The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

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Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x

No Room at the Car Park…

No matter how much you plan a day out, even after getting up at 5.30am and driving for two hours, sometimes things just don’t go to plan. That was what happened to David and I recently, as we ventured to Pen-y-Pass car park, Snowdonia.

The plan was to walk the Miner’s Track to Snowdon and take in three swims, Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn. However on arrival at 8am, staff were putting out orange bollards with signs saying full! Other car parks along the A4086 were also full. We were not the only disappointed visitors that day. There were many cars trying to park on verges as we drove to a new destination.

I had to think fast. Perhaps I should have suggested Idwal and Ogwen, (still llyns I’ve not swam in), but I thought the Idwal car park would be just as busy as Pen-y-Pass. So I decided we should drive on towards Llyn Dinas and see if there was any available car park spaces. There was! We paid £2.50 for the privilege of four hours. In hindsight we could have had free car parking further up the road, but we were going by my memory and that’s not the best at any time.

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Llyn Dinas

From the car park there were free toilets, only one for women, (be prepared to queue), the men fared better. We then walked south west along the A498 towards Llyn Dinas. Llyn Dinas boasts an all accessible pathway but that was further up the road and I had no map. There were many accessible routes from the road to the llyn but none with a good lake-shore until I found a site with a wide shingle beach. Not totally secluded but closest to, we decided to make this our camp.

Llyn Dinas is named after the nearby hill fort Dinas Emrys, which has mythical connections to the Arthurian figure Merlin. Merlin is reputed to have been recruited by king Vortigern who having fled the Anglo-Saxons was constructing a fort. Vortigern asked Merlin ‘why after building the fort would the construction come crashing down the next day’.

Merlin said that there were ‘two dragons or vermes who lived in a pool’ where the fort was being erected. It was they who destroyed the building. Once the dragons were freed the fort was constructed. In 1954 and 1956 the area was excavated by Archaeologist, Dr H. N. Savory who indeed discovered a pool inside the fort. Whether the myth has some foundation is debatable. Vortigern himself was supposed to have hidden the Throne of Britain beneath a stone at Llyn Dinas. Though this story seems to tally with a stone that was set to mark the boundary between three land cantrefi or borders.

On my swim I did not meet any dragons nor many people. The llyn was peaceful at 9am. The sun was warm and the water notched 20-22°C. It was the warmest wild swim I had ever experienced. I stayed in the water over half and hour and in hindsight I could have stayed in longer. I emerged from the water before the canoeists arrived. It was a most pleasurable swim.

I don’t seem to be as successful with my Welsh swims as I have been with my Lake District swims. There are so many llyns I have not attempted yet. Perhaps when the weather gets cooler I can reattempt the Miner’s Track?

Have you traversed the Miner’s Track to Snowdon? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My First River Swim

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

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

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

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

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

Have you visited Elterwater? Tried river swimming?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Doughnut’s First Swim!

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

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At Stickle Tarn

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

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

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Regatta Rucksack

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

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

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

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Stickle Tarn

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-four

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: Today we visited Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve, Congleton. This small nature reserve has a lake and a one mile circular walk through woodland, heath and grassland, which is popular with dog walkers. There is also a visitor centre. The car park charge was £2 for up to three hours, or £3 for all day. I was slightly saddened that nature sightings weren’t very high but there were butterflies and damsels fluttering over the many spotted orchids in a wildflower meadow.

We did spot a striking broad bodied chaser, a species neither of us had seen before.

Have you visited Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve? Have something like it near you?

Thanks for reading and stay wild!

Christine x

High Winds and Temperatures!

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

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Bleaberry Tarn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Small Water By Haweswater

Another swim/walk was on the agenda today. This time a one hour walk from Mardale Head car park at Haweswater to Small Water. David and I visited the area in 2016 when we rushed to see the sun rise over the fells. That morning the temperature was  -7°C, today it was in double figures, around 13°C.

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Small Water

A blogger friend of mine, Sharon visited Small Water during her stay at Haweswater in 2016 and her post aided my decision to visit this tarn. Since Haweswater is a reservoir and swimming is prohibited, (though it did look inviting), I decided Small Water would be the swim of the day!

From the small car park (we were lucky to find a space), David and I followed the Nan Bield Pass which crept steeply past Mardale Beck towards Small Water. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and within an hour we were at a wide shingle beach. The area was popular with families but we managed to set up camp and when no one was about I made an attempt at a swim.

