Overdue…

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.

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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.

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!

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Coniston 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!

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.

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?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2019

As December comes to a close and the end of the decade draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2019. The year was slow to get going but when it did it snowballed! The second half of 2019 has been a roller-coaster! Together, David and I have been on many exciting adventures. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight the year that was 2019!

January:

The year began with a ten mile walk around Kewsick, where I introduced Riley to the joys of paddling in Derwentwater.

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Riley in Entrust NT Hands

February:

During this cold month I embarked on many Riley walks with friends and family.

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Family walk to Formby Beach

March:

David and I became members of the RSPB and visited many reserves in the North West. A favourite of mine is Leighton Moss, Morecambe where we got to feed hungry robins and tits.

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Feeding a Robin

April:

We purchased our first female Lady Gouldian Finch. She is a nice addition to the aviary.

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Rize the Lady Gouldian Finch

May:

I managed to go on my first wild swim of the season in May. I took a gentle walk to High Dam near Windermere for a peaceful swim amidst nature.

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High Dam swim

June:

June had so many highlights it was difficult to chose just one, from raising painted lady butterflies to being bee-keepers for the day. However playing host to our American friend Jennifer who came to visit for a second time was even more fun than her first visit. We hiked in the Ogwen Valley and wild swam in Llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

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Selfie time at Ogwen Valley

July:

Work wise 2019 hasn’t been a great year for neither David nor myself. To outweigh all the negativity in his workplace David joined in a fun day with dalmatian puppies.

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David and Dalmatian Puppy

August:

Saving a poor gull who had fallen from its nest (high up on a roof) from uncertain death was ultimately fulfilling especially when a week later it flew off independently.

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Harald

September:

We finally managed to go on a short break to the Lake District after postponing earlier in the year.

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Grasmere from Grey Crag

October:

I finally ticked off Glaslyn after booking a short break away to Snowdonia for my birthday.

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Glaslyn

November:

David bought a new car! A Honda Civic but I still miss his old car the Renault Clio.

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Honda Civic

December:

Though December is all about the excitement (or stress) of Christmas, this year’s trip to New York overshadowed Christmas preparations. My most lasting memory of the holiday was standing on the shoreline before a magnificent Brooklyn Bridge.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

Let’s hope 2020 will be another kind year!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-nine.

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Day 29: Sorry this post is a day late! (Day 30 will be too!)

This weekend we had a friend staying with us from America and Saturday was a planned fun filled day in North Snowdonia. Our destination for the day was Llyn Idwal and Llyn Bochlwyd. We actually did two #ramdomactsofwildness during our day. 1. climb for a better view and 2. making a splash!

We took an hour long slog up a rough, steep hill towards Llyn Bochlwyd, and had wonderful vistas of Llyn Ogwen and Cwm Idwal below.

We swam in Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal, (where I caught the wild swim bug three years ago!) and had spectacular views of the Glyderau mountains. It was a fulfilling day out!

Have you visited this region of Snowdonia?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

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Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x

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

High Winds and Temperatures!

The Sunday of this years Spring Bank Holiday, saw temperatures rise to the mid 20°’s. However the westerlies were gale-like and even though they were refreshing from the heat of the sun, they did knock us about a bit as we climbed though Burtness Wood and on towards Bleaberry Tarn. Bleaberry Tarn was the destination of our walk. We watched as many continued up the staircase-like steps towards Dodd and Red Pike, but David and I decided that the walk to Bleaberry Tarn was enough for us.

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Bleaberry Tarn

Our day began at 6am. A two and a half hour drive was ahead of us. Thankfully the roads were quiet and we made good timing, arriving at Buttermere around 9am. Even at that time, Buttermere was humming with walkers and day trippers alike. We found a space at the National Trust parking by the Fish Inn and paid £8 for all day parking. Then paid 30p for toilet privilege before we began our walk from the car park.

We followed the path towards Buttermere before heading right, over a bridge and left through a gate towards steep steps through Burtness Wood. The tiring two hours walk took us 497m through woodland and then over a boulder field with views from the paths overlooking a glistening Buttermere and Crummock Water.

We passed the unfortunately named outflow, Sour Milk Ghyll, the second of that name, (the first we encountered at Easdale), before we came upon a corrie surrounded by Wainwright’s, Red Pike and High Stile. There were many people enjoying a well earned rest before Bleaberry Tarn and David and I did the same. We picnicked and rested at the waterside, looking at mountains all around.

I think Bleaberry Tarn has been the smallest body of water I have swam in (to date)! Where we picnicked the water was very shallow. There was also a captive audience which I wasn’t happy about. I prefer to swim in more seclusion. We decided to walk to the western side of the tarn. From there the entrance to the water was better, less stones to scramble over and the water was deeper. From here you got swimming pretty quickly which was a godsend as the water, though 16°C felt pretty chilly.

