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

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An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.

After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.

My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.

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Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)

Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.

Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.

YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.

One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.

So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.

I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles (which I have never worn)
  • Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)

David thought I was insane but humoured me.

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First swim at Derwentwater

Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.

  • Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
  • A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
  • To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
  • A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
  • Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.

And finally.

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The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!

Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.

I’ve found many Facebook pages relating to wild swimming. Outdoor Swimming Society has one, COWS or Cumbria Open Water Swimmers is a good page for the Lake District and nearer to home #ChesterFrosties have an inspiring page too. I’m sure there will be one for your area too!

The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.

I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

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

In Search of Wild Things

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Crummock Water

I am currently into week three of my 30 Days Wild, an initiative by the Wildlife Trusts to get people connected to wildlife and nature.

On Friday, David had planned a day off work, so I coerced him into going back up to the Lake District. For a month now I have been eager to return, so I can plunge myself into the cool waters of a lake with mountains all around! Derwentwater sure whetted my appetite.

It was a cloud laden day, the heat of the past fortnight was just a memory, but that did not deter us. It was a chance for us to wear our new waterproof jackets!

We got up at the ungodly hour of 5am! I made breakfast to the song of Mr. Dunnock, then we hit the roads with backpacks packed at 6am. It took us three hours to get to the western lakes of Crummock Water and Buttermere!

We paid £6.50 for all day parking in one of the National Trust car parks, just outside the village of Buttermere. Then walked behind a cavalcade of cows towards The Fish Inn, where you’ll find the path towards the lake. It was relatively easy to get to Buttermere, down a path and through two gates and you were at the northern end of the lake. One path was closed as they have nesting sandpipers but that didn’t detract from the beauty and peace of the lake.

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Buttermere

9c535f_6c4eb00360a94cdd915602a3d068a8e2We headed towards Crummock Water. Though the pathway was relatively easy going it was full of lose stones, a temporary measure due to the flood damage of 2015!

It took us two hours to walk from Buttermere towards Crummock Water. Our destination was Low Ling Crag, a shingle spit that projects out to the heart of Crummock Water.

In places the path was boggy and along the way nesting birds (I couldn’t identify) were flying about the ancient ferns. I managed to stop and hug a tree and the wood was full of calls from redstarts and cuckoos. We even came across a dipper!

Low Ling Crag, didn’t look as appealing as Google search pictures depicted. When we visited, the island jutting out into the cool waters was littered with geese faeces and feathers!

I was thinking about taking a dip but the wind buffeted us and we sat shivering as we ate our packed lunch. Crummock Water will just have to be visited again!

We retraced our steps back to Buttermere. We found a suitable shingle beach in which to enter, though it was in close proximity to the path. The lake was much more sheltered than Crummock Water. Before I had time to think of any reservations, I quickly threw off my clothes, revealing my swimsuit and stumbled into the water. It was much cooler than my first swim in Derwentwater, but once I started swimming I grew acclimatised. It took some persuading for me to climb out of the water. I really enjoyed my swim. I didn’t want it to end! I looked at the clouds above and Fleetwith Pike before me and felt my soul being nourished.

Once out of the water, and a hot mug of coffee in hand (prepared by David), I found that I didn’t shiver as much as I did at Derwentwater, but perhaps the wind chill wasn’t such a factor?

We took the short walk back to the car park and prepared for our journey home. I felt the warm glow of being out in the country, of having a good walk and seeing some lovely sights. I hope soon that we can go on another adventure and perhaps take another dip in a lake?

The problem with wild swimming is that once you have entered the water, there is just no stopping you! You want to do it again and again!

Do you have any tips on where next I should swim/walk?

Christine x