Touring the Trossachs – Day Five.

Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.

The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.

During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?

Perhaps I can do a birthday swim in October?

Where would you like to see me swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My September

I’m not much of a fan of September. I don’t particularly like the encroachment of the darker mornings and evenings and I still have echoes of the dreaded ‘going back to school’ feeling, even though I am in my 40’s! The beautiful season of autumn as the leaves change colour is no consolation. September has been a mixed bag for David and I, but oh boy how fast it has gone! I can’t quite believe I’m writing this review!

At the beginning of September, David and I were in the middle of our holiday to the Trossachs in Scotland. I had many swims, including a sunrise, sunset, afternoon and even a night time swim at Loch Venachar and also visited the chilly waters of Loch Chon, Lubnaig, Earn and Katrine. It was a fab holiday! 😁

Our cabin for the week in Scotland had a feeding station and not only woodland birds visited but red squirrels and even a shy great spotted woodpecker!

The aviary saw the sad passing of our female silverbill, Silvie. It was a shock as Silvie had been in good health previously. I feel sorry for Bill her partner, singing all alone. 😪

September is the month we got Artie, he was a big seven this year! We celebrated by buying him a new cat tower.

One mid September weekend turned out pretty bad for our wild bird rehabilitation. We picked up two birds, who were sadly too far gone to be helped. All we could give was palliative care. We took in a pigeon who was so weak and diseased with canker that she only lasted one night. The next day we picked up a poor goldfinch who was so ill, he only lasted a few hours and passed away in David’s hands. Our only solace was that both were safe in our home, and not left vulnerable outside.

This September I have been enjoying watching some TV. I am a big fan of Silent Witness, so I am busy catching up on the new series. While visiting my mum, we are enjoying A House Through Time, which is more a social history lesson, but so interesting!

Since I am back working five days a week and my hours have changed I am doing a lot more reading while on the long commute. This month I have read the Agatha Christie thriller, Witness for the Prosecution, and have now started Libby Page’s The Island Home.

To cheer up a wet and cold end to September, here’s a picture of a cosmos, there are many of these growing around work which does lift the spirits.

How has your September been?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day Four.

A very different morning dawned on our fourth day in the Trossachs. Our weather apps had been accurate all through our holiday and this morning we weren’t surprised when a low cloud with drizzle hung over the hills. It was a chilly day, with morning temperatures reaching just 14°.

We had two swims planned this morning and I don’t think the weather detracted from the beauty of either loch. However, neither plan seemed to work out as organised.

We arrived at Loch Lubnaig with the sound of screaming teenagers piercing the air. We had sadly chosen the wrong car park to park in (pay and display) and a group of young adults in their underwear were bracing the chilled waters of the loch, but not very quietly! I had been looking forward to swimming in this loch but perhaps I should have not had a lie in and arrived much earlier? I made the most of the situation and managed a 10 minute swim, even if it wasn’t as peaceful as I had hoped!

We quickly departed Loch Lubnaig and drove a little further north towards Loch Earn. I was hoping to swim from The Four Seasons statue by Rob Mulholland, or Mirror Man. Though, again I was thwarted as I couldn’t find this mirrored sculpture. 😦 Slightly subdued I told David to turn around. I feared I wouldn’t get a swim in Loch Earn. However, we did finally manage to find parking a little further up the road, though it seemed popular with fishermen!

Just like Loch Lubnaig, I was determined to swim whatever the cost, so we made camp on a little shingle peninsula and I quickly took to the water. I managed a cold 15 minute swim in Loch Earn which was very choppy due to the wind. It was the coldest, stormiest swim of the holiday.

We retreated back towards the safe, warm confines of our cabin, where I had a warm shower and we had lunch. Since it was just after 1pm we headed into the Invertrossachs Forest (a privately owned wood) for a casual walk. We walked from the Invertrossachs car park and followed our Google Maps/GPs towards the end of the path where we stopped and admired the view of Loch Venachar. There was a hidden lochan in the woods, but with no path to be found, we retraced our steps back to the cabin.

