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

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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?

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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

2017 – A Year in Food (and Drink!)

I wasn’t going to do a ‘flavour’ of 2017 post. I have struggled with finding new recipes to try this year. However after looking at pictures on my phone I have come to the conclusion that I have taken enough pictures to warrant a post. So here’s a ‘taste’ of my 2017!

I hope you enjoy!

January:

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Roasted Vegetable Parcels

Roasted vegetable parcels have become a staple to our yearly menu. They are full of roasted red onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes. Wrapped up in a toasted tortilla with tomato puree and mozzarella. Served on a bed of salad leaves, they are delicious!

February:

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Blind Scouse

28th February 2017 was World Scouse Day. The celebration of all things Scouse was in it’s fifth year! I celebrated by making a blind scouse.

March: 

While David made a Victoria sponge, I was enjoying red velvet cakes and cucumber sandwiches. Part of an afternoon tea at Jam Liverpool.

April:

Another recipe I go back to time and time again is Chungah’s, one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I use bulgur wheat instead of ground beef and add a little bit more water. The result is a delicious, wholesome meal.

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One pan stuffed pepper casserole

May:

After a meltdown in the kitchen, David took up the knives and oven gloves and managed to whip up a vegetable masala, with microwaved spicy Bombay potatoes.

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Vegetable Masala

June:

A first for David and I in 2017, was attempting to make elder-flower champagne. It may have only stayed fizzy for 30 Days Wild, but it will be something we will attempt to make again next year. It made for a refreshing early summer’s drink. The whole family enjoyed it!

July:

A chippie tea from The Old Keswickian was enjoyable, especially at the lakeside of Derwentwater during our summer visit to Keswick.

August:

A three bean quinoa chilli  (picture above), recipe from oh my veggies, is so filling and makes so may servings. I literally have three bean quinoa chilli for my work lunches, five days a week!! It’s as spicy as you want. I usually put in half a teaspoon of chilli powder! It’s so full of beans and vegetables, it’s become a staple in my repertoire.

September:

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During a week off work I treated mum to a rich cream tea at Leaf, Liverpool. It was jummy!

October:

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Brown Lentil Chilli

Another staple dinner I go to when I have no idea what to cook is a Brown Lentil Chilli, from Katya on A Little Broken. I serve the meal for two with toasted tortillas.

November:

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Spicy bean and sausage casserole

Another recipe I return to is The Vegan Household’s/Gourmet Vegan, spicy butter bean and (vegan) sausage casserole. I use different sausage brands from Asda’s own to Linda McCartney, so not always vegan. However the result is always delicious and very filling!

December: 

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Mince Pies

Unfortunately the only pictures of the little mince pies I made this year were taken as part of the #7dayblackandwhitephotochallenge on Instagram. I used pre-made short crust pastry, but I think I’ll make my own next year.

So there you are, a flavour of my 2017!

Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes featured? Or my post has inspired you to try some of them!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Plan B!

For our most recent visit to the Lake District I had planned Wainwright walks and double lake swims. However, in reality not all plans came to fruition, but that was ok. While we were out and about in the Cumbrian hills we tweaked our plans and covered as much as we could, with the time that we had. This was no more truer than our last day in the Lakes, when instead of driving straight from our base, Hermiston Guest House to Butteremere, we lingered a while in Keswick.

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Derwent Water

Morning in Braithwaite dawned bright and crisp, a perfect autumn day. While having breakfast, we watched as clouds from the mountains drifted down to the lower valleys and lakes. We left the B&B shrouded in mist hopeful of seeing some cloud inversion over Derwent Water. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late and only captured the fierce sun burning the remaining cloud away.

Depending whether you are brave enough to face the Honister Pass or not, Buttermere is some 30-40 minutes drive from Keswick. We arrived at Butteremere around lunchtime and had difficulty in finding parking. Both National Trust car-parks were full, (due to it being a beautiful day and the Half Term holidays). Thankfully we managed to find a lay-by beside Crummock Water, though being a good 20 minute walk to the lake of Buttermere.

Plan A: I had prepared a one mile walk from Buttermere to Bleaberry Tarn via Burtness Wood, where I would take my 10th swim of the year. However we arrived at the lakeside of Buttermere around 12.30pm and with the best of the day behind us. I decided to deviate from the plan.

Plan B: To take a walk to a sheltered beach around Buttermere (eastern side), and from there embark on a swim, before lunch. I wanted to savour the sunshine as my last swim in Buttermere was cold and dreary. We passed the lone tree and as the path alongside the lake became broken with fallen trees and boggy with mud, we found a wide shingle beach with unparalleled views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

David had his lunch, while I stripped to my tankini and waded into the water. The water was warmer than Small Water the previous day. Terence clocked 12°C, but in the sunshine it felt much warmer, deceivably so.

I swam back and forth along the bank for about 20 minutes, my longest swim this year! At one point I had an audience, and another time a woman asked me what the water temperature was like! I don’t wild swim for the spectacle it creates. I do it to feel closer to nature, to the environment. Since the dawn of indoor swimming pools, wild swimming has took a step back in the nations’ psyche, but hopefully with its recent resurgence, less people will be shocked at seeing someone swimming in a lake!

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Buttermere swim

Back on land, struggling to get dry and warm, I experienced one of the worst shiver attacks I have had while wild swimming. I should have known from my Wast Water swim that being in cold water for over 15 minutes tends to affect me more, more so in autumnal temperatures! This blog post from Open Water Woman is very enlightening about the affects of cold water swimming on the body and resultant hypothermia if not adequately monitored.

