Mud and Sphagnum!

This Sunday, David and I finally planned a Lake District adventure! It was nice to be back to our days of exploring. 2019 has thrown us a few curve balls but hopefully illnesses and job woes are all behind us!

Our destination this Sunday morning was the western shores of Thirlmere. We arrived at the Dobgill pay and display car park at 8.30am after an early rise. Whilst enjoying unprecedented weather this summer bank holiday weekend, the decision to visit the quieter Thirlmere was beneficial as we only saw a handful of people on our walk towards the picturesque Harrop Tarn.

The walk through woodland was steep but not exhaustingly so, we spotted many types of fungi bathed in sunshine.

The tarn itself has only one shingle beach with access to the water. We aimed for this beach but had to squelch through moss and bog to get there!

Thankfully no one else was swimming when we arrived but a group had set up a wild camp in the conifer trees beyond. Mindful of people at close proximity I quickly stripped to my swimming costume and donned my neoprene shoes and gloves. I entered the water quickly as the sloping shingle shore was steep and shifted under foot. I spent a leisurely 15 minutes swimming back and forth with butterflies fluttering over head and the Helvellyn massif stretching impressively to the west. The water was around 16°C but was rather murky. It was only later that we discovered that I shared the swim with little silver fish.

Back on land I struggled into another swimsuit, a second swim was planned! However I recalled that on arrival at the car park I’d exclaimed, ‘I’ve forgotten the sunscreen!’ David and I were going to bake as the sun was already high in the sky and burning hot!

We retraced our steps through bogland towards a forest path and then struggled through a muddy, stone littered track towards the open fell of Watendlath. The second tarn of the day was going to be Blea. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District: Landgale, Watendlath and Eskdale, only the Eskdale Blea Tarn to do!

Watendlath’s Blea Tarn is nestled below Coldbarrow Fell at 1500ft. It was a tiring marshy trek over sphagnum moss to get to the tarn and then with no path to the shore or easy access to the water, we had to knock down vegetation and sink into pits of mud and water to get any closer. We picnicked with the view of the tarn and Low Saddle before I gritted my teeth and waded into the wind chopped waters. I was not enamoured with this Blea Tarn. At present the Langdale’s Blea is winning. Watendlath’s Blea had a feel of Small Water for me. I waded out into shallow waters. Too shallow really to swim in. Then there was the blue green algae fluorescing further ahead and fronds of vegetation wrapping around my wrists. Tired and frustrated, I turned tail and returned to shore.

Once dry, we decided to walk back to the car park, which saw us embark on another hour of trudging through marshland. We dodged hungry bumblebees, and avoided ticks as we made our descent towards the car. An inferno awaited us as we opened the car doors, heat flooded out! We returned home tired, sunburned but content that we had spent five hours walking and swimming in the lake district fells. I am looking forward to our next adventure.

How did you spend your summer bank holiday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Back to Where it all Began!

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Llyn Idwal

You probably remember that in 2016 I visited Llyn Idwal with David. You can read that post here. We visited on a cold, frosty February day. It was Darwin’s Day to be exact, the 12th February. I remember standing on the shingle beach looking out at the icy waters wondering what it would be like of a summer? To perhaps paddle in the waters with the imposing Glyderau mountains all around.

Since then I have discovered the joys of wild swimming, but I have never had the opportunity to return to where it all began. That was until a friend from America visited for the weekend and decided on Wales as the destination for a day trip. David and I more than obliged and after much deliberation we opted to return to Cwm Idwal and the surrounding area. The plan was to walk to Llyn Bochlwyd and then have a swim before returning to the shores of Llyn Idwal for a second swim.

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Cwm Idwal

The weather dawned overcast and muggy on the day we ventured westwards. We arrived at our destination at 9.30am but the car park was already full!(As is always the case with popular spots in Wales during the weekend.) We managed to find on road parking and by doing this dodged car parking charges!

The walk to Llyn Bochlwyd was arduous. David and I haven’t hiked this year so the steep gradient and persistent stepped path was tiring. We only carried on as my friend, Jennifer was like a mountain goat and sprightly made her way up the path, while David and I trailed behind. When the waters of Llyn Bochlwyd came into view it was a welcome sight indeed.

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Llyn Bochlwyd and Tryfan

Llyn Bochlwyd is known as the Australia lake, as from Tryfan it is shaped similar to the coast of Australia. However in Welsh the name means Grey Cheek Lake. This stems from the legend of an old grey stag who was being hunted but managed to escape by swimming to safety in the lake, while holding his head and grey cheeks above the surface.

We set up camp along the lakeside which was quite boggy. Jennifer and I decided to embark on a swim before a bite to eat. We stripped to our swimsuits and waded into the cool 15° waters. Being only my second swim this season I was eager to get swimming. Jennifer, from California felt the cold much more. I enjoyed the swim very much, the silky smooth waters were a balm and the rugged views of Tryfan, food for the soul.

After lunch, we descended the rocky path back to the shores of Llyn Idwal. The descent was easier than the climb!

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Selfie

Llyn Idwal is a much more popular destination than Llyn Bochlwyd. When we arrived at the beach there were many people enjoying the cool waters. It didn’t take Jennifer and I long to join them in sampling the joys of swimming in Llyn Idwal. The water was around 17° but it wasn’t as tranquil as our first swim. However we spent a good 15 minutes swimming around enjoying the views of the Devil’s Kitchen and Clogwyn Y Tarw.

