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.

OSS_Logo_300px-01_300_300_c1.jpg

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.

DSC_0106

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.

colour-guide-dryrobe-range-Small

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

Advertisements

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.

Yew Tree Tarn 1

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

A Walk in the Clouds

The August bank holiday weekend arrived with the promise of warm sunny weather, (we have been starved of summer recently). My Saturday began at 5.30 am, when bleary eyed I got ready to go on another adventure to Wales. I had intended to join in with #Photo an Hour, but gave up half way as most of my day was spent in a car, travelling.

The previous night, we settled on visiting Cadair Idris and the glacial corrie Llyn Cau, (#1 on my bucket list). As we drove through North Wales with blue skies and golden light we could be forgiven into believing that the Met Office predictions were accurate.

20170826_105715

However, on arrival at the car park, the mountains were shrouded in low clouds that billowed like smoke, and a faint drizzle made us glad we had brought our waterproofs! We paid £5 for all day parking. We could have paid £2.50 for four hours but I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to walk to Llyn Cau. Snowdonia National Park gave an estimate of an hour but with my little legs that could mean two hours! In reality it did take David and I approx. one hour to walk to Llyn Cau.

cadair_walk_route

We followed the Minffordd path steeply through a relic 8000 year old oak wood, before we passed a gate towards the mountainside.

The term cadair can be translated as chair from the early Welsh language. Cadair Idris or chair of Idris in legend was where the giant warrior bard Idris sat to view the stars. It is said that if you stay a night on the mountain you will come down either mad or a poet! However Idris was shrouded in cloud the day we visited.

llyn cau

Llyn Cau

According to Welsh mythology Llyn Cau is said to be bottomless and home to the afanc. The afanc or crocodile/demonic beaver (!) once terrorised the villages near Llyn Barfog (bearded lake), before King Arthur reputedly caught the afanc and imprisoned it in Llyn Cau. Stories tell of the afanc dragging unsuspecting swimmers to their doom! I kept an eye out for the afanc as we approached the waters edge.

I had imagined visiting Llyn Cau and Cadair Idris in bright sunshine and blue skies. But on the day I would have to make do with moody clouds and rain. Warmed by the strenuous hike, I soon cooled as I walked into the clear, silky waters of the lake. Terence registered a cold 14°C. While swimming I felt the landscape was unforgiving. You either respect the land or risk your life. It was a perfect day for the Afanc to emerge from the waters. I noticed I swam a little faster! Mythical creatures aside, the only audience I had were curious walkers watching me swim! I felt rather self conscious!

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Llyn Cau. The entrance to the water, though looked rocky was actually easy underfoot and you quickly got swimming which was a god send as the waters were rather chilly! The only downside was that our feet were already wet due to the boggy nature of the land around the lake. It was hard to find a dry path towards the lakeside.

I totally underestimated how popular the Cadair Idris path would be. I had imagined Llyn Cau to be a secluded place to swim but as we turned to leave the lake I was surprised to see the path swell with walkers and families alike. It was even busier than Cat Bells!

A note of caution. The walk to Llyn Cau and further to Cadair Idris is a steep ascent. The lake itself stands at around 350m. The path rarely levels out. I have found that the next day my thighs are sore. Even walking the Watkin Path to Snowdon I did not feel like this. For shorter legs beware of aches the next day!

Have you walked to Llyn Cau? Conquered Cadair Idris? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My First Wild Swim of the Season!

Debra from Cultivating Time asked me a while back where my first swim of 2017 would be. This got me thinking. I haven’t planned on a specific place to do my first swim this year. I just keep adding to the many walks/swims I could do in the future. So, I sat down and decided to make a list of possible first swims. Let me know in the poll below which one you would like to see me do as my first for 2017!

The date for my first swim of the season will be around mid to end of April, (hopefully around Easter). The water should be just as cool or warmer than when I last swam in October.

1 . Blea Tarn. 

I have had many opportunities to visit Blea Tarn, but as yet none have materialised. On a fine day you get to see wonderful views across the tarn towards the Langdale Pikes.

2. Loughrigg Tarn.

As yet, I’ve yet to see the Langdales, and Loughrigg, like Blea is another tarn with these mountainous views. Both tarns have miles without stiles walks, so are in easy reach of little legs like mine. 🙂

3 . Bowscale Tarn. 

