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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Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

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Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

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Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

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I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

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On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

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I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

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On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

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Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

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 #39

This weekend, I wasn’t going to compile a Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), however after witnessing something amazing on Saturday, I just had to share it with you!!

Birthday: Monday was my birthday. I was kindly gifted some beautiful flowers and the 50th anniversary editions of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

#walk1000miles: As part of the celebrations, David and I headed towards Snowdonia for a 4.5 mile walk. We took the path overlooking Dinorwig Power Station before visiting the shores of Llyn Padarn.

With still counting my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, at the time of writing I am currently at, 1,102 miles!

Collecting: This week I came across the 2017 edition of the 50 pence Peter Rabbit. There’s still Tom Kitten, Benjamin Bunny and Jeremy Fisher to find! Have you found any?

Book I am reading: I am currently ploughing through Katherine Webb’s post WW1 mystery, The Hiding Places. I must admit there is a lot of preamble. However it is keeping me company on the daily commute. Have you read any good books lately?

Ok. Now for that something amazing I was talking about at the beginning of this blog! This Saturday our yarden witnessed a beautiful visitor. He was not enjoying the seed on offer but waiting for a tasty morsel of a goldfinch, or perhaps a starling? He was a sparrowhawk.

Now you maybe thinking, nothing special about that sighting, but living in a city, you don’t often come across raptors. David and I stood in awe for over five minutes watching the sparrowhawk survey the territory. We’ve had many charms of goldfinches and rowdy starlings visiting our feeders this weekend, so this activity possibly drew the sparrowhawk to our yarden. Ultimately it was a thrilling experience. He stood still long enough for me to grab my camcorder and film him. Have you had a close encounter with a raptor? What is your favourite bird of prey?

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Hans Zimmer Live

To finish off:  While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to tracks from Hans Zimmer’s Live in Prague CD. As you know I have seen Hans’ concerts twice now, more recently in Liverpool this year. When I heard he was releasing a compilation of the concert I just had to pre-order. I am biased as I love the medley’s featured of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight Trilogy, the music is skin tingling and exhilarating! I would recommend if you like movie soundtracks!

So, that was my diverse week. How was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Small Water By Haweswater

Another swim/walk was on the agenda today. This time a one hour walk from Mardale Head car park at Haweswater to Small Water. David and I visited the area in 2016 when we rushed to see the sun rise over the fells. That morning the temperature was  -7°C, today it was in double figures, around 13°C.

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Small Water

A blogger friend of mine, Sharon visited Small Water during her stay at Haweswater in 2016 and her post aided my decision to visit this tarn. Since Haweswater is a reservoir and swimming is prohibited, (though it did look inviting), I decided Small Water would be the swim of the day!

From the small car park (we were lucky to find a space), David and I followed the Nan Bield Pass which crept steeply past Mardale Beck towards Small Water. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and within an hour we were at a wide shingle beach. The area was popular with families but we managed to set up camp and when no one was about I made an attempt at a swim.

Small Water swim

Small Water Swim

From pictures I thought the entrance of Small Water looked inviting but unfortunately from our beach, it was very shallow. More suitable beaches were water logged. The lake should be called Shallow Water not Small Water as it took me a good few minutes to walk into any depth of water that I could squat in and push myself forwards. With walking for so long in knee deep water and with a wind (again) whipping around the valley I was frozen before I got swimming.

I swam for about 5 minutes, but I did not enjoy my time in Small Water. The water temperature was about 9°C and I floated above rocks and grasses. I would not recommend Small Water to swimmers, perhaps best for a dip during a hot summer’s day.

For the rest of the afternoon, we decided to walk back down the path to explore The Rigg at Haweswater.

Overall, we spent an enjoyable day of walking around Haweswater (and surrounding area), savouring the quietude and taking lots of pictures. There is another tarn nearby, Blea Water which is the deepest tarn in the Lake District. Perhaps it should be on my swim list for next summer? What do you think?