During our walk the weather brightened up. The clouds parted and the warm sun shone down. It was a lovely afternoon, which we decided to enjoy back on the shore of Loch Venachar. Sadly we didn’t take our cameras with us so I have no footage of David finally biting the bullet and submerging himself in the cool waters. The waters of Loch Venachar weren’t as warm as the day before, but it was much quieter on shore. As there was no one around, David, coaxed by myself, waded slowly into the shallows, the minnows nibbling at his feet. David was brave and with much encouragement, submerged his body under water. He growled as the cold water touched his skin. He held doughnut (tow float) and floated in the shallows. I was proud of him and happy that he had tried something that I love. Well done David!

Back at the cabin, after dinner we watched as the sun set. I had planned on a sunset swim and in the end it became a mad dash to get to the water before the sun set behind the mountains. I think in the end, we managed it and got some lovely shots. It was another wonderful experience. I think our holiday at Loch Venachar will stay with me for a very long time.

After the sun set, we headed back to the cabin. I had another shower and we settled down for our last night in Scotland. What an amazing week it had been!

Have you visited Loch Lubnaig or Loch Earn? Did you see the Mirror Man?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day Three.

The hottest day of the holiday dawned on the Wednesday, 1st September, and another long day was planned. Since we had 24 hour access to Loch Venachar, I was itching to make the most of this and planned a sunrise swim. We crawled sleepy eyed out of bed at 5.50am and watched as mist drifted down from the hills. The water was still and it looked like a peaceful sunrise was going to take place. So, I wriggled into a swimsuit and David snatched his cameras and we headed down towards the quiet loch. The air temperature was only 7° but the water felt warmer. It was a wonderful way to wake up!

After breakfast, David and I headed towards RSPB Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond. We passed Lochs Ard and Chon and I debated which one to swim in. As we passed Loch Arklet with it’s scenic views of the Arrochar Alps, I would have plumped for that one, but being unable to find adequate parking, I decided to leave that loch for another holiday. 😛 We left the car at Inversnaid Hotel car park and walked a part of the Highland Way through Atlantic Oak woodland. We didn’t see much wildlife, save for a lost, discarded fish, sign an osprey had been around!

At lunch time we found car parking for Loch Chon which I’d decided was going to be the swim of the day. The loch was very quiet and picturesque and researching afterwards, I discovered that this loch is fabled to have the worlds largest population of faeries! I think on this day, all were sheltering from the hot midday sun!

We set up camp at a shingle beach. The water was warm and deep, and it didn’t take much time to dry afterwards. In the shallows were tiny minows and darting along the water lilies were giant dragonflies (or were they faeries?). It was beautiful, and I could have stayed there all day, but David dislikes the heat, so we packed up our picnic and headed for the relative shade of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

We paid £3 for all day parking, though we were only there an hour. We had come to walk the white trail and to see Vestige or the Mirror Men by Rob Mulholland. These six figures of men and women made of polished stainless steel merge ethereal-like into the woodland around it. I was however, slightly underwhelmed, but we had fun lounging in hammocks and sitting on toadstools as we walked the trail.

Having done all we had planned to do that day, we arrived back at the cabin by 3pm, and found that we still had time to head down to the beach of Loch Venachar and enjoy a bit of sunbathing. David finally got his shoes and socks off and went for a paddle, while I succumbed to the water and had another swim.

In the evening, over dinner of an M&S curry, we watched the sun set before heading back out one final time for a night time swim. As I took to the water with doughnut (my tow float) lit up with a torch, bats swooped around the shore feasting on moths. The air was still and the darkness slowly crept in. I’d never had a night time swim before and it was eerie to wade into dark waters unknowing what was below or ahead of me. It was a magical moment.

Have you ever done a night time swim?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day Two.

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!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day One.

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!

Loch Venechar

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!

Have you holidayed in the Trossachs?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Here Lies Excalibur!

