A Year in Photos – 2021

I can’t quite believe it’s that time again, time to sit down and reflect on the past year. Though we have had far more freedoms than 2020, sadly Covid-19 is still hanging around and affecting daily life, be that buses not running, Asda delivery being three hours late to appointments being rescheduled. In some ways 2021 has been far more stressful than 2020, with concerns over David’s health. However, we have both tried to use our time together wisely. Like anyone’s year, we have had some ups and downs, from pet finches passing away to our boiler breaking, laughing during family games nights and silly fun during the summer in our £3 paddle pool. Below, find 12 pictures from my 2021.

January:

Our 2021 got off to a great start. Just before lockdown three was announced, David and I took a trip to Formby Beach with Riley and blew away the new year cobwebs!

riley-at-the-beach

February:

February was a slow month. Though I didn’t actively participate in Country Walking’s #walk1000miles this year, I did take daily walks. On a cold February day, I dragged a less enthused David and a more excitable Riley to our local park, Sefton to feed the coots and gulls.

feeding birds 2

March:

Though the UK was still in lockdown during March, Liverpool hosted River of Light, a trail of 11 illuminated art works dotted along the waterfront. David and I, with Riley took in some of the sculptures.

absorbed-by-light

April:

To our sadness our boiler decided to give up the ghost and broke in April. It beeped at us scarily, so we switched it off and hunted for a new one. We had had this boiler since we bought the house in 2012 and it had been used by its previous owners, so it was time for an overhaul. It took us three weeks to decided on a new replacement but ‘touch wood’ everything has been working smoothly since it’s installation.

new-boiler

May:

Eager to restart my cold water swimming season, come the Spring Bank Holiday, David and I took a two hour drive to Snowdonia, for my first swim at Llyn Gwynant!

llyn gwynant

June:

Though June is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, June for me was a very traumatic month. Five years on from helping Hoppy the pigeon, and seeing her regularly since then, we took her in a second time after noticing she had become sluggish and was having difficulty flying. We fought for two long weeks to treat Hoppy but sadly we couldn’t save her, and she quietly passed away 😥 I shed many tears for this beautiful soul. She is now resting under the honeysuckle in our yarden.

hoppy and harri

July:

I revisited the Anglican Cathedral’s art instillation of thousands of Peace Doves. Each dove had a message of love or remembrance written on it. Many of the art exhibits I’ve visited this year have had light central to their displays. From the dark days of 2020 to an emergence of light in 2021?

Peace Doves

August:

August is David’s birth month and we spent his birthday walking along the paths of RSPB Leighton Moss. We never saw the bearded tits but we did have a nice walk in nature and David tried out his new telephoto lens.

david

September:

During the Covid restrictions of 2020, I had to cancel my much awaited trip to the Trossachs. Luckily, we managed to book for 2021 and in hindsight we had much better weather! I took in over 10 swims and we watched some beautiful sunsets from the loch-side cabin. It was perfect!

sunset

October:

October is my birthday month and since it’s around Halloween, I’ve always loved this time of year. For my obligatory birthday swim, I took in the tremendously inspiring Snowdon Massif from the cold waters of Llynnay Mymbyr.

Birthday swim at Llynnau Mymbyr

November:

David and I managed to get in another short break before the end of the year, and spent a few days in the Lake District. As the weather wasn’t great on our journey north, we took in a visit to Safari Zoo and saw one of my favourite animals, the red panda!

Red Panda

December:

For the past few years I have tried to do a Christmas swim but been unable to make plans. Thankfully, this year I managed to get to a very cold, misty but beautiful Bassenthwaite Lake and have my first swim in December. It was baltic!

Christmas swim at Bassenthwaite

So that was a snapshot of my year, how has your 2021 been?

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

My First Christmas Wild Swim!

Fellow readers… I’ve finally managed to push my wild swimming season into December and have completed my first wild swim!

Christmas swim at Bassenthwaite

Since discovering the joys of wild swimming, it has been an aspiration of mine to have a Christmas swim and finally, this year, I’ve managed to achieve it, thanks to the help of David.

After all the Christmas shopping had been done, there was one weekend free before Christmas. On a cold, foggy Saturday we drove up the motorway in darkness to Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District. While most of the UK was covered in cloud, we arrived at the shores of Bassenthwaite at 9am to the sun rising golden in the east and low mist hanging seductively over the lake.

We accessed the lake at Blackstock Point where there is free parking just off the A66, though the car park is easier to get to while driving south from Cockermouth.

