Spread the Word Not the Weed

This Spring Bank Holiday, an adventure happened!

It had been eight months since I was in the water and was ecstatic when David suggested a day out on the recent bank holiday. ‘Yes please’! I said. I was desperate for an adventure and feeling very stuck in a rut due to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. I never thought I would leave the city again!

David and I quickly slipped back into adventure mode. We got up at 6am, a beautiful day was already awaiting us. We drove two hours to Snowdonia, Wales. I was fearful that we wouldn’t get parking as I assumed (and rightly so) that lots of people would flock towards Wales due to the holiday and the lovely weather. Thankfully, all went to plan. It was like the days of old when David and I headed, carefree to the countryside to swim, walk or explore.

I had already decided, weeks in advance where I wanted my first wild swim of 2021 to be. Last March, before lockdown One, David and I had taken a similar trip to Snowdonia in the hope of starting off my wild swim season of 2020, however on the day the weather was against me and I had to make do with sightseeing and photographing these beauty spots.

I’d first visited the shores of Llyn Gwynant in 2016 and since then I had been eager to swim there. It’s taken me almost five years for that wish to become a reality.

I must admit I had butterflies in my tummy on pulling up alongside the llyn. I hadn’t swam in such a long time and worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with the temperatures or the audience. Thankfully, I clenched my teeth and said, ‘let’s do this!’ I wished in 2020 that I had taken the opportunity to swim in this beautiful place before travel to Wales was restricted, I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers again. With the mournful call of a cuckoo singing from the hills, David and I sauntered towards the shoreline where two tents had been put up illegally. I wasn’t going to let them deter me, so I quickly made camp and got my swim paraphernalia ready.

The entrance to the llyn was relatively easy, no clambering over rocks thankfully. I just waded in slowly, getting used to the cool waters. I was waist deep in water when I decided to push out and commit to the swim. I was in the water for around 15 minutes. I couldn’t tell the temperature as Terence my thermometer broke in 2019 and the replacement I ordered never arrived. ūüė¶ I surmised around 14 degrees. The water was crystal clear and little minnows jumped for joy in the shallows. I would have jumped for joy too if there wasn’t so many tourists around! I swam about, admiring the elephant rock where intrepid divers jump from. I didn’t stray too far from the shore as I was out of practice and fitness. I enjoyed my time at Llyn Gwynant and so glad I managed to get to swim there, eventually!

Llyn Padarn was another llyn I had visited several times over the years and had not been able to capitalise upon. However the swim at Padarn was a very different experience to that of Gwynant.

A campaign was launched a few years ago by the Outdoor Swimming Society to remind swimmers to ‘spread the word not the weed.’ Swimmers were asked to be diligent in the cleaning of their equipment and clothes when going on swims, as small pieces of vegetation could hitch a ride into more cleaner waters and contaminate them. One such weed, New Zealand pygmyweed has been a scourge in the Lake District. This non native, invasive plant outgrows native aquatic plants and also depletes the oxygen levels in the water causing wildlife to die. The advice regarding #spreadthewordnottheweed is that if you are planning to do more than one swim, then to swim in the order of cleanest waters first and to make sure that all equipment is washed and dried for the next swim. These simple measures can help in the control of the spread of invasive organisms.

With this in mind we headed towards Llyn Padarn which at 11am on a sunny bank holiday was already teaming with holidaymakers and day trippers. I had never seen so many people enjoying the water. There were swimmers, paddle-boarders and canoeists. With the same determined mindset as Gwynant we headed towards the pier and waited for a quiet moment to enter the water. While I got prepared and dressed into a new swimsuit, David took pictures of cute cygnets.

The swim at Padarn reminded me of Coniston. It wasn’t the most enjoyable swim and when I noticed the murky, brown hue of the water I knew this was dirtier than Gwynant. Indeed the water had a very discernible pond aroma. Not very pleasant to tell the truth. I swam about for another 15 minutes but I was glad when I managed to scramble out from the pier. I was able to tick this llyn off my Snowdonia wild swim map but I doubt I’ll be returning.

It may have seemed that the day ended on a down but in reality I was buoyant with being back in the water after such a long time. I hope that it won’t be too long before I am in the water again – and until then…

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My May

May 2021 has been another rather uneventful month. The weather has been horrendous, cold and wet for most, and the warm weather we have hoped for has been very sporadic.

It was our houseiversary last week. 9 years of having the keys to our lovely home! I still remember the moment I got the call to come and collect the keys to the house on the 25th. It was a hot, sunny May day in 2012. 2012 had been quite a year for me! David picked me up from my then work at the University of Liverpool before heading down to the Dock Road to collect the keys. We got home and opened the front door and stood in shock. ‘What do we do now!’ we thought. Buying a home can sometimes be rather anticlimactic but then a further year and a half of demolishing walls, an outhouse, getting a new roof and exterior doors is hard work! However it is all worth it in the end when you come home after a hard days work to your loved ones and fur/feather babies. I love my home and the life I have made with David! Long may it continue!

Last year before Covid struck and lockdowns were galore, Peter Walker’s Peace Doves were planned to be installed at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. I was excited to see this beautiful art installation of thousands of paper doves with messages of hope and love written on them, suspended from the vaulted ceiling. Then the exhibition was cancelled due to Covid. However there is light at the end of the tunnel. The night doesn’t last forever! This May it was announced that the Peace Doves were once again coming to Liverpool. One negative of Covid’s social distancing is that it has taken away all the spontaneity out of life, one now has to book before going anywhere. Gone were the days when you just woke up and felt like going the zoo. You now have to plan/book days in advance! Anyway, (rant over) I did mange to book tickets to see these Peace Doves. The installation was beautiful and quite moving.