Llyn Ogwen wasn’t the first choice for a swim on our most recent trip to Wales. I had planned on swimming in Llynnau Mymbyr but on the day, as we drove passed Llynnau Mymbyr there were lots of people about on bikes and in the llyn itself there were canoes and large pink inflatable buoys! I later found out that there was a snowman triathlon happening at Capel Curig, of which there were 750m of open water swimming, 31km of road cycling and 6.1km multi terrain running. I didn’t really want to be swimming with a load of other swimmers and dodging large inflatable buoys, so we quickly ditched the day’s plan and headed to another llyn I had yet to swim in. We headed for Llyn Ogwen, a llyn I had visited on multiple occasions, most notable in 2017 when we walked all around it’s rugged footpath but had not graced it’s waters.

Just like many places in Snowdonia, Llyn Ogwen has ties with the mythology of King Arthur. Llyn Ogwen is presumed to be the llyn where Sir Bedivere cast Excalibur into after Arthur’s death. Indeed in 2017 a team of NT rangers noticed something buried in mud during work maintaining the paths. After excavation it was found to be that of a sword, dating from the 6th Century, coinciding with the time of King Arthur!

After dodging a stream of triathlon bikes, we arrived at parking near Llyn Ogwen at a very reasonable £3 for four hours and then made the short journey across the road to the rocky shore of the llyn. The July heatwave had dissipated and the water was fresh and cold. Since David had been struggling with a chest infection for weeks, it was only a quick swim. Indeed the whole adventure to Wales was short and sweet, but I aim to get back to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr sooner, rather than later.

Have you visited Llyn Ogwen or the surrounding area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My July

Where is the year 2021 going? We are now in August and I have very little to show for it! Time seems to be slipping through my fingers at an unimaginable speed! It’ll soon be Christmas at this rate! :p

This month has been all about positive covid-19 tests, thankfully not mine, though it feels like I am running the gauntlet and it’s only a matter of time before I catch it! All covid regulations in England were relaxed in July, it seems to be the case of just get on with it now!

My July began by taking another trip to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to see the Peace Doves with mum. I think she was a little underwhelmed but we visited on a weekday morning and got to see the art installation before anyone else managed to get in the photos!

July was all about the heatwave! Just over a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures in the NW reaching 32°C. Sadly, I didn’t go on any adventures due to a member of the family being ill, but I made the most of staying local by visiting Sefton Park with Riley and Pickerings Pasture, which was full of fluttering meadow brown butterflies.

During this short heatwave, water was vital for all wildlife and after purchasing a £3 paddling pool from Asda for Steven, the herring gull, he wasn’t the only one to be seen having a pool party! The pigeons, starlings and even I, had to have a cool down in these hot temperatures!

After a month of rehabilitation, David and I released Harri. He had grown stronger during his stay with us and managed to eat by himself. Near the end of his stay he was getting a little stressed at being constrained. So the best decision we could make was to release him back to his flock and hope that he gets on ok. On his release it didn’t take him long to come out of the cage and fly up to the roof top. Good luck Harri. It’s up to you now!

Update on Harri: he has been seen visiting the yarden a couple of days after his release! Flying and eating well!

The Dyfi Project osprey chicks I have been following on YouTube, fledged in July. Ystwyth (Bobby Bach) was the last chick to fledge and I watched on a Saturday morning her first flight. It was very emotional and I have to admit I cried. They will remain in the area until they migrate to warmer climes end of August!

No sooner had we released Harri when David caught a lost racing pigeon, who he named Hercules as he was twice the size of the feral pigeons. David contacted The Royal Pigeon Racing Association and registered the number of the lost pigeon. The result came back as his owner was from Birmingham and David contacted him. David found out that Hercules was flying from Guernsey and overshot Birmingham by 100 miles! (I blame Storm Evert). However the lure of our yarden was too much not to visit for Hercules and he enjoyed a few days with the resident Scouse ladies. David and I released Hercules and hope that he makes his way back home! Safe journey Hercules.

