My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.
I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!
As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.
Riley at Grasmere
Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!
Then lockdown happened.
At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.
Riley playing with his buddie
Riley and David
Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.
That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.
With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!
In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.
With parking paid for all day, at £5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.
I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!
The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!
Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!
David on the path
Pano of Old Man and Coniston Water
David on the path again
On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.
Beacon Tarn swim
Beacon Tarn swim
Beacon Tarn swim
From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.
We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.
I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?
This Friday was Candlemas – Festival of light.Candlemas has many connotations. For the Christian’s, it represents Mary’s presentation of the young Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem. To others it’s Imbolc, a Gaelic festival signalling the beginning of spring, and since 1886 the day has also been known as Groundhog Day. Whatever your beliefs, the season of spring does seem to be close at hand.
For the past few weeks I have been looking for signs of spring. Thanks to the Woodland Trust‘s Nature Detectives, I have spotted my first blooming willow catkins and snowdrops.
Snowdrops (Candlemas Bells)
However there seems to be many superstitions regarding this time of year between the Shortest Day and the March equinox. Of the Christian saying:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, Winter will not come again.
This belief means that if the day of Candlemas is bright and sunny, then superstition would determine that winter hasn’t ended for the season. This is also the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania tradition of Punxsutawney Phil. If, (groundhog) Phil see’s his shadow (on a sunny day) then the poor rodent, will predict another six weeks of winter.
This year, both Candlemas was a sunny, fair day here in the NW of England and Punxsutawney Phil (in Philadelphia, U.S.A) did indeed see his shadow. Meaning there could be another six weeks of winter.
I on the other hand don’t believe in these superstitions. I can’t ignore nature. There is so much blossoming around me. From Hellebores and irises, to daffodils (in parks) and crocuses in my yarden. Even in the grasp of winter there is life, all around.
Riley and Daffodils
This weekend I have also spotted the visiting chiffchaff to my yarden. He/she is always spotted around this time, flitting about the yarden. This year I was amazed at how brash the chiffchaff was, fluttering at the dinning room window and landing in the window boxes. I’ve managed to get some new footage of this seasonal visitor. We tend to only see the chiffchaff around wintertime.
So whether you think spring is around the corner or six weeks away. Spring will be here in no time, and then fast on its heels will be summer. The seasons of the years go so fast. We need to savour the passing of time.
Enchanted Forest Mug
While I was watching the wildlife outside my window. I enjoyed a cup of tea from my recently bought mug. It is of the same design as my Enchanted Forest plates. I love it!
It’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!
Day 22: Wednesday
On the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.
Day 23: Thursday
This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.
Common Clothes Moth
Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.
It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!
Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.
On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!
Day 24: Friday
The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)
The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!
Day 25: Saturday
I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!
I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!
Day 26: Sunday
I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!
So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!
My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’
‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’
‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!
To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!
I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!
There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:
2 House Sparrows (males)
1 very disheveled Blue Tit
8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.
Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.
10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.
Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?
Day 27: Monday
I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.
I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!
Day 28: Tuesday
To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!
Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!
I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.
At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!
Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!
There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.
I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!
Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more–and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–
To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!