An Introduction to Wild Swimming

via An Introduction to Wild Swimming

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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

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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

It Would have been Beautiful.

If I had known beforehand that Esthwaite Water was a no no for swimming, I wouldn’t have attempted it. However online searches suggested to me that it was a hidden beauty spot, thanks to Outdoor Swimmer and The Guardian! Even my go to guide, SwimmingTheLakes had swam Esthwaite Water in 2015.

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Esthwaite Water

So imagine my excitement when I donned my swimming kit and strolled out into blissfully warm waters of 19°C. The shingle beach was a welcome from scrambling over boulders and slipping on stones.

Esthwaite Water lies between the busier lakes of Windermere and Coniston and was a favourite of local champion Beatrix Potter. There’s even a car park right next to the lakeside. Perfect!

However my relationship with this tranquil lake came to an abrupt end when an angry Scotsman pulled up in a jeep and shouted aggressively, ‘get out of the water, there’s no swimming!‘ No please or thank you to be heard! To say I was shocked was an understatement!

Sadly I was only in the water for two minutes, before I retreated to shore with my tail between my legs. I did not see the no swimming signs until we pulled out of the car park. Oops!

Later research informed me that Esthwaite Water is in private hands and is a favourite for trout and pike fishing. D’oh!

So there you have it, my escapade into a forbidden lake.

Have you flouted rules, (conscious or not) to get somewhere?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_13Day 13: This Wednesday I had time to sit down with pen and paper and plan a wild adventure!

There’s something exiting about planning for a forthcoming trip. There’s what activities to do, sights to see, places to eat; the possibilities are endless!

This latest trip to the Lake District has been rather impromptu, (not that I’m complaining!) 😀

I don’t know about you, but I like to make a list of all the places to visit, opening times, prices (if applicable). I print out all the relevant booking information and also trail maps and an itinerary. Even if plans go awry, I like to have a back up plan re: wet weather, late arrivals etc.

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Planning a trip

My intention is to organise swim/walks, lakeside jaunts and perhaps sunset vistas (depending on the weather). So with Google at the ready I am poised to plan a really wild adventure!

Where in the Lake District do you think I should venture too?

Have you planned a wild adventure? If so where?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Oops…I Did it Again!

What gorgeous summer-like weather we have been having here in the UK! All this warm weather has made me itch to get back into the water.

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My first swim of 2018

My poll this year, on where to begin my wild swimming wasn’t very decisive. This Friday, David had taken a day off work for a planned Lake District adventure. I also packed my swim suit and new Dryrobe® just on the off chance of catching a swim!

On the day, our first destination was free parking between Keswick and Portinscale. We discovered this area while we ambled the 10 miles around Derwentwater in March. You can read all about that adventure here. We followed the road towards Spooney Green Lane, the start of our walk towards Latrigg.

The path took us through woodland, where chaffinches chattered from boughs and peacock butterflies flittered on the wing. Newborn lambs sunbathed before an impressive vista of Skiddaw, before we reached the summit with a glistening Derwentwater and surrounding fells before us.

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Derwentwater from Latrigg

David and I sat and enjoyed the view buffeted by a chilling wind before we returned to the car.

We headed into Keswick (fast becoming our second home). Payed the £5.30 to park for three hours at Theatre by the Lake and headed into town. We perused the shops with the tones of a soprano and a country singer vying for attention. With chips from The Old Keswickian, we settled in Crow Park and enjoyed watching dogs play in the water with the backdrop of Derwentwater behind them. It was here that I saw my first swallow of the season.

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Crow Park

After lunch, we walked towards Calfclose Bay, looking for a sheltered beach from where to embark on a first swim of 2018! My third at Derwentwater, and how different it was from my previous experiences! (My first time, and second time). From the first entrance I paddled a bit (in 14° waters), but did not find the depths in which to swim so we headed towards the National Trust Centenary Stones where I waded out into deeper waters there. However a mean wind that wiped across the water meant I was fighting waves a surfer would have enjoyed rather than actually doing much swimming. I swam a few strokes, posed before the Centenary Stones and tried to catch the views of Castle Crag and Cat Bells before a wave of fresh water was thrown at me from a gust. I found it hard to navigate and keep my head out of the water. I discovered I prefer to swim in waters less choppy.

The only upside of this experience was that I tested out my new Dryrobe®. It was roomy and kept the wind at bay. I will have to acquire the skills to change into fresh clothing as I got hopelessly tied up in knots, but it is a welcome addition to my ever-growing array of swimming paraphernalia.

