Mud, Sweat and Tears

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.

blencathra

Blencathra

Day One:
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.

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.

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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!

dock tarn

Dock Tarn

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.

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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.

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Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
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

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 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?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Wild Swimming in 2020!

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

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!

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.

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Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

Though I’ve always wanted to swim in Grisedale Tarn, perhaps it’s height position may deter me?

grisedale

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Gummer’s How and Windermere

This June I’d organised a few nights away to the Lake District, however I had to cancel due to David being floored by a virus. Thankfully we managed to book again for September. David and I had three days of fun filled adventure.

windermere from gummers how.jpg

On the journey north we stopped off at Gummer’s How and Windermere before heading to our B&B for the two nights, Hermiston Guest House, Braithwaite.

Gummer’s How is just a short walk from the (free) Forestry Commission car park, two miles drive from Newby Bridge. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path, (steep at times) and admired the views of Windermere and surrounding fells from the 321m summit. Though the weather was overcast it remained dry and mild.

From Gummer’s How we continued on our journey along the A592 which hugs the eastern shores of Windermere. Our destination was Rayrigg Meadow car park. Surprisingly I hadn’t swam in Windermere, partly due to it being too commercial and touristy. This I wanted to address, so we parked the car and carting my bulky Dryrobe®, we took a five minute walk to the shore.

Windermere is a busy lake, much busier than the small lakes and tarns I am used too swimming. Whilst in the water with the shrouded Langdale Pikes in the distance, I was weary of speeding boats and leisurely cruisers. I kept close to the shore and watched as the boats drifted by. Due to this activity the water was choppy and I was buffeted by the wake the boats caused. That aside I enjoyed my 20 minutes in Windermere. The water temperature was around 10° but once out of the water I was kept toasty by my Dryrobe®.

Have you visited Windermere? Been on one of the cruises?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scales Tarn – Blencathra

The room we were given for our stay at Hermiston Guest House, was the compact and cosy Blencathra.

I felt this was a good omen as the next day I had planned on hiking up Blencathra to its beautiful and remote tarn, Scales.

David and I started out early and managed to get (free) roadside parking not far from the village of Scales. The weather forecast was perfect, the sun was out with a gentle breeze which grew in strength the higher we walked. As par the course we took a wrong route and had to back track to find the path towards Mousthwaite Comb.

view (2)

I knew the walk up Blencathra would be long and arduous. It took us three hours to finally get to the shores of the glacial corrie, Scales Tarn. The tarn sits some 598m high and is ringed by Sharp Edge, Tarn Crags and Hallsfell Top. From the shore we marveled as people clambered across Sharp Edge just the thought of it makes me shudder!

Tired and hungry I decided to embark on my swim and quickly stripped to my swimsuit. The entrance was rocky and shallow, and with a chilling wind that scudded across the tarn it made for a very cold swim. The water was around 8° but the wind made it feel much colder. I swam for around 15 minutes but it wasn’t the most enjoyable swim I’ve had. Once back on land and upon getting changed into dry clothes I struggled to hold my hot cup of coffee as the afterdrop struck me quite violently. It took me a while to warm up but with hot drinks, lunch and layers of clothing I managed to recover.

We were both physically tired after our five hours traipsing around my favourite mountain Blencathra, though I was thoroughly satisfied I had swam in Scales Tarn. Perhaps this success means I could attempt Red Tarn in future?

Have you walked Blencathra? Tackled Sharp Edge?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #70

It’s been a while since I updated you all with a Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

The Lake District:
Last Sunday David and I finally managed to get to the Lake District for a well earned short break. During our three days we did lots of walking. We took a six mile slog up Blencathra, but the relatively short 3.5 mile walk to Alcock Tarn and the views from Grey Crag were among my favourite. All these miles have added to my weekly total of 40, bringing my annual tally for the #walk1000miles challenge to 1,469. Do you think I’ll make 2000 miles by the end of the year?