Have you visited Haweswater? Been to any of the tarns? What are your stories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine

Yew Tree Tarn and Tarn Hows.

Nestled next to the A593, Yew Tree Tarn is one of the most accessible tarns in the Lake District. There is a rather expensive National Trust Car park across the road, (£6.50 for four hours) or if lucky free lay-by parking alongside the tarn. David and I have past this small tarn many times, journeying from Coniston on our way north to Keswick.

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Yew Tree Tarn

I’d planned on a longer walk to Holme Fell before testing the water temperature of Yew Tree Tarn. However the walk didn’t pan out, due to time constraints and being stuck in slow moving traffic around Ambleside. It was decided that after David befriended the local Belted Galloways, I’d take a dip in Yew Tree Tarn before taking a walk around the popular Tarn Hows.

On our walk around Yew Tree Tarn we found a bench overlooking a shingle cove which was a good entrance into the water. Terence registered a cool 12°C, but it felt much colder with the wind that always seems to appear every-time I strip off to my swim-suit! I hadn’t been in the water since August (Llyn Cau), which was probably why the cold affected me. I admit my mindset wasn’t on wild swimming that day, so I cut the swim short after five minutes.

After struggling to get dry and dressed, David and I headed towards a walk around the picturesque Tarn Hows via the Glen Mary ravine and Tom Gill. If there had been more time, I probably would have been tempted to take a dip. In hindsight both tarns I think would benefit from an early morning or evening visit during summer-time.

Tarn Hows is partially man made. Three tarns (The Tarns) were joined together in the 19th Century, lending a very park-like feel to the area. In the 1920’s Beatrix Potter bought the area before selling to the National Trust. You can see why the tarn is so popular today, as the two mile low level path is ideal for all abilities. However for David and I, Tarn Hows didn’t have the special appeal such as Blea Tarn or Wast Water has. Perhaps we are being unkind?

Have you visited Tarn Hows? If so what were your thoughts? Have you been tempted to take a wild swim/dip?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

 

Angle Tarn and Beda Fell.

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Angle Tarn

With a planned walk to Angle Tarn on the itinerary, David and I headed towards Patterdale. We parked the car opposite the Patterdale Hotel and paid the very reasonable £4 for all day. At 9.30am I was surprised at how busy the village was with walkers. With a grey leaden sky and a chilling breeze we headed down the lane and took a left turn onto Goldrill Bridge. We followed signs to the tarn and Boredale Hause.

I found information on getting to Angle Tarn rather sparse online, perhaps that was why we took so many wrong turns. What should have been a two to three hour walk ended up being a five and a half hour epic! Things started to go wrong when we reached the first of many forks in the path. We interpreted the walk featured on The How Cottage website wrongly and took a left turn instead of a right. After walking for half an hour, we found that we were heading out onto Place Fell overlooking Ullswater. I knew this was the wrong direction so we turned tail and retraced our route back to the fork, where we took the right-hand path.

After reaching a second fork we took the top pathway. In hindsight it would have been far easier if we had taken the lower path as this would have seen us directly to the mountain pass of Boredale Hause. Instead it was the beginning of our woes as the top path branched off before Boredale Hause and we ended up traipsing across mossy blanket bogs, soaking our tired feet in mud and water. I soon grew fearful as we seemed to be heading in the wrong direction to Angle Tarn. The sky darkened broodily causing my sense of isolation to increase. With map skills at a minimum, GPS not functioning properly, and David doggedly wanting to see what was at the end of a steep path, we walked for further than needed. Instead of heading south we headed east and ended at a cairn overlooking two valleys. However we had inadvertently bagged another Wainwright, this time Beda Fell. With my mood as morose as the weather I didn’t take a picture. Thinking back the scenery was impressive, I just wish that it didn’t look so desolate. I was not enjoying myself out on the fells!

