Back to Where it all Began!

idwal

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.

map

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.

tryfan (2)

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!

selfie1

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

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.

loch ness3b

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

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