A good two hours was spent at the tarn. I swam in clear, silky waters, floated before craggy peaks and a burning hot sun and even braved dunking my head for an underwater shot!

Our return walk took one hour. Hot and tired, David and I enjoyed an ice cream from Croft House Farm Cafe, before we struggled past cars that were parked on double yellow lines, on our way out of Buttemere and Lorton.

Bleaberry Tarn was a most enjoyable swim. The second of 2018. I wonder where my 3rd will be? Have you any ideas on where I should swim/walk next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Oops…I Did it Again!

What gorgeous summer-like weather we have been having here in the UK! All this warm weather has made me itch to get back into the water.

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My first swim of 2018

My poll this year, on where to begin my wild swimming wasn’t very decisive. This Friday, David had taken a day off work for a planned Lake District adventure. I also packed my swim suit and new Dryrobe® just on the off chance of catching a swim!

On the day, our first destination was free parking between Keswick and Portinscale. We discovered this area while we ambled the 10 miles around Derwentwater in March. You can read all about that adventure here. We followed the road towards Spooney Green Lane, the start of our walk towards Latrigg.

The path took us through woodland, where chaffinches chattered from boughs and peacock butterflies flittered on the wing. Newborn lambs sunbathed before an impressive vista of Skiddaw, before we reached the summit with a glistening Derwentwater and surrounding fells before us.

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Derwentwater from Latrigg

David and I sat and enjoyed the view buffeted by a chilling wind before we returned to the car.

We headed into Keswick (fast becoming our second home). Payed the £5.30 to park for three hours at Theatre by the Lake and headed into town. We perused the shops with the tones of a soprano and a country singer vying for attention. With chips from The Old Keswickian, we settled in Crow Park and enjoyed watching dogs play in the water with the backdrop of Derwentwater behind them. It was here that I saw my first swallow of the season.

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Crow Park

After lunch, we walked towards Calfclose Bay, looking for a sheltered beach from where to embark on a first swim of 2018! My third at Derwentwater, and how different it was from my previous experiences! (My first time, and second time). From the first entrance I paddled a bit (in 14° waters), but did not find the depths in which to swim so we headed towards the National Trust Centenary Stones where I waded out into deeper waters there. However a mean wind that wiped across the water meant I was fighting waves a surfer would have enjoyed rather than actually doing much swimming. I swam a few strokes, posed before the Centenary Stones and tried to catch the views of Castle Crag and Cat Bells before a wave of fresh water was thrown at me from a gust. I found it hard to navigate and keep my head out of the water. I discovered I prefer to swim in waters less choppy.

The only upside of this experience was that I tested out my new Dryrobe®. It was roomy and kept the wind at bay. I will have to acquire the skills to change into fresh clothing as I got hopelessly tied up in knots, but it is a welcome addition to my ever-growing array of swimming paraphernalia.

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Testing out the Dryrobe®

We returned home from a wonderful day in the Lakes, tired, aching and having caught the sun. A certain person forgot to take the sunscreen, oops! My swim/walk adventures have well and truly begun. I can’t wait to take to the fells again and see where my next swim/walk takes me! Where do you think I should venture to next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Castle Crag

Alfred Wainwright would be shaking his head with displeasure if he knew that David and I sort of got lost as we ventured on an easy walk to Castle Crag.

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Castle Crag from Derwentwater

Castle Crag is more of a hill than a mountain. Classified as a Wainwright even though he, himself states in his Pictorial Guides (book six), that the crag of 290m, ‘should be regarded, not as a separate fell but as a protuberance…of Low Scawdel.’ However he then goes on to praise Castle Crag’s merits. ‘Castle Crag is so magnificently independent, so ruggedly individual, so…unashamed of its lack of inches, that less than justice would be done by relegating it to a paragraph in the High Spy chapter.’ I have to agree, Castle Crag looks magnificent in the Jaws of Borrowdale, even if it is overshadowed by higher peaks.

David and I decided Castle Crag would be the destination of our most recent day out. We arrived at the the quiet village of Rosthwaite just before 10am. We managed to get a parking space at the small NT car park (where toilets are free but ask for a donation). We paid £6 for four hours parking.

However on the day, with poor intelligence and bad maps, David and I took a detour towards caves where ‘Professor of Adventure,’ Millican Dalton took summer residence before his death in 1947, aged 79. We saw melting icicles before we retraced our tracks and finally found a path that climbed steeply towards the views and quarry of Castle Crag.

We navigated through a slippery spoil heap to get to the summit, where there’s a WW1 memorial and beautiful views of Derwentwater. Buffeted by a chilling easterly wind, David and I managed to share a picnic with red kites chasing each other, while surveying the awesome scenery.

I simply love this area of the Lake District and keep coming back to explore more and more of its facets. Eagle Crag looked enticing (Wainwright’s Route A looked doable), and we have yet to venture towards Latrigg. Which fell do you think David and I should explore next?

Thanks so much 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 Buttermere, 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 Buttermere 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