We walked around the edge of the lake looking for good access points. From where we made camp, the lake was very shallow and didn’t make for the best swim. I later read that Bassenthwaite Lake is only 21 metres deep, but I can attest that the water was cold. I think I need thicker gloves as my hands bore the brunt of the cold and kept clawing, so I kept the swim short. I swam for seven minutes, but maybe it should have been shorter as I am not cold water acclimatised and it took me ages to get dry and dressed! I did feel very cold after the swim and it took about half an hour to warm up (I had a hot coffee and cake afterwards), but I loved feeling the cold of the water, being surrounded by wonderful vistas, and seeing ducks and geese silhouetted in the low winter sunshine. Below is a video of my first Christmas swim, and hopefully not the last.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and hopefully a better new year than 2020 and 2021!

Thanks for your continued support.

Christine xx

My Wildlife Moments of 2021

Where has the year 2021 gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were hopefully welcoming in the new year and wishing it would be better than 2020. Though this year has been fraught with worries and more uncertainty, nature, as always has been a constant companion. A quietude among the madness of life. Here’s my wildlife moments of 2021!

I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool and the amount of wildlife that frequents my small walled, inner city terraced yarden is truly amazing. If you look closely, wildlife is everywhere and certain species herald the seasons! I know that spring is around the corner when I spy a passing chiffchaff hunting hungrily for insects in my yarden before it moves on to better pastures.

The yarden is a haven to an array of avian species; this year I managed to save a stunned baby goldfinch who recovered after 30 mintues of heat therapy. Then there is of course the male sparrowhawk who has been visiting over the autumn. The small birds may not like him, but I think he is spectacular!

One mammal that was seen frequently during the summer months in the yarden and gave me such a buzz whenever I saw him/her was Batty, the common pipistrelle (I think). Like clockwork, after sundown, Batty would appear swooping and looping as he/she hunted the midges and moths that the yarden flowers attract. Bats are fantastic!

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild this year, I made a hoverfly lagoon. Though I was not sure if it was successful, I did notice more hoverflies in the yarden than usual. So, perhaps it was.

Another insect that was a first for me this year was a four spotted chaser which I photographed at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Other highlights from a nature filled day out at Brockholes, was my first ever sighting of a common tern, a male reed bunting, Kevin the Kestrel hunting and having a dust bath, as well as an abundance of marsh orchids around the reserve.

Wildflowers have been the star of Liverpool this 2021. They sprouted in parks all over the city. Among the colourful displays was the gorgeous cosmos. Also during a walk around the city, I came across a strange flower to be growing along the sidewalk, a common flax. Not sure how that seeded itself there!

I’ve noticed recently that in my local park, a kestrel has moved in. Not sure if it’s just one or several but it’s nice so see him/her flying around when I’m standing waiting for the bus to work. I’ve also spotted a buzzard scouting the park too and one day I managed to get a photo, though sadly only on my phone.

During our wonderful week away to The Trossachs in Scotland, we spied hungry red squirrels and a great spotted woodpecker all enjoying the peanuts on the cabin feeders.

This year I’ve also been lucky enough to see some stunning sunrise and sunsets.

David and I kept our memberships with the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts’ this year and enjoyed many days out. At Burton Mere we were serenaded by a very gregarious reed warbler and photographed a bowl of spoonbills

During our visit to Leighton Moss, we saw a great white egret and there was a stand off between a dragonfly and a fly!

At Lunt Meadows, we spent half an hour with a family of swallows and I snapped a picture of a greylag goose and a black tailed godwit.

I’ve enjoyed looking back at all the wildlife I’ve been lucky enough to see? What wildlife moments of 2021 have you enjoyed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Swimming in November

Finally, I have managed to push the boundary back in terms of how long my wild swimming season lasts for. In recent years I have been wanting to see how I cope in colder temperatures. This year, I had a week off work in November, so I booked a two nights stay in our favourite Lake District B&B, Hermiston. The plan was to do a couple of swims, but where? I have sadly swam in all the accessible lakes/tarns in The Lake District and now have to gather fitness and resources to go further inland and up mountains!

Luckily, the Eskdale Valley, west of the Lakes, was a destination we had not visited before and the area seemed to be less frequented by tourists. Correct me if I am wrong! So during our stay, I planned on doing two swims. The first was Blea Tarn (the last of the three) and the second Devoke Water.