Buttermere maybe my 10th and final swim of this season. If so, I have certainly ended on a high! My final swim of 2017, in one of my favourite lakes. I couldn’t have planned it any better. Sometimes plans are not meant to be followed.

Have you visited Butteremere? Been convinced to try wild swimming? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks so much for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #38

This week’s Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), comes mostly from the Lake District where I’ve had a wonderful few days away with David.

B&B: Yet again we stayed at Hermiston Guesthouse in Braithwaite for our two night stay. We were given the very comfortable Latrigg double room!

Birthday: This third ‘Lakes holiday’ of 2017 was a birthday treat. Phil and Helen, the proprietors of the guest house, gifted me a bottle of bucks fizz to celebrate!

Wild Swimming: Of course I planned some wild swims alongside our many walks. I spent a wonderful impromptu 20 minute swim at Buttermere! The water temperature was about 12° but in the sunshine it felt much warmer. However the shakes on shore afterwards were some of the worst I’ve experienced. It was hard to drink my hot cup of coffee!

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Buttermere

#walk1000miles: Even though I have completed the walk 1000 miles challenge, I am still counting my mileage. David and I walked a good seven miles around Haweswater where there are gates made for giants!

On returning home, among the post was my completers medal! Yay!! 😀

Derwent Water: Of course no visit to Keswick would have been complete without visiting the shores of Derwent Water. I think this picture of the Borrowdale end of the lake is among the best I’ve taken.

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Derwent Water

Tux: Unfortunately on our arrival home, we were dismayed to have had yet another death in the aviary. Poor Tux, who was our eldest owl finch, was found at the bottom of the cage. We have buried her in the yarden with her partner Troy (who died earlier this year).

I’ll finish this post with a photo of the beautiful flowers David bought me for my birthday!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Scenes from the Lake District. (Whinlatter Forest.)

Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.

On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.

David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.

The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.

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Seat How Summit

As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!

Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!

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Fudge

The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.

Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.

Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.

Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Ennerdale Water, Buttermere and Derwent Water.)

A rather uninspiring, grey day dawned for our last, full day in the Lake District. After breakfasting on fruit salad filled with mango and blueberries, David and I headed towards Ennerdale Water.

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Ennerdale Water and Angler’s Crag

Ennerdale Water is only 40 minutes drive from Braithwaite. You may have guessed that the week’s itinerary of lakes have been selected solely because swimming is prohibited, due to them being reservoirs! I just had to put up with walking around them instead! (I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can take up my swim/walks again!)

We parked the car at the ample (and free) Bowness Knott car park. We visited this spot on our last break to the Lakes, due to Ennerdale being a dark sky area.

The planned walk was the Smithy Beck Trail. It’s low lying (so easy on creaking joints) and takes in a woodland walk as well as lakeside.

We took the woodland path first, and marveled at the great towering Scots Pine trees. We gasped as we saw fleetingly, a red squirrel and then later on a tree creeper. David wished he had brought his big lens, maybe next time!

The path (which was very muddy), took us to the bridge over Smithy Beck Falls where David and I played Pooh Sticks. There was no clear winner. From there, the path meandered towards the lakeside. We picnicked on a bench overlooking Pillar, Steeple and Scoat Fell.

After lunch we decided to head towards Buttermere (another 40 minute drive) and visit the much photographed lone tree. On our last visit, the permissive path had been closed due to nesting sandpipers!

Instead of finding a free lay-by in which to park the car, we headed to the National Trust car park by the Fish Inn, and paid the steep £3.50 for two hours! I didn’t mind as I see it as giving a little back to the region that has kept us entertained with beautiful vistas, walking and swimming.

We spent a good hour at the lakeside of Buttermere, taking dozens of photographs. However, much like the day before the weather turned blustery and drizzly. Chilled to the bone by the wind that whipped over the lake, David and I headed back to the car.

‘I can’t visit Buttermere without seeing Derwent Water!’ I cried. So David fired up the engine and we headed towards Keswick and the Theatre by the Lake parking. (One day I will see a play at the theatre!)

The journey to Keswick (around 30 minutes) took in the mountain pass, Honister, much to David’s consternation. Touted as one of the best mountain drives in the UK. At it’s summit it climbs to a dizzy 356 metres, with a 1 in 4 gradient. The rugged scenery was impressive and we luckily had the winding road to ourselves, as David crunched the clutch into 1st gear. It was times like this that I wished we had a drone!

In Keswick, we paid the £3.00 for two hours parking and walked towards the lakeside. The weather had made a turn for the worse. Heavy clouds obstructed much of the scenery. We made our way towards Friar’s Crag and took pictures along the way. How different out first visit here in October had been!

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Derwent Water

We decided to call our sightseeing a day and headed back towards our B&B, Hermiston in Braithwaite. On arrival Phil and Helen offered more tea, coffee and cake which we received gratefully. We changed from our mud caked clothes and warmed up before heading back to Keswick for our last meal of the holiday.

We had a table booked at the Lakes Bar and Bistro for 5.30pm. We had looked at the menu online earlier and liked a few of the options. On arrival we were asked to chose any table as the place seemed ‘dead.’ I’ve read that when a restaurant is quiet it could be because the establishment is not very good. A little worry crossed my mind. However the meals we were served, though took about 20-30 minutes to come to the table was enjoyable.

David ordered a chicken, ham and leek pie with vegetables, while I opted for the vegetarian goat’s cheese pizza. The pizza made for a very filling meal. I was stuffed after a few slices! David liked his pie but not the butter coated chips. The service was friendly and the food warming, so there were no complaints from us.

We returned to the B&B to enjoy one last shower and recharge our batteries, before our journey home the next day.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x