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Small Water Swim

From pictures I thought the entrance of Small Water looked inviting but unfortunately from our beach, it was very shallow. More suitable beaches were water logged. The lake should be called Shallow Water not Small Water as it took me a good few minutes to walk into any depth of water that I could squat in and push myself forwards. With walking for so long in knee deep water and with a wind (again) whipping around the valley I was frozen before I got swimming.

I swam for about 5 minutes, but I did not enjoy my time in Small Water. The water temperature was about 9°C and I floated above rocks and grasses. I would not recommend Small Water to swimmers, perhaps best for a dip during a hot summer’s day.

For the rest of the afternoon, we decided to walk back down the path to explore The Rigg at Haweswater.

Overall, we spent an enjoyable day of walking around Haweswater (and surrounding area), savouring the quietude and taking lots of pictures. There is another tarn nearby, Blea Water which is the deepest tarn in the Lake District. Perhaps it should be on my swim list for next summer? What do you think?

Have you visited Haweswater? Been to any of the tarns? What are your stories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine

It Could Have Been So Much Better… But..

…it was a poorly planned day out!

This weekend, David and I decided to go on another Welsh adventure, but we did not give much thought, as to where the adventure should be. I suggested forest walks and lakeside jaunts, with the possibility of a swim. In the end, we decided on visiting Llyn Ogwen. I saw it as an opportunity to revisit Llyn Idwal, the place where my wild swimming bug originated.

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Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan

However, before sunrise, the alarm sounded at 6am. I dragged a feverish body out of bed. My throat, though not sore felt irritated. I didn’t feel 100%. As I made a quick breakfast I debated with myself whether to go out or not. I decided on the former, as I knew I would just been sitting at home feeling sorry for myself otherwise.

Come 7am David and I had hit the road heading for the A55 and the Llyn Idwal car park (postcode LL57 3LZ). We arrived just before 9am and paid £5 for all day parking. We crossed the A5 towards a National Trust sign Carneddau. This was the beginning of our circular walk around Llyn Ogwen.

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Llyn Ogwen walk

It would have been beneficial if we had 1. read the itinerary of the walk and 2. printed out the map, but we did neither. So come the beginning of the trail and finding the path littered with boulders was a bit of a surprise. If I had know the walk of two+ hours was going to be spent clambering over boulders and sinking my feet into muddy, sodden heath-land I would have chosen a different walk. I am not very happy climbing. I prefer a walk where there’s not much scrambling but we decided to plow on nether the less.

Though we did have nice views of Tryfan, (part of the Glyderau), there didn’t seem to be any decent shores in which to access to the lake. Legend says that Llyn Ogwen is the final resting place of Excalibur. Though having read that the lake is only 6ft deep, I have reservations on believing this tale!

We continued to stumble our way along a path that at times was none existent.

And then the rain decided to make a show.

We followed way-markers sign posted slate walk and thankfully the remainder of the walk took us along the A5. At last, flat ground! With being soaked to the skin, feet sodden with mud and feeling under the weather! We decided to take lunch in the car and see how I felt.

The weather did not seem to abate nor did my temperature. So we decided to forego visiting Llyn Idwal and a swim in either lake and made our way back home.

Though I wish I had managed a swim, I am grateful we got out for a walk. Perhaps next year in better weather we can revisit this area again.

Have you visited his area? Or had to postpone a trip due to ill health? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

RSPB – Leighton Moss

LOW RES Leighton Moss map

Itching to go out walking again, I was looking for ideas for places to go to this weekend. I don’t know why but sightings of bearded tits at RSPB Leighton Moss popped up on my Facebook wall. So I decided to look at their website and planned on taking a few hours walking along their trails of woodland and reed-bed habitats.

Leighton Moss is the largest reed-bed in the NW of England. They have breeding bitterns and is the only home to bearded tits in the region.

We visited after a 1.5h drive, on a cloudy mid-September afternoon. Unfortunately too late to see the bearded tits on the grit feeders. However we did manage to see plenty of other wildlife, predominantly garden and woodland birds.

Among the many feeding stations we passed, we managed to spot hungry blue, great and long tail tits. A friendly robin sang to us for food but we had none. There were many chaffinches having squabbles, but the stars of the day (for us) was a small marsh tit and surprisingly bold nuthatches!

We also saw goldcrests flittering about the trees, but they were so fast that David couldn’t get a picture! Maybe, one day!

Leighton Moss has many walking trails to choose from. David and I did them all save the salt-marshes as they were not on the main reserve. For the three hours we were there, we put in a reasonable four miles of walking.