Wild swims:
As you probably guessed I partook in a few wild swims during my short stay in the Lake District. I finally managed to tick off Windermere!

Badgers:
During our break we finally got to RSPB Haweswater and participated in their weekly Monday badger watch. During the hour we saw two badgers, Porridge and Gremlin.

The Aviary:
Once back home it was like we hadn’t been away as we found one of our blue-faced parrot finches, Forrest showing early signs of stargazing. We have had a finch with this illness before but it was no less saddening to see Forrest suffer with disorientation.

Books I am reading:
I’m reading two boooks at present, A New York Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. I didn’t know this was a huge tome but it is keeping me company whilst travelling to work. The second book is The Horse Dancer by JoJo Moyes. This book I saw on the shelves of Asda and I swooped in to purchase it. I am half way through but not sure whether I am enjoying the story or not. I’ll let you know!

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Riley

Walking the Dog:
What fabulous weather we have had this week here in the NW of England! It has felt like the last breath of summer before autumn really takes charge. It has been a perfect week off work! I spent my free time taking Riley on many walks to the park.

That was my week, how was yours?

Christine x

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

2019 Wild Swim Season – #1 High Dam

I found it difficult to chose the first wild swim of 2019. I’m like a child in a sweet shop, there are just so many possibilities! I’ve spent so many hours recently trawling the internet looking for swims/walks.

This weekend David and I planned on visiting The Lake District for the first swim/walk of the season. I don’t know what made me decide on High Dam near Windermere but SwimmingTheLakes’ fantastic blog post on High Dam settled it for me.

swim1

High Dam Swim

High Dam is a man made tarn. Built in the 1800’s to provide hydro energy to power a 32 foot diameter water wheel at the nearby Stott Park Bobbin Mill. The mill produced up to a quarter of a million wooden bobbins to aid Lancashire’s spinning and weaving industries at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Though the weather decided to be stubbornly gray on the day, we headed up the M6 and arrived at 9am at the High Dam National Trust car park, just north of Finsthwaite. From this car park (we paid £2.50 for 2 hours) we enjoyed a bird song filled short walk through a woodland stuffed with bluebells and ferns. In parts the path was rough and steep but at only 2 miles it was a relatively easy walk for us.

The route took us passed a smaller tarn, Low Dam before drawing close to High. High Dam reminded me of Glencoe Loachan near Glencoe, (which we visited last year). Perhaps it was the cloudy weather conditions that made me think of this similarity?

We walked around the perimeter of the tarn, looking for good access points to the water. I didn’t want to scramble over rocks or wade into ankle height water for meters. We found a promontory with decent access and I quickly stripped to my tankini. I had worked up a sweat on the walk and didn’t feel too cold. I occasionally feel nervous entering the water but on this occasion I waded in! I was so elated to be swimming again! Terrence registered a comfy 15-16°C. I managed to swim for around 20 minutes without feeling cold. Actually, I found it hard to get out of the water. The peaceful solitude of the tarn struck me. Nature seemed very prevalent. As I swam, a curious wagtail watched me from a rock, the song of a cuckoo echoed across the tarn, whilst great tits flittered among trees and a heron flew overhead.

Have you been to High Dam? If so what were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #61

I always love updating you all with a Sunday Sevens! It’s been a busy weekend, so here’s a quick update.

RSPB Membership:

David and I had a few days off work this week, so on Monday we headed towards RSPB Marshside near Southport for a few hours walking while overlooking hundreds of wading birds and gulls.

We spotted a few species we hadn’t seen before, like the shelduck and wigeon.

Riley in the Lake District:

Tuesday dawned grey with heavy rain, however we decided to continue up the M6 towards the Lake District with Riley and my brother in tow. Our destination was Grizedale Forest. On our journey we were hampered by car crashes and flooded roads. The rain thankfully stopped when we arrived at Grizedale. We then spent the next four hours walking paths that had turned into streams, losing our route and getting very muddy! It was a fun adventure!