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Testing out the Dryrobe®

We returned home from a wonderful day in the Lakes, tired, aching and having caught the sun. A certain person forgot to take the sunscreen, oops! My swim/walk adventures have well and truly begun. I can’t wait to take to the fells again and see where my next swim/walk takes me! Where do you think I should venture to next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming – A Few of My Favourites and Looking Ahead!

2017 was the second year of my wild swimming adventures. I thought I would do a post reminiscing about some of my favourite swims of 2016 and 2017 and then look forward to some swims planned in 2018!

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Swim Map

Bowscale Tarn:

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Bowscale Tarn

One highlight from the 2017 season was my swim at Bowscale Tarn, where I went in search of immortal fish but only found a rubber trout! :p

Derwent Water (or Derwentwater): I prefer the latter spelling.

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Derwentwater

You can be forgiven for forgetting that all this ‘madness’ stems from a crystal clear winters day in 2016. When I visited Derwentwater for the first time and wondered what it would be like to dip my toe in its silky waters. Two years later and I have swam at Derwentwater twice.

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Swimming at Derwentwater

My second swim, during a cool autumn morning is one of my best wild swimming memories. The early morning light that caressed Cat Bells made the morning seem ethereal. My hands burned with the cold, hence wearing neoprene gloves from then on!

Rydal Water:

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Rydal Water

There must be something about early morning swims. Another highlight from my 2016 season was a 9am swim at Rydal Water. With wisps of mist still lingering on the hills, I shared the dawn of a wonderful day with a weary but majestic swan.

Blea Tarn:

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Blea Tarn

I was almost deterred from swimming at Blea Tarn (the Langdales) as it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. However I waded in slowly and respectfully. Blea Tarn was a delightful swim with a nice graduated entrance into the water. The views were good too. 🙂

Buttermere:

You can tell which lakes are my favourite as I swim in them more than once. My first swim at Buttermere in 2016 only made me want to visit again in more favourable weather, which came a year later. My 2017 swim at Buttermere turned out to be one of my longest that year, of around 20 minutes. Though in hindsight I maybe shouldn’t have stayed in so long, even though it was a bright but cool autumn day. The shivers on shore afterwards were fierce!

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Buttermere

Wastwater:

No wild swim was more epic than at Wastwater. Another of my longer swims, Wastwater was graced with wonderful scenery. It’s a lake I want to return to.

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Wastwater

2018:

There are so many Lake District swims I want to embark on in 2018. So here’s a small handful.

  • Tarns around the Old Man of Coniston – Blind Tarn and Goat’s Water.
  • Bleaberry Tarn – Buttermere
  • Elterwater and Loughrigg Tarn

Llyn Cwellyn:

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

Inspired by the blog of Vivienne Rickman Poole, who regularly swims the 100+ llyns of Snowdonia, in 2017 I embarked on my first Welsh swim. If I was to suggest a body of water for a beginner to wild swimming, Llyn Cwellyn  would be my suggestion. The water’s edge was close to the car park and the entrance into the water was the best I have experienced. The soft shingle beach gradated slowly, meaning you could walk straight into the water and chose which depth you felt confident with. I spent a good 15 minutes in the water with RAF jets flying overhead. It was a good introduction to swimming in Snowdonia.

 

2018:

I’ve not been as successful with swimming in Snowdonia as I have in the Lake District. Many llyns are still on my bucket list. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to tick off Llyns Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn?

Scotland?

The Kelpies

The Kelpies

It’s been a good few years since I have visited Scotland. The last time I was there I toured the majestic Kelpies. I have fond memories of standing at the lakeside of Loch Ness, Lochy and Lomond, but never thought I would be eager to go for a swim!

Film maker and keen wild swimmer Calum Maclean, has been swimming around Scotland and documents his escapades for Outdoor Swimming Society and his TV series on BBC Alba. His love for the sport is infectious. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to get back up to Scotland and go for a swim? Here’s hoping!

 

Have you swam in any of the many lakes, llyns, lochs or loughs of the UK? Do share your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Yew Tree Tarn and Tarn Hows.

Nestled next to the A593, Yew Tree Tarn is one of the most accessible tarns in the Lake District. There is a rather expensive National Trust Car park across the road, (£6.50 for four hours) or if lucky free lay-by parking alongside the tarn. David and I have past this small tarn many times, journeying from Coniston on our way north to Keswick.

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Yew Tree Tarn

I’d planned on a longer walk to Holme Fell before testing the water temperature of Yew Tree Tarn. However the walk didn’t pan out, due to time constraints and being stuck in slow moving traffic around Ambleside. It was decided that after David befriended the local Belted Galloways, I’d take a dip in Yew Tree Tarn before taking a walk around the popular Tarn Hows.