We stopped for lunch at a bench on the Causeway path, and watched as house martins swooped overhead and red and blue dragonflies darted about. Even the odd speckled wood butterfly made an appearance.

Of the many hides on the reserve I was very impressed with Lilian’s hide. It looked newly made and was very spacious, with bowed windows looking out towards the reed-beds and comfy seating. David snapped a good photo from here of a grey heron.

Not far from Lilian’s hide is the nine metres tall skytower, which gives unparalleled views over the reed-bed towards Morecambe Bay.

The path leading from Grisedale hide offered us two wildlife experiences. The first was on noticing something moving inconspicuously in the reeds, we looked a little closer to find a tiny field vole. He was so cute!

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Field Vole

Further along the path we were surprised by a sudden splash of water! We did not see what made the noise but there are otters residing in the area. I’d like to think we startled one as we made our way along the path.

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Leighton Moss. At first the £7 per person admission fee for non members seems a little steep but there is free car parking, a shop and cafe in the visitor centre, with the reserve open from dawn to dusk. So £7 for the whole day is good value for money especially as you can walk around the paths as many times as you like and rest a while in the hides.

Membership at £4 a month would be viable if we visited these places more often, but alas only every now and again do we visit an RSPB site. Perhaps that is something to be rectified in the future?

Have you visited Leighton Moss reserve? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Walk in the Clouds

The August bank holiday weekend arrived with the promise of warm sunny weather, (we have been starved of summer recently). My Saturday began at 5.30 am, when bleary eyed I got ready to go on another adventure to Wales. I had intended to join in with #Photo an Hour, but gave up half way as most of my day was spent in a car, travelling.

The previous night, we settled on visiting Cadair Idris and the glacial corrie Llyn Cau, (#1 on my bucket list). As we drove through North Wales with blue skies and golden light we could be forgiven into believing that the Met Office predictions were accurate.

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However, on arrival at the car park, the mountains were shrouded in low clouds that billowed like smoke, and a faint drizzle made us glad we had brought our waterproofs! We paid £5 for all day parking. We could have paid £2.50 for four hours but I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to walk to Llyn Cau. Snowdonia National Park gave an estimate of an hour but with my little legs that could mean two hours! In reality it did take David and I approx. one hour to walk to Llyn Cau.

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We followed the Minffordd path steeply through a relic 8000 year old oak wood, before we passed a gate towards the mountainside.

The term cadair can be translated as chair from the early Welsh language. Cadair Idris or chair of Idris in legend was where the giant warrior bard Idris sat to view the stars. It is said that if you stay a night on the mountain you will come down either mad or a poet! However Idris was shrouded in cloud the day we visited.

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Llyn Cau

According to Welsh mythology Llyn Cau is said to be bottomless and home to the afanc. The afanc or crocodile/demonic beaver (!) once terrorised the villages near Llyn Barfog (bearded lake), before King Arthur reputedly caught the afanc and imprisoned it in Llyn Cau. Stories tell of the afanc dragging unsuspecting swimmers to their doom! I kept an eye out for the afanc as we approached the waters edge.

I had imagined visiting Llyn Cau and Cadair Idris in bright sunshine and blue skies. But on the day I would have to make do with moody clouds and rain. Warmed by the strenuous hike, I soon cooled as I walked into the clear, silky waters of the lake. Terence registered a cold 14°C. While swimming I felt the landscape was unforgiving. You either respect the land or risk your life. It was a perfect day for the Afanc to emerge from the waters. I noticed I swam a little faster! Mythical creatures aside, the only audience I had were curious walkers watching me swim! I felt rather self conscious!

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Llyn Cau. The entrance to the water, though looked rocky was actually easy underfoot and you quickly got swimming which was a god send as the waters were rather chilly! The only downside was that our feet were already wet due to the boggy nature of the land around the lake. It was hard to find a dry path towards the lakeside.

I totally underestimated how popular the Cadair Idris path would be. I had imagined Llyn Cau to be a secluded place to swim but as we turned to leave the lake I was surprised to see the path swell with walkers and families alike. It was even busier than Cat Bells!

A note of caution. The walk to Llyn Cau and further to Cadair Idris is a steep ascent. The lake itself stands at around 350m. The path rarely levels out. I have found that the next day my thighs are sore. Even walking the Watkin Path to Snowdon I did not feel like this. For shorter legs beware of aches the next day!

Have you walked to Llyn Cau? Conquered Cadair Idris? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x