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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Wild Swimming – A Few of My Favourites and Looking Ahead!

2017 was the second year of my wild swimming adventures. I thought I would do a post reminiscing about some of my favourite swims of 2016 and 2017 and then look forward to some swims planned in 2018!

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Swim Map

Bowscale Tarn:

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Bowscale Tarn

One highlight from the 2017 season was my swim at Bowscale Tarn, where I went in search of immortal fish but only found a rubber trout! :p

Derwent Water (or Derwentwater): I prefer the latter spelling.

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Derwentwater

You can be forgiven for forgetting that all this ‘madness’ stems from a crystal clear winters day in 2016. When I visited Derwentwater for the first time and wondered what it would be like to dip my toe in its silky waters. Two years later and I have swam at Derwentwater twice.

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Swimming at Derwentwater

My second swim, during a cool autumn morning is one of my best wild swimming memories. The early morning light that caressed Cat Bells made the morning seem ethereal. My hands burned with the cold, hence wearing neoprene gloves from then on!

Rydal Water:

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Rydal Water

There must be something about early morning swims. Another highlight from my 2016 season was a 9am swim at Rydal Water. With wisps of mist still lingering on the hills, I shared the dawn of a wonderful day with a weary but majestic swan.

Blea Tarn:

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Blea Tarn

I was almost deterred from swimming at Blea Tarn (the Langdales) as it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. However I waded in slowly and respectfully. Blea Tarn was a delightful swim with a nice graduated entrance into the water. The views were good too. 🙂

Buttermere:

You can tell which lakes are my favourite as I swim in them more than once. My first swim at Buttermere in 2016 only made me want to visit again in more favourable weather, which came a year later. My 2017 swim at Buttermere turned out to be one of my longest that year, of around 20 minutes. Though in hindsight I maybe shouldn’t have stayed in so long, even though it was a bright but cool autumn day. The shivers on shore afterwards were fierce!

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Buttermere

Wastwater:

No wild swim was more epic than at Wastwater. Another of my longer swims, Wastwater was graced with wonderful scenery. It’s a lake I want to return to.

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Wastwater

2018:

There are so many Lake District swims I want to embark on in 2018. So here’s a small handful.

  • Tarns around the Old Man of Coniston – Blind Tarn and Goat’s Water.
  • Bleaberry Tarn – Buttermere
  • Elterwater and Loughrigg Tarn

Llyn Cwellyn:

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

Inspired by the blog of Vivienne Rickman Poole, who regularly swims the 100+ llyns of Snowdonia, in 2017 I embarked on my first Welsh swim. If I was to suggest a body of water for a beginner to wild swimming, Llyn Cwellyn  would be my suggestion. The water’s edge was close to the car park and the entrance into the water was the best I have experienced. The soft shingle beach gradated slowly, meaning you could walk straight into the water and chose which depth you felt confident with. I spent a good 15 minutes in the water with RAF jets flying overhead. It was a good introduction to swimming in Snowdonia.

 

2018:

I’ve not been as successful with swimming in Snowdonia as I have in the Lake District. Many llyns are still on my bucket list. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to tick off Llyns Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn?

Scotland?

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The Kelpies

It’s been a good few years since I have visited Scotland. The last time I was there I toured the majestic Kelpies. I have fond memories of standing at the lakeside of Loch Ness, Lochy and Lomond, but never thought I would be eager to go for a swim!

Film maker and keen wild swimmer Calum Maclean, has been swimming around Scotland and documents his escapades for Outdoor Swimming Society and his TV series on BBC Alba. His love for the sport is infectious. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to get back up to Scotland and go for a swim? Here’s hoping!

 

Have you swam in any of the many lakes, llyns, lochs or loughs of the UK? Do share your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #36

I think its time for a quick catch up, in the form of a Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins! Though instead of just focusing on one week I have chosen pictures taken from the past few weeks.

The Yarden: The weather for the UK of late has been rather changeable. I have not enjoyed the cooler days and rain showers, but the plants in the yarden have been thriving! The wildflower seeds from the 30 days wild pack have started to flower. I am not 100% on the identification but think they are yarrow and viper’s-bugloss, do correct me if I’m wrong! I also bought a new plant to add to the perfect for pollinators collection, a vibrant rudbeckia! It definitely gives a flash of colour to the yarden!

Culture: Last weekend, David and I spent hours walking around the shops in Liverpool. A highlight was seeing The Umbrella Project. 200 umbrellas suspended over a street in the city centre, to aid awareness of ADHD.

#walk1000miles: My mileage this week has been a lowly 22 miles, though this year I’ve been making steady progress. I have now broken into 800 miles! My annual mileage is 829, just under 200 miles to go ’til I hit the target!

