed to read 30 over the year. A combination of not so good books made this years challenge hard going. I am still plodding through the last novel of the year.

I’ll be joining in this year’s challenge and aim for 40 books again. Will you be joining in, if so how many books will you aim to read?

The Almanac (October/November/December) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I’ve not enjoyed this book and would not recommend it to others. Do you know of any better almanacs?

New York City – Lonely Planet ✩✩✩
A useful and helpful guide to the culture, food and sights of New York City. It helped me whilst planning our New York adventure last December.

The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩
The Tailor of Gloucester has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work.

I really enjoyed this tale by Beatrix Potter. It was much better than Peter Rabbit in my opinion.

The Woman at the Window – A.J. Finn ✩✩✩✩
Agoraphobic Anna Fox’s only lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

I enjoyed this book. I thought the main character was interesting and I felt engaged with the story until the end. It really made you question what was real and what was imagined. I’ve recently learned that there also has been a film made which is out later this year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy ✩✩✩✩
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.

This is a beautiful book, with touching words and sketches to ease a troubled mind.

365 Days Wild – Lucy McRobert ✩✩✩✩
365 inspirational suggestions for enjoying nature. These ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ will encourage you to fall in love with, learn about or even help wildlife and wild places near you.

If, like me you love The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild then this book is right up your alley. Filled with lots of ideas to keep wild all year round. I’d already completed many of the suggestions but there were a few I hadn’t even thought of.

The Girl at the Window – Rowan Coleman ✩✩✩✩
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and the characters both past and present were likeable. The ending was a bit contrived but the addition of Emily Brontë as a character was a nice touch. If you like supernatural stories then you’ll enjoy this book.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy ✩✩
This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana jam vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma.

This is the novel I’ve been slogging though. There are some beautifully written passages but none can detract from the boring story even if there is political unease and a family tragedy, getting to that point was long winded. I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters and can’t believe it was a Booker Prize winner! Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this novel, if you think differently let me know in the comments below.

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book that you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Thanks for following my year in books 2019. Here’s to some good reads in 2020 (hopefully)!

Christine x

#walk1000miles 2019

Walk+1000+miles+logo+2019Welcome to my third #walk1000miles post!

2019 has been the third 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, exercising the family dog, Riley and of course holidays and days out with David!

My overall mileage for 2019 has been a wonderful 1,979 miles. Beating my 2018 total, by 108 miles and my 2017 mileage by a whopping 663 miles!

As in 2018‘s post, 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)

The theme of this years #walk1000miles has been walks with friends and family. David and I also joined the RSPB which saw us taking trips to Leighton Moss and Burton Mere. All these new adventures meant I completed my 500 miles by March!

Summer: (June, July and August)

Although we didn’t have as fair a summer in 2019 as in the previous year, my miles did increase due to better walking conditions and I reached 1000 miles on June 25th. My friend Jennifer came to visit the UK for a second time and we went hiking in Snowdonia and swam in llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

Total miles for summer= 461.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

It seemed as the year progressed my mileage actually declined! Even though I had trips away to the Lake District and Snowdonia this quarter, my miles walked were pretty poor by my standards. I think I swapped the miles for wild swims as I took quite a few in September and October! 

Total miles for autumn= 457 miles.

Winter: (December, January and February)

I kick started my 2019 #walk1000miles on New Years Day, with a 10 mile walk around Derwentwater and Kewsick with Riley in tow. In December David and I took an expensive city break to New York City! Walking 73 miles in five days which greatly aided my annual mileage.

Total miles for winter = 566 miles.

Annual Total = 1,979 miles!

certificate and medalAchieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal have pride of place on my gym’s wall. However, I had hoped to make the 2000 mile mark and gain wonder woman status, but alas I’ve not reached that milestone. Short by only 21 miles. 

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, 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 2020 edition of Country walking Magazine and I also featured in the Do it for Happiness section of the pull out magazine from the February 2020 edition.

I was also proud to have my picture of the Llyn Idwal walk printed in the September 2019 edition.