On our walk around Yew Tree Tarn we found a bench overlooking a shingle cove which was a good entrance into the water. Terence registered a cool 12°C, but it felt much colder with the wind that always seems to appear every-time I strip off to my swim-suit! I hadn’t been in the water since August (Llyn Cau), which was probably why the cold affected me. I admit my mindset wasn’t on wild swimming that day, so I cut the swim short after five minutes.

After struggling to get dry and dressed, David and I headed towards a walk around the picturesque Tarn Hows via the Glen Mary ravine and Tom Gill. If there had been more time, I probably would have been tempted to take a dip. In hindsight both tarns I think would benefit from an early morning or evening visit during summer-time.

Tarn Hows is partially man made. Three tarns (The Tarns) were joined together in the 19th Century, lending a very park-like feel to the area. In the 1920’s Beatrix Potter bought the area before selling to the National Trust. You can see why the tarn is so popular today, as the two mile low level path is ideal for all abilities. However for David and I, Tarn Hows didn’t have the special appeal such as Blea Tarn or Wast Water has. Perhaps we are being unkind?

Have you visited Tarn Hows? If so what were your thoughts? Have you been tempted to take a wild swim/dip?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Aira Force and Ullswater

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Ullswater

Before journeying home, I planned to stay a little bit longer in the Lake District. Even though the day dawned grey and showery, we stuck with the itinerary and headed towards Aira Force and Ullswater. Neither we had visited before, so we were in new charted territory!

We parked the car at High Cascades car park. I thought it was reasonably priced for the day at £6.50, other car parks in the area charged a lot more!

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Aira Falls

The path took us along well designed paths that lead towards the viewing platform and steps to Aira Force. The whole area felt like a Victorian park, and after some online research I found that the area was indeed landscaped, though earlier than expected, by the Howard family in the 1780’s.

The woodland walk was pleasant and the area seemed very popular with other tourists.

We spent a good hour walking the meandering paths, following bubbling streams and watching fast flowing rapids.

Above the shade of trees the clouds broke and an unseasonably hot sun glared down.

After visiting Aira Force, a walk along the Gowbarrow trail was planned. We took the route anti clockwise. I don’t know whether this was a good thing or not, though come our descent we were faced with very steep steps, so going up would have been a struggle!

We walked a narrow path, with wonderful views of Ullswater below. The destination for lunch was the Memorial Seat and cairn.

After a well earned rest, where we were either too hot or too cold, we continued on an exhausting two hour hike around Gowbarrow. At 481m it was 100m taller than Walla Crag, and boy did it feel it! We kept walking and walking. The map I had didn’t correlate to anything in front of us. There were times when I thought we were lost, and then the weather turned and the cloud came rolling in!

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Gowbarrow Summit

However we managed to find the summit of Gowbarrow and though we stumbled on our descent, we could see the car park and David’s shiny red car awaiting us in the distance. It was a welcome sight!

I have never felt so utterly spent after a walk as I did after Gowbarrow. Perhaps is was due to the fact that I hadn’t rested after a hectic day around Derwentwater, the day before. Whatever it was, when we found free parking alongside a grey Ullswater, I was in two minds as to whether to embark on my final swim or leave the total for 2016 at 9! All along the walk to Gowbarrow I had been imagining the swim in Ullswater. I felt apprehensive. The swims in Bassenthwaite and Loweswater had made me worry about how cold the water would be and would I enjoy the experience. I know I hadn’t enjoyed Loweswater!

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Ullswater

Though my mind debated and my body felt tired, I knew in my heart that if I didn’t take a dip in Ullswater, (a new lake to add to the tally), then I would feel I had cheated myself. I had come this far, a few minutes of discomfort would be worth the exhilaration afterwards! So David and I headed towards the shore. The choice of entrance was not the greatest. I had intended on swimming from Glencoyne Bay but we had parked a little further up the road and the entrance was rocky and very shallow. It took me a while to waddle into water deep enough for me to submerge my body.

Though the water was cold, it did not feel as icy as Derwentwater. Indeed after a few strokes I felt warm. I began to enjoy myself. I took Wilson (waterproof camera) with me and snapped a few shots. I was later astonished to find that I had shared my swim with hundreds of little fish. I had not felt them swimming through my fingers like I had at Easedale.