David has also caught another sick pigeon. This time one with canker. Idris has been given medication and is being crop fed twice daily. We just hope that we have caught the infection in time. Fingers crossed.

On the final Saturday of July David and I had a short adventure to Snowdonia. We had intended on visiting Llynnau Mymbyr but there was a triathlon going on so we had to quickly change plans and headed to Llyn Ogwen instead for a very chilly and rainy swim!

That was my July, how was yours? Did you enjoy the hot weather or kept to the shade?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Spread the Word Not the Weed

This Spring Bank Holiday, an adventure happened!

It had been eight months since I was in the water and was ecstatic when David suggested a day out on the recent bank holiday. ‘Yes please’! I said. I was desperate for an adventure and feeling very stuck in a rut due to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. I never thought I would leave the city again!

David and I quickly slipped back into adventure mode. We got up at 6am, a beautiful day was already awaiting us. We drove two hours to Snowdonia, Wales. I was fearful that we wouldn’t get parking as I assumed (and rightly so) that lots of people would flock towards Wales due to the holiday and the lovely weather. Thankfully, all went to plan. It was like the days of old when David and I headed, carefree to the countryside to swim, walk or explore.

I had already decided, weeks in advance where I wanted my first wild swim of 2021 to be. Last March, before lockdown One, David and I had taken a similar trip to Snowdonia in the hope of starting off my wild swim season of 2020, however on the day the weather was against me and I had to make do with sightseeing and photographing these beauty spots.

I’d first visited the shores of Llyn Gwynant in 2016 and since then I had been eager to swim there. It’s taken me almost five years for that wish to become a reality.

I must admit I had butterflies in my tummy on pulling up alongside the llyn. I hadn’t swam in such a long time and worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with the temperatures or the audience. Thankfully, I clenched my teeth and said, ‘let’s do this!’ I wished in 2020 that I had taken the opportunity to swim in this beautiful place before travel to Wales was restricted, I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers again. With the mournful call of a cuckoo singing from the hills, David and I sauntered towards the shoreline where two tents had been put up illegally. I wasn’t going to let them deter me, so I quickly made camp and got my swim paraphernalia ready.

The entrance to the llyn was relatively easy, no clambering over rocks thankfully. I just waded in slowly, getting used to the cool waters. I was waist deep in water when I decided to push out and commit to the swim. I was in the water for around 15 minutes. I couldn’t tell the temperature as Terence my thermometer broke in 2019 and the replacement I ordered never arrived. 😦 I surmised around 14 degrees. The water was crystal clear and little minnows jumped for joy in the shallows. I would have jumped for joy too if there wasn’t so many tourists around! I swam about, admiring the elephant rock where intrepid divers jump from. I didn’t stray too far from the shore as I was out of practice and fitness. I enjoyed my time at Llyn Gwynant and so glad I managed to get to swim there, eventually!

Llyn Padarn was another llyn I had visited several times over the years and had not been able to capitalise upon. However the swim at Padarn was a very different experience to that of Gwynant.

A campaign was launched a few years ago by the Outdoor Swimming Society to remind swimmers to ‘spread the word not the weed.’ Swimmers were asked to be diligent in the cleaning of their equipment and clothes when going on swims, as small pieces of vegetation could hitch a ride into more cleaner waters and contaminate them. One such weed, New Zealand pygmyweed has been a scourge in the Lake District. This non native, invasive plant outgrows native aquatic plants and also depletes the oxygen levels in the water causing wildlife to die. The advice regarding #spreadthewordnottheweed is that if you are planning to do more than one swim, then to swim in the order of cleanest waters first and to make sure that all equipment is washed and dried for the next swim. These simple measures can help in the control of the spread of invasive organisms.

With this in mind we headed towards Llyn Padarn which at 11am on a sunny bank holiday was already teaming with holidaymakers and day trippers. I had never seen so many people enjoying the water. There were swimmers, paddle-boarders and canoeists. With the same determined mindset as Gwynant we headed towards the pier and waited for a quiet moment to enter the water. While I got prepared and dressed into a new swimsuit, David took pictures of cute cygnets.