80466301_2818314341565595_354988405748137984_oI’ve signed up again for the 2020 challenge, however I won’t be aiming for 2000 miles. I’ve decided to just see how far I can walk in a year and not push it. 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 me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

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

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

My Wildlife Moments of 2019

I really can’t believe that it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2019. This year was slow to start but when it began it simply snowballed! December is a month to reflect though I haven’t had much time for reflection.

Thanks to Sharon for her wildlife post, prompting me to write this blog.

Reminiscing on 2019 I had to admit there were many wildlife moments this year, none more so than the male and female sparrowhawks that seemed to have kept the pigeons away from our yarden this autumn.

In September David and I booked a relaxing badger watch at RSPB Haweswater. We saw two badgers that evening, Gremlin and Porridge. It was a welcome treat from seeing squished badgers at roadsides.

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Gremlin the badger

For 2019 I bought David and I joint membership to the RSPB, and have made full use of our membership by visiting local reserves, such as Leighton Moss and Burton Mere several times.

At Leighton Moss we fed hungry great and blue tits and spotted marsh harriers flying over the pools. In June we attended a Meet the Moths event. I got to meet a popular hawk moth and an elephant!

At Burton Mere we photographed little egrets, shoveler ducks and redshanks in the depths of winter and enjoyed a carpet of bluebells in April.

As part of our RSPB membership we also visited Conwy and South Stack reserves. At Conwy we managed to capture a rare sighting of a grey phalarope and at South Stack there were dozens of silver studded blue butterflies!

In May David and I took a day trip to Ingleton Falls. On our exploration of the falls and woodland we watched as a dipper fed her two fledglings, swimming underwater to get the freshest insects or fish. It was wonderful to watch.

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I purchased six painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, to witness the amazing spectacle of metamorphosis. I grew quite attached to my little hungry caterpillars and felt sad when they chrysalised. In two weeks I had six beautiful painted lady butterflies!

Also for 30 Days Wild I’d booked David and I on a bee experience at Samlesbury Hall. This taster session on honey bees and bee keeping made me wish I had space for a hive myself. Perhaps in the future?

Other insect highlights were common hawkers and damselflies at Brockholes and a surprise encounter with a swallowtail moth in the yarden!

To round up a mixed 30 Days Wild I chanced upon jellyfish washed up on Formby Beach.

Formby Woods was also a fabulous place to spot native red squirrels.

The summer months are always a busy time for wildlife spotting. Right outside our window we watched two gull nests and how their chicks fared. One lesser black-backed gull chick fell from its nest (high up on a chimney stack) and was heard exploring the street as he cried for his parent. Frightened the chick would be hit by a car David and I contacted a local bird rescue and found a rehabilitation home for the chick. David scooped the gull up, who we named Harald and we took him to his new home in Anfield.

In just over a week Harald was strong enough to fly and left his rehabilitation for new adventures. Good luck Harald!

For Wild October an Instagram initiative I spotted the odd fungi and also a sadly demised hedgehog.

The floral highlights this year has to be searching for the bee orchid, which I found at Port Sunlight River Park.

To complete this years round up of wildlife moments I have to include an american bird sighting, a female mockingbird which I spotted among the sparrows at The High Line, New York.

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Female Mockingbird

What have been your wildlife moments of 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

New York, New York!

Finally life is getting back to normal after David and I took a five night stay away to the city that never sleeps, New York. We booked the trip in September in the spirit of live for the moment, and in no time the holiday was upon us and David and I were jetting across the Atlantic.

We walked 73 miles down avenues and across streets. Downtown, Uptown, Harlem and Chelsea. Wandered the High Line and explored Central Park. Had a burger at Toms and waffles at a chocolate bar. Towered above the city at World One, before delving into the depths of a submarine. Fought the crowds on Fifth Avenue and marveled at the panorama from The Rockefeller. Stood in awe at the Brooklyn Bridge and went DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Reflected at the 9/11 Memorial and took a ferry ride to Staten Island. All in all we had a fabulous trip. Here’s a flavour of our holiday.

Have you visited New York? If not which attraction would you like to visit?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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