As featured in William Wordsworth’s 1888’s, Song, at the Feast of Brougham Castle. According to folklore there are two immortal fish that swim in the depths of this tarn and if you are lucky, they may talk to you!

 And both the undying Fish that swim
Through Bowscale-Tarn did wait on him,
The pair were Servants of his eye
In their immortality,
They moved about in open sight,
To and fro, for his delight.

4 . Brothers Water.

I keep seeing some lovely pictures of this tarn on the ILTLD page on Facebook. The shots confuse me, as in some angles it looks like Wast Water (or to me at least). Perhaps it’s a mini Wast Water? There is an easy two mile walk to the lakeside.

I’ve decided to leave the Welsh Llyns for later in the year. LLyn Cau of Cadris Idris and Llyn Glaslyn of Snowdon beckon later on this summer.

Let me know from the above which is your preferred lake.

Wild Swim Bucket List for 2017!

I’m not one for making resolutions or planning challenges at the beginning of the year. I don’t like the idea of setting myself up for disappointment if I don’t achieve the goals. So I am keeping this list simple. Many of the wild swims featured are swims I have wanted to do in 2016 but had not had the chance. So 2017 will see more of the same!

Snowdonia National Park, Wales:

1 . Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

llyn-cau

Llyn Cau, Pinterest

I simply adore the name of the mountain that Llyn Cau sits half way up, Cadair Idris, it rolls off the tongue lyrically. I was looking at maps for llyns to walk to when I saw this south of Snowdonia. It was going to be the walk David and I took at the end of 2016 but we ended up walking towards Snowdon instead. I have fallen in love with the dramatic scenery of Llyn Cau. It is definitely one for 2017!

2 . Llyn Glaslyn, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Teyrn

20161228_130419-2

Llyn Llydaw

After reading Kate Rew’s reference book and researching wild swimming, these three llyns have been on my list ever since. All three are located below Snowdon on the Miner’s Track. I think after the walks David and I have managed in 2016, that these three llyns are very much achievable in the future!

3 . Llyn Gwynant, Llyn Dinas, Llyn Cwellyn

llyn-gwynant-a

Llyn Gwynant

After having visited Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Cwellyn late in 2016, I have planned a return visit some time in the new year. All three are close to each other and David and I could spend a whole day in the area, walking and swimming these very fine llyns.

4 . Llyn Padarn

1512581_10154326386980271_4501258847058576804_n

Llyn Padarn

As one of the longest llyn’s in Wales, I thought I would include Llyn Padarn. I had intended on visiting the llyn in November after viewing the poppies at Caernarfon Castle but plans changed and Llyn Padarn was added to the ‘to do’ list.

5 . Llyn Idwal

idwal

Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal is the place where the wild swimming seed was planted. David and I visited on an icy February day, the rest they say is history. I would like to revisit Llyn Idwal and actually swim where my wild swimming journey began.

The Lake District National Park, England:

6 . Grisedale Tarn

grisedale

Grisedale Tarn, fellsphoto.co.uk

It seems that all the swims on my bucket list are in Wales. However there are still many in the Lake District I would like to visit and revisit, one is Grisedale Tarn. Grisedale was one of the first tarns I wanted to swim, after watching YouTube videos by Trek and Run Online. With a two hour walk to the tarn, Grisedale became overshadowed with easier swims in dramatic scenery such as Wast Water. Nonetheless, Grisedale Tarn firmly remains on my bucket list.

7 . Blea Tarn

blea-tarn

Blea Tarn, National Trust

Yet another tarn that is still on my list is Blea Tarn nestled in the Langdale Valley. There have been many opportunities for myself to swim here but somehow none have materialised. With only a short walk from the car park to the tarn there is really no excuse to not swim here in 2017!

So, there you have it, a small selection of some of the wild swims I would like to accomplish in 2017. There are many, many more, not to mention a few of the lochs in Scotland, (if I ever get up there that is,) but I thought I would keep the list simple and achievable.

As yet, we have no plans for 2017, no holidays or weekends away booked. That’s not to say I don’t have any ideas though.

If you know of any wild swims that I have left off my list or think I should try, then let me know in the comments below.

I wish you all much peace and happiness in 2017! 

All the best,

Christine x