Wild Swimming: Much like my Lake District wild swimming map, I’ve purchased one of Northern Snowdonia and made a start on mapping my wild swims in North Wales. Llyn Cwellyn being my first!

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Membership: I’ve been a member of the Facebook page, I Love the Lake District since I fell in love with wild swimming. This year, a group of members came together with an idea of creating a badge to help members connect with each other while raising much needed funds for Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue. I just had to buy one and add it to my collection!

Collecting: After a drought of a few weeks regarding the Beatrix Potter 50p’s. This week I finally spotted my fourth, Mrs Tiggy Winkle! All I need is Jemima Puddle Duck and I will have the set!

The BBC Proms: For me this year has been particularly good. Many of my favorite composers, such as Elgar have been featured among the concerts. Last Sunday I enjoyed listening to a perfect concert of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no.3 and his Symphony no. 2 performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Gustav Mahler’s symphonies have featured heavily (surprisingly) this year! I have enjoyed the performances of his 2nd and 10th by the BBC SO and looking forward to my favourite of his symphonies, his 6th by the Vienna Philharmonic. Do you enjoy the Proms? Have you been lucky enough to see one at the Royal Albert Hall?

doorDIY: This weekend I have assisted (can’t say I helped much,) with the creation of our new back door. The old one did not open properly and was starting to disintegrate! David planned the design, purchased the wood, sawed and screwed them all together into a cohesive whole! The project took just two days to complete and cost £30! I think David is quietly impressed with his baby! I think it looks fab! 🙂 All we need now is to finish painting the yarden floor and walls and the outside of our home is refreshed!

And finally: Back to more culture! David and I topped off the weekend with a visit to Liverpool artist, Paul Curtis‘s For all Liverpool’s Liverbirds mural. I went for the angry liverbird look! 😀

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That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

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Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

#PoppiesTour – Caernarfon Castle.

If you have seen my previous posts about the poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool, you will know that I am trying to see them as they visit various places around the UK!

Sadly we never made the journey to see The Wave at Lincoln Castle, but I made sure we booked free tickets to see the Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle! The event was hotly anticipated and we managed to get a time slot on the penultimate day the poppies were being displayed. All other Saturday’s had been booked up! So on the 19th November, David and I headed for the A55 and Caernarfon.

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Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle has always been on my list of places to visit. Seeing the poppies and the castle together was a perfect combination. Then add the free entrance to the castle whilst the poppies were at Caernarfon and it made for a fantastic day!

The castle was already bustling with people when we arrived at 11am. (Having parked the car for £4 at the harbour carpark). I have a feeling the castle has never been so popular as it has been since the poppies arrived! I now understand why you had to book a time slot to visit. The narrow staircases going up and down the towers were treacherous. It was bad enough climbing single file but when faced with people wanting to go past you on a narrow stone staircase, things grew a little scary! Thankfully we were only stuck on a tower’s staircase once, and I came away with a slightly grazed hand!

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Stairway

The poppies were as I remembered them. Their emblematic hue made people pause, silently in awe. We took hundreds of pictures of the poppies and below are a selection of the best!

Once we had seen the poppies, we made the most of the free entry and explored the castle. We walked along curtain walls, took in the views from the towers and even managed to dress up at the Welch Fusiliers Museum.

We spent a good two – three hours at the castle and I would recommend a visit if in the area.


From Caernarfon we headed home via two llyns (lakes). I was on the lookout for prospective swims for next year and two I had in mind, fitted the bill!

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Llyn Cwellyn

The first was Llyn Cwellyn, actually a reservoir. Sadly there wasn’t much of a walk along the lakeside and we were only at the lake for about an hour. (Having paid £2.50 parking fee for four hours!) To make the llyn wheelchair accessable there is a wooden walkway but sadly, there was only one actual ‘beach’ in which to enter the water.

However the water was crystal clear and the shingle floor looked an easy entrance into the llyn that seemed to deepen quickly. David and I were the only people at the llyn, (while others headed for highs such as Snowdon). The area was so peaceful, the sun sitting low on the horizon, gave me a sudden wave of nostalgia. Wast Water came to mind. I wish I had brought my swimming costume with me and braved the cold!!

Afterwards, we headed towards Llyn Gwynant. Looking for parking places we passed Llyn Dinas which also looks a lovely place to swim!

We parked alongside Llyn Gwynant and headed for the shore. I got Terence (turtle thermometer) out and measured a very chilly 7°c!

 

Both llyns have got me super excited for next year. Spring/Summer 2017 can’t come quick enough!

Have you visited North Wales/Snowdonia? What are your favourite llyns?

Christine x