Back to Where it all Began!

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Llyn Idwal

You probably remember that in 2016 I visited Llyn Idwal with David. You can read that post here. We visited on a cold, frosty February day. It was Darwin’s Day to be exact, the 12th February. I remember standing on the shingle beach looking out at the icy waters wondering what it would be like of a summer? To perhaps paddle in the waters with the imposing Glyderau mountains all around.

Since then I have discovered the joys of wild swimming, but I have never had the opportunity to return to where it all began. That was until a friend from America visited for the weekend and decided on Wales as the destination for a day trip. David and I more than obliged and after much deliberation we opted to return to Cwm Idwal and the surrounding area. The plan was to walk to Llyn Bochlwyd and then have a swim before returning to the shores of Llyn Idwal for a second swim.

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Cwm Idwal

The weather dawned overcast and muggy on the day we ventured westwards. We arrived at our destination at 9.30am but the car park was already full!(As is always the case with popular spots in Wales during the weekend.) We managed to find on road parking and by doing this dodged car parking charges!

The walk to Llyn Bochlwyd was arduous. David and I haven’t hiked this year so the steep gradient and persistent stepped path was tiring. We only carried on as my friend, Jennifer was like a mountain goat and sprightly made her way up the path, while David and I trailed behind. When the waters of Llyn Bochlwyd came into view it was a welcome sight indeed.

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Llyn Bochlwyd and Tryfan

Llyn Bochlwyd is known as the Australia lake, as from Tryfan it is shaped similar to the coast of Australia. However in Welsh the name means Grey Cheek Lake. This stems from the legend of an old grey stag who was being hunted but managed to escape by swimming to safety in the lake, while holding his head and grey cheeks above the surface.

We set up camp along the lakeside which was quite boggy. Jennifer and I decided to embark on a swim before a bite to eat. We stripped to our swimsuits and waded into the cool 15° waters. Being only my second swim this season I was eager to get swimming. Jennifer, from California felt the cold much more. I enjoyed the swim very much, the silky smooth waters were a balm and the rugged views of Tryfan, food for the soul.

After lunch, we descended the rocky path back to the shores of Llyn Idwal. The descent was easier than the climb!

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Selfie

Llyn Idwal is a much more popular destination than Llyn Bochlwyd. When we arrived at the beach there were many people enjoying the cool waters. It didn’t take Jennifer and I long to join them in sampling the joys of swimming in Llyn Idwal. The water was around 17° but it wasn’t as tranquil as our first swim. However we spent a good 15 minutes swimming around enjoying the views of the Devil’s Kitchen and Clogwyn Y Tarw.

We finished the day by having a cream tea at the Alpine Coffee Shop in Betws Y Coed. We returned home feeling tired but content in the knowledge that we had had a fun filled day of adventure!

Have you visited the Cwm Idwal area? Swam in any of the lakes mentioned?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Wild Swim/Walks… Anticipation 2019

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

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

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

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

Where would you like to see me swim in 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christinex

Goodbye 2018…and Hello 2019!

Happy New Year from Christine, David, Artie and Riley! Here’s hoping 2019 is a year full of love, laughter and friendship!

It’s taken a while but below find the annual video sharing the most memorable moments of 2018. Here’s hoping 2019 will just be as wonderful!

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

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

What’s That Coming Over the Hill?

It wasn’t a monster… that David and I saw at Loch Ness but unwelcoming waves. I don’t like swimming when it’s windy as the chop knocks me about a bit. Not to mention throws spray up my nose and into my mouth. Unfortunately the day we had chosen for my Loch Ness swim dawned squally. Determined to face the swell we headed towards the shores of Loch Ness.

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Loch Ness

The drive from Fort William took two hours. We headed north-east along the B852 towards a lay-by overlooking a stony beach. The rain that had dogged the morning cleared away to leave broken clouds drifting over the large expanse of loch, sadly the wind prevailed.

Fun fact: Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes/llyns of England and Wales combined! Though it isn’t the deepest lake, that accolade goes to Loch Morar. Loch Ness is pretty large and only second in size to Loch Lomond.

I was excited to face Loch Ness and to swim in its salt tasting waters. However my dream didn’t turn into the reality I had hoped. The stony beach was shallow and the waves crashing onto the shore were that fierce I couldn’t stand, let alone swim. I sat down in the shallows and clung for dear life to a rock as the swell knocked me for six. Whenever I thought the wind was dying down, a large wave took me unawares. The swim turned out disappointing. I decided to call it quits after 10 minutes of being battered by the wind and water. I’d rather be safe than nursing contusions or worse. It seemed there was only room for one monster in Loch Ness that day!