Almost close to tears and wanting to give up, we retraced our footsteps back down the path. Some of the pathways were not clearly defined, but (luckily) we finally ended up at Boredale Hause and its cairn. There were numerous paths leading from the cairn and one that was sign posted with red flags (the coast to coast walk). We followed this path which seemed popular with other walkers. It was also aiming in the right direction for Angle Tarn. I had not given up totally of seeing it. The well defined path was gravelly underfoot with sheer drops in places. I didn’t look down! There were however stunning views of Brothers Water nestled among the Hartsop Dodd fells.

We had been walking for three hours, our feet had started to blister when I saw David ahead of me jump for joy! Over a hill we spotted the dull tinge of cloud reflecting water. Angle Tarn spread out before us enticingly with its two islands and spit. We stiffly walked to the promontory and found a little cove where we set up camp and had lunch. I was too tired to be happy. I had found the whole experience underwhelming.

Even though I felt cold I decided to continue with the planned itinerary and go for a swim. It ended up more of a dip as I felt so exhausted! Terence said that the water temperature was 15°C. From our cove the main island was only a few metres away. Once in the water I decided to swim over and explore. I had always wanted to swim to an island and Angle Tarn’s island was not too far away.

After my swim, we returned to Boredale Hause and thankfully our journey back to the car park was uneventful. Our descent took two hours. On the way down, David spied a huge golden ringed dragonfly at the side of the path. Out came the lenses and he managed to snap a great photo of it!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

In calculation, we had walked for over five hours, ten miles in total and my Samsung Health clocked a whopping 26,000 steps! It was an eventful day, one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Have you walked around the fells of Patterdale? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Blea Tarn and Brothers Water.

I was almost deterred from swimming in Blea Tarn and Brothers Water as they have been designated SSSI’s or Sites of Special Scientific Interest. However with both having been on my ‘to do’ list since the very beginning, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Blea Tarn:

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Blea Tarn and the Langdales

David and I drove to Blea Tarn at the start of our few days away to the Lake District. As we came from the direction of the Great Langdale valley the tarn looked rather uninspiring. Undeterred we parked up at the National Trust Blea Tarn car park, and paid the rather steep charge of £5.50 for 4 hours. Parking is right across the road from the tarn with an accessible walk to the waters edge and stunning views. I was surprised the area wasn’t more busy, we only saw a handful of people!

We followed the National Trust trail and took a gentle meandering walk past the tarn, gazed at towering Scots Pines before heading out towards the fells and then the ultimate viewpoint over Great Langdale, which was stunning!

During our walk we saw common spotted orchids, golden ringed dragonflies (to fast for us this time, though we would see them again during our walk over Beda Fell), and a beautiful summer visitor, a pied flycatcher.

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Blea Tarn

We returned to the shingle beach of Blea Tarn where we set up base and I stripped to my new tankini. Terence the turtle registered a balmy 18°C but with the wind I soon cooled quickly. Here’s some pictures and video of my very enjoyable swim, the best of the weekend! The entrance into the water was easy underfoot. No scrambling over rocks is always a plus in my book!

Brothers Water: 

We got to the shores of Brothers Water after a five hour hike around Beda Fell. At 3.30pm there were only a few dog walkers around, I had the entire lake to myself! Tired and with aching feet we stumbled along the shingle shore towards the waters edge. From there I struggled into a new swimsuit and waded out ungracefully into the shallow and reedy waters. I did not stray too far from the shore, though in hindsight I think maybe I should have ventured out further. I was afraid of fronds catching at my ankles, much like Loweswater. However the waters were silky against my tired limbs and the views were soul nourishing. Pictures of Brothers Water to me, always looked like a mini Wast Water but once there the lake was reminiscent of Buttermere. The water was a warm 17°C but the swarm of flies that hovered about the surface of the water, and then me, was slightly off putting. I think with being exhausted from a mentally challenging walk, I didn’t enjoy swimming at Brothers Water as I should have. The real stars were the small fish that swam in shoals in the shallows. If anyone can ID them for me that would be great! Here’s a small selection of pictures and video of my swim.

Have you visited this tarn/water? What are your memories of them?

Where do you think I should swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x