What happened next was due to my own laziness at not wanting to stumble across bricks and rocks to hand Wilson back to David on shore. I have discovered that I can’t breaststroke while holding the camera, so I placed Wilson on a stone that protruded above the water. The water was relatively calm, so I left Wilson while I continued to swim back and forth along the shore. On the other side of the lake a ferry chugged along.

Before I knew it, David was shouting ‘wave,’ in alarm and I was buffeted by a huge swell churned up from the ferry. I watched in horror as Wilson was knocked off his rock and I kicked stones and bruised my legs scrambling towards shore to find him. David directed me as to which direction he thought Wilson had been swept in. I waded in panic, shivering in the cold. I was about to give up when I saw Wilson bobbing in the shallows. I was so relieved. I did not want to lose my new camera. It was a lesson well learned!

The event had upset me almost to tears. Cold to the bone, I cut short my swim and returned, mightily relieved to the shore. David and I were thankful I had not lost my new camera. David joked that it reminded him of the film Castaway, hence the name Wilson.

Up until the incident, I had been enjoying my swim in Ullswater. It makes me determined to return in the future. I will just have to find a way of fixing Wilson to my body so I can swim unhindered.

I hope you have enjoyed my short, but full excursion to the Lake District? Have you been to Aira Force, walked Gowbarrow or around Ullswater? Let me know what lakes/walks you think I should visit next.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Many Firsts.

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Derwentwater

I did not hold out much hope for the weather over the weekend. The forecast predicted rain and heavy cloud. Yet David and I decided to keep to the plan I had devised anyway. So, the following morning we left the B&B before sunrise and headed towards Keswick. We parked the car at the Theatre by the Lake, and walked towards the lakeside.

A white dawn broke over Derwentwater. From Friar’s Crag we walked towards the National Trust Centenary Stones, though they looked rather underwhelming with the water having receded. From this bay I planned my first swim of the day. At 9am the water was cold and there was no one about save David and I, and the lake! It was magical, and I loved it!

As an early birthday present David had gifted me a waterproof camera (nick-named Wilson (I’ll explain why later!)) which I trialled at Derwentwater.

After my swim of about 10 minutes, with burning hands and numb skin, I attempted to get dry and dressed. With the sun breaking through the clouds we retraced our steps back towards the car before heading into Keswick for our walk towards Walla Crag.

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Derwentwater from Walla Crag

The walk took us through some nice woodland and across a fell. The whole walk took about two hours. Parts of the ascent was steep, muddy and tiring. We touched the peak of Walla Crag at lunch time. I ate my fruit salad, buffeted by a chilling wind, while looking towards a blue Derwentwater below. We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

We arrived back at the car earlier than anticipated. So looking at the map, I chose Bassenthwaite Lake to visit, being only 15 minutes drive from Keswick.

We luckily managed to find free parking alongside the lake. Indeed the lake seemed almost deserted, much like early morning at Derwentwater! With having a spare swim suit in my rucksack (as you do). I made the impromptu decision to go for another swim!

I had intended to have a sunrise swim at Derwentwater and a sunset swim at Loweswater, but Bassenthwaite became my second swim of the day!

I was not in the water for long. I felt cold, probably because I had not fully warmed up from the swim that morning. After a cup of lukewarm coffee, we headed towards Loweswater for sunset. Much like the sunrise, the sunset did not really happen, but we enjoyed a pleasant autumn stroll along the lake, before I donned my bikini and waded out into the cold and very reedy water.

Loweswater was my shortest swim that day, more of a dip. I did not like the reeds catching at my ankles, so I cut short the swim to shiver on the pebbly bank as twilight fell.

14595792_10154199594089200_8827333379966744528_nWe decided to risk driving the 30 minutes to Ennerdale, a designated dark sky area, in the hope that the clouds would break long enough for us to do some star gazing. We arrived tired and hungry around 7pm and waited for the night to darken. There were no other tourists, save us. We stood listening to eerie calls of birds roosting before the sky above became emblazoned with a multitude of stars. There were wisps of cloud but none could detract from the faint ribbon of the Milky Way. I loved gazing up at the sky and feeling the peace of the area. We will definitely have to visit again when the night is more clear, but what David captured is good for his first attempt.

We returned to the B&B exhausted yet feeling accomplished. It had been a tremendous day, though at times it did seem endless! We had achieved many firsts in the 14 hours of travelling! I had amazingly completed three swims/dips in one day! Loweswater and Bassenthwaite were new lakes to us, and it was the first time David had seen the Milky Way.

It will be hard to top such a day!

Have you visited any of the lakes mentioned? What were your memories of them? Have you been star gazing, seen the Milky Way?

Do continue to follow me as I write about my final day in the Lake District.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x