#Walk1000miles:

This week, like last, has been hampered by longer days in work and late buses! My miles this week has been a lowly 36, bringing my annual total to 471 miles.

Book I am reading:

I’ve picked up Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap in Time, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Theatre:

Staying with Shakespeare, this Saturday David and I went to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre to see a production of Macbeth (or the Scottish play). I’d not visited the Epstein, formerly the Neptune before. It is one of Liverpool’s smaller theatres and had a tired quaintness to it. I quite enjoyed the play but was not fussed with the actor (Sean Jones) who played Macbeth. I felt his voice wasn’t very strong.

Have you seen this play? What were your thoughts?

Family walks:

I finish this post after taking a fantastic, yet tiring, wind blown, five mile walk around Formby Beach today. Riley looked like he had a wonderful time! We even spotted a starfish or two!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

Sunday Sevens is a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins!

Wild Swim/Walks… Anticipation 2019

March has arrived! The old adage of March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb, seems to be true as Storm Freya threatens to batter us with high winds. However March also marks the arrival of longer days as the clocks spring forward. It is also a time where I start planning in earnest forthcoming swim/walks.

Over the past three-four years I have made some wonderful wild swim/walk memories. From swimming before giants at Wastwater, beautiful morning swims at Derwentwater and Rydal, to swimming in misty drizzle at Llyn Cau and with fish at Buttermere. I even swam in a Scottish loch or two.

Each swim/walk has been memorable in its own right. I am excited to see what new swim/walk adventures I get up to in 2019!

Of my many hopes for the new swimming season, I aim to bag the big lakes of the Lake District, Winderemere and Coniston, and maybe, just maybe I’ll get to swim in Llyn Lydaw and Glaslyn of Snowdonia fame?

Where would you like to see me swim in 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christinex

A New Years Jaunt to Keswick

For the past three years, David and I have headed out for a walk on New Years Day and 2019 wasn’t any different. This year we managed to take smiley Riley along with us. We got up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am (it was still dark) and headed up the M6 towards the Lake District. We took the usual pit stop at an eerily quiet Lancaster Services before driving the remaining 1.5 hours, arriving in Keswick just before 9am.

After booting up, with Riley on lead, we headed towards Portinscale and the western shores of Derwentwater. We spent a good two hours walking to and along the shore of Derwentwater. We passed alpacas in a field of the Lingholm Estate, discovered Hawes End jetty was being rebuilt and picnicked before a resplendent Blencathra and Skiddaw in the strong winter sunshine. Whilst David took pictures, Riley and I paddled in the shallows of Derwentwater and ran chasing sticks along the shoreline. I was surprised at how quiet the lakeside was. It was only after 11am that the crowds started to arrive, by then we were heading back towards Keswick. It was a perfect day and a wonderful start to the new year!

Below find a collage of pictures from our time at Derwentwater.

We walked back to Keswick and joined the throng among the bustling streets. There were just as many dogs as there were humans in Keswick and I relished the chance to share this dog friendly town with Riley. Indeed Riley seemed to enjoy himself and attracted quite a few adoring fans. While we stood outside the Old Keswickian chip shop waiting for David to come out with a portion of chips for Riley’s humans, people approached Riley asking to stroke him. It was like he was a celebrity!

David and I settled on a bench alongside the eastern shore of Derwentwater to eat our chips while Riley chilled at our feet. I think the 10 miles walking had tired him! To end the day, even though the afternoon sun was fierce, we took Riley to a very busy Friars Crag overlooking the Jaws of Borrowdale.

We retraced our steps back to the car and tiredly headed back home. Riley slept the three hours home while David and I made another short stop at Lancaster Services for a restorative Costa coffee. All in all it was a positive beginning to the new year and one I shall remember for a long time to come. Riley at the shores of Derwentwater was a dream come true, but where in the Lake District do you think we should walk him next?

Thanks for reading,

Happy New Year!

Christine x