We finished the day by having a cream tea at the Alpine Coffee Shop in Betws Y Coed. We returned home feeling tired but content in the knowledge that we had had a fun filled day of adventure!

Have you visited the Cwm Idwal area? Swam in any of the lakes mentioned?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Birthday Swim 2018

It’s taken me ages to write about my birthday swim!

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Loughrigg Tarn

The public vote this year very much focused on the Lake District. I decided to leave the Langdale Angle Tarn (the clear winner) for next year and chose another tarn in the Langdale Valley, Loughrigg for my birthday swim!

We left home early in the morning and after a two hour drive we headed towards parking alongside Loughrigg Tarn. Due to it being early, we managed to get free parking in a lay-by beside the tarn. From there we followed a bridleway towards the Loughrigg Tarn.

It was a cold, crisp autumn day. Loughrigg Tarn proved popular with dog walkers, photographers and families alike. This is due to the – access for all – Miles Without Stiles easy, low level walk around the tarn.

After taking in the views David and I walked around the tarn looking for good entrance points. These were were few and far between. I found the entrances uninviting or littered with obstructions. Loughrigg Tarn wasn’t my favourite swim of the year, though I did manage a good 10 minutes in the water once I got in!

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42! Birthday swim at Loughrigg Tarn

The water I found was murky and I didn’t like my feet sinking up to my shins in sediment as I walked into the tarn! Maybe I chose a bad entrance to access the water? But I was trying to find a more secluded spot so I would not be watched by an audience. Perhaps I should start rating my swims? The views were gorgeous, the swim less so.

Have you visited Loughrigg Tarn? Swam there? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Birthday Swim 2018

For my 42nd birthday next week I want to go for a swim, but I am having trouble choosing the right one. So I need your help in making the decision. Below, find a selection of four swims, two from Snowdonia and two from the Lake District. Which one would you prefer?

Snowdonia:

Llyn Padarn

I attempted to swim in Llyn Padarn for last years birthday but found that it got busy later on in the day. If I was to go back again this year I would go much earlier. Perhaps see the sunrise?

Llyn Idwal

What better than to revisit the place where my wild swimming bug was born. Another one for an early start as the area gets busy. Do you know of any easy walks nearby? We’ve walked the circumference of Idwal and Ogwen in the past.

The Lake District:

Windermere

A perfect autumnal walk to Todd Crag would be a good accompaniment to a dip in iconic Windermere.

Angle Tarn (Langdale)

I first saw this swim/walk on swimmingthelakes, I didn’t know there was more than one Angle Tarn! This tarn is not far from Stickle Tarn which we visited in June. It has a similar look to Stickle.

Which swim would you like to see me do next?

Thanks,

Christine x

Scotland Wild Swims

Just a quick post today. A big thank you to David who slogged for over a month on a video compilation of my three loch swims. I think he’s done a fab job!

Thanks David!

Christine x

 

What’s That Coming Over the Hill?

It wasn’t a monster… that David and I saw at Loch Ness but unwelcoming waves. I don’t like swimming when it’s windy as the chop knocks me about a bit. Not to mention throws spray up my nose and into my mouth. Unfortunately the day we had chosen for my Loch Ness swim dawned squally. Determined to face the swell we headed towards the shores of Loch Ness.

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Loch Ness

The drive from Fort William took two hours. We headed north-east along the B852 towards a lay-by overlooking a stony beach. The rain that had dogged the morning cleared away to leave broken clouds drifting over the large expanse of loch, sadly the wind prevailed.

Fun fact: Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes/llyns of England and Wales combined! Though it isn’t the deepest lake, that accolade goes to Loch Morar. Loch Ness is pretty large and only second in size to Loch Lomond.

I was excited to face Loch Ness and to swim in its salt tasting waters. However my dream didn’t turn into the reality I had hoped. The stony beach was shallow and the waves crashing onto the shore were that fierce I couldn’t stand, let alone swim. I sat down in the shallows and clung for dear life to a rock as the swell knocked me for six. Whenever I thought the wind was dying down, a large wave took me unawares. The swim turned out disappointing. I decided to call it quits after 10 minutes of being battered by the wind and water. I’d rather be safe than nursing contusions or worse. It seemed there was only room for one monster in Loch Ness that day!

Have you visited Loch Ness? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

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

An Introduction to Wild Swimming

via An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I’ve never Pressed This before, so hope this works!

I just thought I would update my Introduction to Wild Swimming post as I have recently made an addition to my swim kit, with the purchase of a tow float, affectionately named Doughnut!

Tow floats are safety devices that make the swimmer visible to other water users. They are also great for when having a rest. Instead of treading water you can just lean on the float and drift about. I even used Doughnut as a float during my most recent swim at Llyn Dinas and paddled along the shoreline.

The tow float I purchased from Lomo was relatively inexpensive at £18, inclusive of postage (other models/makes available). I purchased a small tow float (there are larger ones available), with top dry pouch to house items such as a phone or keys. I was very happy with my purchase and couldn’t wait to take it on my next swim to test it out.

That time came when we holidayed in the Lake District for a few days this June. Of course I took in a few wild swims and Doughnut’s first outing was at Stickle Tarn. The tow float has a connecting waist strap to safely connect the tow float to the swimmer. My phone remained dry within the dry pouch, but I placed it in an extra dry bag just to be on the safe side.

Doughnut has accompanied me on all my recent swims. I think it is a great addition to my wild swim kit and would suggest any newcomers to wild swimming to invest in one. It’s a relatively inexpensive visual device to keep the swimmer more safe in the water.

What are your views (if any) on tow floats?

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