The swim at Padarn reminded me of Coniston. It wasn’t the most enjoyable swim and when I noticed the murky, brown hue of the water I knew this was dirtier than Gwynant. Indeed the water had a very discernible pond aroma. Not very pleasant to tell the truth. I swam about for another 15 minutes but I was glad when I managed to scramble out from the pier. I was able to tick this llyn off my Snowdonia wild swim map but I doubt I’ll be returning.

It may have seemed that the day ended on a down but in reality I was buoyant with being back in the water after such a long time. I hope that it won’t be too long before I am in the water again – and until then…

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My May

May 2021 has been another rather uneventful month. The weather has been horrendous, cold and wet for most, and the warm weather we have hoped for has been very sporadic.

It was our houseiversary last week. 9 years of having the keys to our lovely home! I still remember the moment I got the call to come and collect the keys to the house on the 25th. It was a hot, sunny May day in 2012. 2012 had been quite a year for me! David picked me up from my then work at the University of Liverpool before heading down to the Dock Road to collect the keys. We got home and opened the front door and stood in shock. ‘What do we do now!’ we thought. Buying a home can sometimes be rather anticlimactic but then a further year and a half of demolishing walls, an outhouse, getting a new roof and exterior doors is hard work! However it is all worth it in the end when you come home after a hard days work to your loved ones and fur/feather babies. I love my home and the life I have made with David! Long may it continue!

Last year before Covid struck and lockdowns were galore, Peter Walker’s Peace Doves were planned to be installed at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. I was excited to see this beautiful art installation of thousands of paper doves with messages of hope and love written on them, suspended from the vaulted ceiling. Then the exhibition was cancelled due to Covid. However there is light at the end of the tunnel. The night doesn’t last forever! This May it was announced that the Peace Doves were once again coming to Liverpool. One negative of Covid’s social distancing is that it has taken away all the spontaneity out of life, one now has to book before going anywhere. Gone were the days when you just woke up and felt like going the zoo. You now have to plan/book days in advance! Anyway, (rant over) I did mange to book tickets to see these Peace Doves. The installation was beautiful and quite moving.

The book I am reading this month, (or trying to read) is Davie Goulson’s The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet.

Which ties in nicely with the plants I have bought for the yarden. There were a few casualties during winter so I managed to purchase another salvia and forget-me-not plant to add to my spring flowering plants.

David and I have been watching a few films this month, most notably my favourite trilogy (save for The Lord of the Rings), How to Train your Dragon! I just love the friendship of Hiccup and Toothless. Who doesn’t love Toothless?

I have also caught up with the second season of ITV’s Innocent. The second series is based in Keswick with lovely panoramas of Derwentwater.

David managed to rescue three pigeons in one evening a few weekends ago. He captured and released one which had string around its feet and then quickly took in another two. One ailed sadly and passed away two days after but the second we managed to treat for canker and mites and she was so feisty that she had to be released and for the past few weeks now she has been visiting the yarden daily. It’s so nice to be able to help wildlife once in a while.

In the quite moments of life, I’ve been following an osprey webcam from the Dyfi Osprey Project. It’s quite stressful watching a wildlife cam, you invest so much emotion into it, however it’s been a privilege to follow the ups and downs of this osprey nest of Telyn and Idris as they raise their two young. Good luck to the two bobs!

Surprisingly, an adventure happened at the end of an uneventful May! The Spring Bank Holiday brought with it some lovely warm temperatures of over 23°C and David suggested we go on a day out. I had already decided where I wanted my first swim of 2021 to be and so on the 30th we were up at 6am on a beautiful clear, warm day and headed towards Snowdonia, Wales. We stopped off at two llyns during the day, Gwynant was my first swim of the year and Padarn the second!

May has been a quiet month, how’s your’s been?

Take care,

Christine x