Blea Tarn:

There are three Blea Tarns, the first in the picturesque Langdale Valley, the second in Watendlath and the third in Eskdale. Eskdale’s Blea Tarn can be accessed via Beckfoot, a train station on the Ravenglass and Eskdale 15″ gauge Railway. David and I were going to park up in the station at Dalegarth but we managed to find off road parking right opposite the Beckfoot platform.

Beckfoot Crossing

After donning our backpacks, we crossed the train track and headed through a gate towards the hillside beyond. The walk only took 30 minutes, it was steep in places but not too strenuous. At the top I thought we would find Blea Water looking resplendent but we had to traipse over sphagnum moss a little further inland before the tarn appeared.

Blea Tarn

On the day the weather wasn’t very inviting, a mean wind whipped across the tarn and cloud drifted over the hills. After the restrictive swim season that was 2020, I have been desperate to just get into the water and swim. So, we quickly made camp and I stripped to my swimsuit; strapped Doughnut, my tow float to my waist and new GoPro to my chest and I was ready for a dip in chilly waters!

I had prepared myself for cold waters, but in fact Llynnau Mymbyr was much colder! I managed a 15 minute swim in Blea Tarn, though I could have swam for longer. I was weary of not being cold water aclimatised, so I stayed close to shore and had a short swim. The wind kept splashing water in my face while I gazed at the mist enshrouded hills around me. Mentally, I didn’t enjoy the swim as much as I should have, but I am glad I have managed to tick this tarn from the swim map!

Getting dry back on land was a chore with a cold wind and rain falling steadily. I think it took me as long to get dry and dressed as I did swimming! But wrapped up warmly afterwards, we headed back down the hill towards the car.

Devoke Water:

Much like during the swim at Blea Tarn the day before, the weather for the Devoke water swim was very inclement! In fact the wind was more blustery and whipped up white horses on the water!

As Devoke Water is in the same region of the Lakes as Blea Tarn, the journey from Braithwaite took just over an hour. We found roadside parking a 20 minute walk from the tarn and followed the sign post towards Devoke Water. I knew this tarn would be less popular than any other tarn I had swam in but I had thought I would have seen people on our swim/walk. However, it was just David and I who traipsed the unremarkable path towards the tarn, then tramped though marshy, wet land to a windy swim.

Devoke Water

We made camp and I took to the waters with the same enthusiasm and a little bit of nervousness I have for all of my swims. Despite the wind being raucous and throwing water into my face, I really enjoyed this swim, the wind was cold but the water wasn’t so bad. I swam for about 15-20 minutes! The scenery around Devoke Water is as bleak as it gets but occasionally there were shafts of sunlight piercing through the clouds. It’s definitely a tarn I would visit again.

Have you visited any of these tarns?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My November

Happy holidays! I’m a bit late in writing this round up of my November. In some ways 2021’s November has been a short month, I’ve enjoyed getting all festive and planning Christmas and also David and I took a short break to the Lakes mid month. We also visited a zoo, something which we haven’t done in a few years, it was one activity that cemented our relationship. Here’s what I’ve been up to this month.

With the long, dark chilly nights drawing in, I’ve been catching up on some TV shows. The new season of Dexter is meeting expectations and the new series of Shetland is as compelling as usual.

Bill

Sadly our aviary had another death. This time it was Bill, the silverbill who passed away. He survived his mate Silvie by two months. I was saddened by Bill’s loss as he was such a loving, friendly little chap. Fly free little one!

During our short break to the Lake District David and I took in a visit to Safari Zoo, which used to be South Lakes Zoo before all the turmoil regarding the owner and malpractice. We spent a leisurely three hours walking around the enclosures. My favourites by far were the Giant Otters and Red Pandas, of course!

The main reason for heading back up to the Lakes was to extend my wild swimming season into November. I assumed that the water would have been colder than my birthday swim in October where I swam in Llynnau Mymbyr, but sadly the water wasn’t breath taking as it was in Wales, although the wind was! The tarns I swam in were Eskdale’s Blea Tarn and Devoke Water, both remote and atmospheric.

The remainder of November was all about looking forward to the festive season. Mid month, I put up my Christmas tree for some much needed cheer and ordered a new wreath for the front door as the old one had given up the ghost. I love buying presents for all our fur babies, and couldn’t resist in purchasing another Christmas jumper for Riley to wear. Doesn’t he look cute?!

What are you most looking forward to during the festive period?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

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

My August

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?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x