Lots of stresses and strains have been going on behind the scenes recently, and wild swimming has been one of the few distractions.
Last week David and I had a day off mid week and so we planned a swim adventure. The tarn in question was Hayeswater, Hartsop, which had been a reservoir up until 2005. The dam was removed in 2014 and the tarn was returned to it’s natural state.
We parked at a free car park in Hartsop, but donated to the village school as a thank you. We followed the left hand stony path which ran steeply along Hayeswater Gill, before crossing a bridge and continuing the path on the right hand side. Further up we then crossed another bridge to the left hand side of the tarn. The walk took about one hour. At a shingle beach we made camp and I accessed the mild 16°C water which had an abundance of minnows darting about the shallows. The swim was peaceful and remote and we didn’t see any other people until I had climbed out of the water. David got Buzz up and managed to capture some wonderful scenery. It was indeed balm for a stressed out mind.
Have you walked in this area of Patterdale? What were your observations?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
Fellow readers… I’ve finally managed to push my wild swimming season into December and have completed my first wild swim!
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!
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.
David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!
Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.
We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.
After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!
Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.
After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.
An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!
I live in a region of England that has been put under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that only travel from the region is for work and not recreation.
Thankfully, on Tuesday David had a day off work and we managed to escape to The Lake District for a day out. We brought our gentle giant of a border collie, Riley along with us.
The day started before the sunrise. We drove for 2.5 hours up the M6, taking a stop at Lancaster services for a comfort break. The destination of the day was Buttermere. As we drove past the neighbouring lake Crummock Water, David stopped at a lay-by. The surface of the water was so still it was like a mirror. We got out of the car and headed towards the peaceful, quiet shores of Crummock Water. David got Buzz, his drone out and I ran around with Riley.
The village of Buttermere is much busier. The National Trust car park fills up quickly but luckily there were still a few parking spaces left on our arrival. We paid £6 for four hours, you could pay with coins or by card. We donned our walking boots and rucksacks before taking the short walk towards the lake.
Like Crummock, the water of Buttermere was perfectly still. In all my visits to the lake I’ve never seen it so calm. The sun had burned off the remaining mist and a warm day was ahead of us. It was a very surprising day weather wise. I’d planned on it being a cool autumnal day but in reality there was no wind, the sun was warm and it felt like another last gasp from summer. It was a perfect day!
Following many other people, we took the northern path which passes the lone tree and has wonderful views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. We made camp (Camp Riley) at a wide pebbly beach. Before we had lunch, I was going to have a swim, with the hope that Riley would come into the water with me. However the shore sloped steeply into the water and Riley was a little tentative. Not wanting to frighten him, I left him on the shore with David, who had taken Buzz into the air once again, to the amusement of passers-by.
The water was glorious! It wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. Indeed I’d swam in Buttermere previously when the water was much colder! You can read that post, here. I swam for about 15 minutes, but I could have stayed in for longer. It was so lovely. However Riley was getting stressed that he couldn’t reach one of his humans, so I waded out so he could run me around the shoreline in my swimsuit. The sun was so warm I didn’t even get cold nor have difficulty getting dressed, which is a novelty.
Once we had picnicked, we packed up and headed slowly back to the car. It had been a beautiful day. Riley seemed to have enjoyed himself and I’d got a swim in one of my favourite lakes. It’s a day I shall remember and smile at for a very long time.
We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.
All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.
The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.
Tewet Tarn Swim
We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.
A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.
Rosthwaite Round Walk
Day Two: The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!
By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!
Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.
Dock Tarn Swim
We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.
Blea Water Walk
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.
Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.
Blea Water Swim
Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.
So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.
Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?
Day 26: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’ll partake in a new activity for me, I’ll listen to a nature podcast. After a quick search on Google, I discovered that there were many podcasts relating to nature. Below are links to some of the podcasts I found related to me, literature, metal health and wild swimming, but there will be podcasts more suitable for your interests too. Happy listening!
Ramblings: Literary Walks: In 2011 Clare Balding took a walk around Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge, a landscape which inspired the writing of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.
After a tremendous swim in Glaslyn, I had hoped to extend my wild swimming season by a month or so. Unfortunately I never made it into the water before Christmas, however much I had wanted too. Then I’d planned on a New Year swim at Coniston but with no planned walk for the day my hopes fizzled away like a firework. Though 2020 has been really slow to start (even slower than 2019!) my mind is already dreaming of the year ahead and I am looking forward to many wild swim/walks this year.
I’ve already booked a four nights break for my birthday, at a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossachs National Park. With 22 loch’s I am spoiled for choice! Just looking at the variety of lochs, such as Katrine, Venachar and Lubnaig, I’m already getting super excited!
Loch Katrine (Google Image)
Loch Venachar (Google Image)
Loch Lubnaig (Google Image)
For my first swim this season I am hoping to tick off the Eskdale Blea Tarn! I’ve already swam the other two! Langdale, and Watendlath. I’ve read blogs and seen pictures of the Eskdale Blea Tarn and I am eager to get back into the water. It’s just a matter of logistics with car parking.
Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)
Though I’ve always wanted to swim in Grisedale Tarn, perhaps it’s height position may deter me?