Have you visited Loch Ness? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

No Room at the Car Park…

No matter how much you plan a day out, even after getting up at 5.30am and driving for two hours, sometimes things just don’t go to plan. That was what happened to David and I recently, as we ventured to Pen-y-Pass car park, Snowdonia.

The plan was to walk the Miner’s Track to Snowdon and take in three swims, Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn. However on arrival at 8am, staff were putting out orange bollards with signs saying full! Other car parks along the A4086 were also full. We were not the only disappointed visitors that day. There were many cars trying to park on verges as we drove to a new destination.

I had to think fast. Perhaps I should have suggested Idwal and Ogwen, (still llyns I’ve not swam in), but I thought the Idwal car park would be just as busy as Pen-y-Pass. So I decided we should drive on towards Llyn Dinas and see if there was any available car park spaces. There was! We paid £2.50 for the privilege of four hours. In hindsight we could have had free car parking further up the road, but we were going by my memory and that’s not the best at any time.

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Llyn Dinas

From the car park there were free toilets, only one for women, (be prepared to queue), the men fared better. We then walked south west along the A498 towards Llyn Dinas. Llyn Dinas boasts an all accessible pathway but that was further up the road and I had no map. There were many accessible routes from the road to the llyn but none with a good lake-shore until I found a site with a wide shingle beach. Not totally secluded but closest to, we decided to make this our camp.

Llyn Dinas is named after the nearby hill fort Dinas Emrys, which has mythical connections to the Arthurian figure Merlin. Merlin is reputed to have been recruited by king Vortigern who having fled the Anglo-Saxons was constructing a fort. Vortigern asked Merlin ‘why after building the fort would the construction come crashing down the next day’.

Merlin said that there were ‘two dragons or vermes who lived in a pool’ where the fort was being erected. It was they who destroyed the building. Once the dragons were freed the fort was constructed. In 1954 and 1956 the area was excavated by Archaeologist, Dr H. N. Savory who indeed discovered a pool inside the fort. Whether the myth has some foundation is debatable. Vortigern himself was supposed to have hidden the Throne of Britain beneath a stone at Llyn Dinas. Though this story seems to tally with a stone that was set to mark the boundary between three land cantrefi or borders.

On my swim I did not meet any dragons nor many people. The llyn was peaceful at 9am. The sun was warm and the water notched 20-22°C. It was the warmest wild swim I had ever experienced. I stayed in the water over half and hour and in hindsight I could have stayed in longer. I emerged from the water before the canoeists arrived. It was a most pleasurable swim.

I don’t seem to be as successful with my Welsh swims as I have been with my Lake District swims. There are so many llyns I have not attempted yet. Perhaps when the weather gets cooler I can reattempt the Miner’s Track?

Have you traversed the Miner’s Track to Snowdon? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_13Day 13: This Wednesday I had time to sit down with pen and paper and plan a wild adventure!

There’s something exiting about planning for a forthcoming trip. There’s what activities to do, sights to see, places to eat; the possibilities are endless!

This latest trip to the Lake District has been rather impromptu, (not that I’m complaining!) 😀

I don’t know about you, but I like to make a list of all the places to visit, opening times, prices (if applicable). I print out all the relevant booking information and also trail maps and an itinerary. Even if plans go awry, I like to have a back up plan re: wet weather, late arrivals etc.

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Planning a trip

My intention is to organise swim/walks, lakeside jaunts and perhaps sunset vistas (depending on the weather). So with Google at the ready I am poised to plan a really wild adventure!

Where in the Lake District do you think I should venture too?

Have you planned a wild adventure? If so where?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Ten

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_10Day 10: This Sunday David and I ventured to Brockholes, 50 minutes drive from Liverpool. Brockholes is a nature reserve on the site of an old quarry. It opened in 2011 and is managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust. This 250 acre reserve has trail paths, forest walks, lakes, wetlands and a floating visitor centre.

We spent a leisurely four hours nature spotting. The highlights were: seeing a fleeing roe deer, hundreds of darting blue damselflies, dragonflies spotted over the Nook Pool, and an oystercatcher and lapwing from The Lookout hide.

Have you visited Brockholes? What was your impression?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

 

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

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