The book I am reading this month, (or trying to read) is Davie Goulson’s The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet.

Which ties in nicely with the plants I have bought for the yarden. There were a few casualties during winter so I managed to purchase another salvia and forget-me-not plant to add to my spring flowering plants.

David and I have been watching a few films this month, most notably my favourite trilogy (save for The Lord of the Rings), How to Train your Dragon! I just love the friendship of Hiccup and Toothless. Who doesn’t love Toothless?

I have also caught up with the second season of ITV’s Innocent. The second series is based in Keswick with lovely panoramas of Derwentwater.

David managed to rescue three pigeons in one evening a few weekends ago. He captured and released one which had string around its feet and then quickly took in another two. One ailed sadly and passed away two days after but the second we managed to treat for canker and mites and she was so feisty that she had to be released and for the past few weeks now she has been visiting the yarden daily. It’s so nice to be able to help wildlife once in a while.

In the quite moments of life, I’ve been following an osprey webcam from the Dyfi Osprey Project. It’s quite stressful watching a wildlife cam, you invest so much emotion into it, however it’s been a privilege to follow the ups and downs of this osprey nest of Telyn and Idris as they raise their two young. Good luck to the two bobs!

Surprisingly, an adventure happened at the end of an uneventful May! The Spring Bank Holiday brought with it some lovely warm temperatures of over 23¬įC and David suggested we go on a day out. I had already decided where I wanted my first swim of 2021 to be and so on the 30th we were up at 6am on a beautiful clear, warm day and headed towards Snowdonia, Wales. We stopped off at two llyns during the day, Gwynant was my first swim of the year and Padarn the second!

May has been a quiet month, how’s your’s been?

Take care,

Christine x

Overdue…

My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.

I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!

As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.

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Riley at Grasmere

Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!

Then lockdown happened.

At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.

Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.

That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.

With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!

In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.

With parking paid for all day, at ¬£5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.

I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!

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Coniston Water

The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!

Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!

On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.

From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.

We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.

I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming in 2020!

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

After a tremendous swim in Glaslyn, I had hoped to extend my wild swimming season by a month or so. Unfortunately I never made it into the water before Christmas, however much I had wanted too. Then I’d planned on a New Year swim at Coniston but with no planned walk for the day my hopes fizzled away like a firework. Though 2020 has been really slow to start (even slower than 2019!) my mind is already dreaming of the year ahead and I am looking forward to many wild swim/walks this year.

I’ve already booked a four nights break for my birthday, at a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossachs National Park. With 22 loch’s I am spoiled for choice! Just looking at the variety of lochs, such as Katrine, Venachar and Lubnaig, I’m already getting super excited!

For my first swim this season I am hoping to tick off the Eskdale Blea Tarn! I’ve already swam the other two! Langdale, and Watendlath. I’ve read blogs and seen pictures of the Eskdale Blea Tarn and I am eager to get back into the water. It’s just a matter of logistics with car parking.

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Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

Though I’ve always wanted to swim in Grisedale Tarn, perhaps it’s height position may deter me?

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Grisedale Tarn (Google Image)

The resting place of the crown of Cumbria may have to wait. However this year I do intend to swim in Helvellyn’s Red Tarn and Blea Water of Haweswater fame. I think both these tarns are achievable.

Again Coniston is the only ‘large’ lake I’ve not swam in and the Old Man of Coniston has many swimmable waters, e.g. levers and goat’s. I’ll aim for these this year.

Hopefully we’ll be able to bring Riley with us again on our Lake District adventures and introduce him to swimming in Ullswater!

In Snowdonia, I hope to tick off Llyn Padarn and Gwynant.

They seem the two easiest of the llyns I have my eye on! Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and Llyn Du’r Arddu of Snowdon fame may be a bit of a hike.

However, Llyn Nantlle and Llyn Cwm Silyn Uchaf, again will have issues with logistics. If you know of places to park and walking routes, do let me know.

So there you have a brief glimpse into my mind for the wild swim year ahead. If you have any swim suggestions, do let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Birthday Swim 2018

For my 42nd birthday next week I want to go for a swim, but I am having trouble choosing the right one. So I need your help in making the decision. Below, find a selection of four swims, two from Snowdonia and two from the Lake District. Which one would you prefer?

Snowdonia:

Llyn Padarn

I attempted to swim in Llyn Padarn for last years birthday but found that it got busy later on in the day. If I was to go back again this year I would go much earlier. Perhaps see the sunrise?

Llyn Idwal

What better than to revisit the place where my wild swimming bug was born. Another one for an early start as the area gets busy. Do you know of any easy walks nearby? We’ve walked the circumference of Idwal and Ogwen in the past.

The Lake District:

Windermere

A perfect autumnal walk to Todd Crag would be a good accompaniment to a dip in iconic Windermere.

Angle Tarn (Langdale)

I first saw this swim/walk on swimmingthelakes,¬†I didn’t know there was more than one Angle Tarn! This tarn is not far from Stickle Tarn which we visited in June. It has a similar look to Stickle.

Which swim would you like to see me do next?

Thanks,

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

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