Grisedale Tarn (Google Image)
The resting place of the crown of Cumbria may have to wait. However this year I do intend to swim in Helvellyn’s Red Tarn and Blea Water of Haweswater fame. I think both these tarns are achievable.
Red Tarn (Google Image)
Blea Water (Google Image)
Again Coniston is the only ‘large’ lake I’ve not swam in and the Old Man of Coniston has many swimmable waters, e.g. levers and goat’s. I’ll aim for these this year.
Hopefully we’ll be able to bring Riley with us again on our Lake District adventures and introduce him to swimming in Ullswater!
In Snowdonia, I hope to tick off Llyn Padarn and Gwynant.
They seem the two easiest of the llyns I have my eye on! Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and Llyn Du’r Arddu of Snowdon fame may be a bit of a hike.
Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas (Google Image)
Llyn Du’r Arddu (Google image)
However, Llyn Nantlle and Llyn Cwm Silyn Uchaf, again will have issues with logistics. If you know of places to park and walking routes, do let me know.
llyn cwm silyn uchaf by Mud and routes
So there you have a brief glimpse into my mind for the wild swim year ahead. If you have any swim suggestions, do let me know.
For my birthday, at the end of October, I’d planned a few days away to Snowdonia. The main aim was to trek The Miners’ Track and swim in the tarns along the way. We attempted this route in 2018 but on arrival at 8am on a blazing summer’s morning, the car park at Pen y Pass was already full. This was a fear of mine come the morning of my second attempt.
We woke-up groggy at 6am, from our base, Plas y Coed, the car park at Pen y Pass was only 30 minutes away. The tremulous call of a tawny owl echoed from the surrounding woodland as we loaded the car for a pre-dawn drive.
The roads towards Snowdon were quiet as you would expect on a chilly October morning. We arrived at Pen y Pass car park which was half full at 7am and paid the £10 charge. I was silently celebrating that we had secured parking in a very tourist heavy area. Donning our swollen rucksacks and I, carrying my bulky Dryrobe® we embarked on an hour+ walk towards Glaslyn.
Christine at Llyn Llydaw
Path towards Glaslyn
On our walk we passed llyns Teyrn and Llydaw, and my excitement grew with each step. The morning sky glowed, the mountains looked desolate and the path, though easy to begin with, grew steep after passing Llydaw. I was amazed that we didn’t see a living soul as we made our way towards Glaslyn.
I’d put up quite a sweat by the time we arrived at the shores of Glaslyn. Seeing the mirror sheen of the llyn and a moody, cloud shrouded Snowdon made me so enthusiastic to get into the water.
In planning the swims, in my mind I had made the cold of the water more than it actually was, though I did lose feeling in my fingers and toes. I had come prepared. I had my swimsuit jacket as an extra layer against the cold but I did manage a 10 minute swim.
Glaslyn was a wonderful swim! I’d have to say probably my favourite to date. I’d imagined I would have swam with an amazed audience of walkers but on the day, around 9am (which is always the best time for a swim), there was no one about. Just David, Glaslyn and me! Other walkers seemed to favour the Pyg track than the Miners.
Glaslyn, means blue lake in Welsh and I have to say it was very blue even on a cloudy day. Nesting 600m above sea level, it’s supposed to be the resting place of Excalibur. Glaslyn is also where the afanc (we met this mythological beast at Llyn Cau) was finally defeated.
We jumped across an outflow stream and found a secluded shingle beach. From here I quickly stripped to a new tankini (one of three I’d bought that week) and wriggled into my swimsuit jacket. Wearing my neoprene gloves, hat and boots I eagerly waded into the silky, cold waters of this glacial corrie. I would have loved to have swam for longer but 10 minutes in below 10° waters was enough for me. Whilst swimming, the clouds lifted and I saw Snowdon tower impressively above.
Buzzing with adrenaline I waded back onto shore and struggled to get dressed. Even David had to tie my boot laces! I was hoping to have a bite to eat at the shore but the weather turned and rain began to fall. Dressed in the warm folds of my Dryrobe® we ventured back down the path towards Llyn Llydaw. The walk thankfully warmed me up.
By the time we got to the wide shingle beach of Llyn Llydaw the path was swollen with walkers from every walk of life. Despite this and the heavy rain I ventured on a second swim. Llyn Llydaw is another resting place for Excalibur. However all I saw was rain drops splashing from the waters surface and swathes of grey clouds drift in. I spent another 10 minutes in the chilly water, though the temperature didn’t seem as cold as Glaslyn. Perhaps I was still cold from my first swim? The main factor in my enjoyment of this swim was the rain and worrying about David on shore.
As I waded back on land a police helicopter flew overhead as it practiced manoeuvers. Trying to get dry and warm whilst the rain falls is a little more difficult. However I was entertained by two young men who had been inspired by my swimming escapades and had pulled off their shoes and socks and paddled in the shallows. Gasps and ohhs and ahhs followed. I couldn’t help but smile at their attempt.
Thankfully Llyn Llydaw is a 30 minute walk from the car park so after getting relatively dry we headed back to the car park for a well earned lunch. Though a little disheartened, I decided that Llyn Teyrn could wait for another day as there was no defined path and the way was steep and boggy. I’d been wet and cold enough times that day!
Have you walked The Miner’s Track? Which llyn would you have liked to swim in?