Riley in the Lake District!

This weekend David, Riley and I went on a wild adventure to the Lake District!

It’s been a dream of mine to take Riley to my beloved Lake District. However Riley suffers badly from car sickness, which has always put us off going further afield. This year, on our travels we managed to drive for an hour with Riley being ok in the car. So we decided that with a short stop at Lancaster Services, we might just be able to get Riley to the Lake District.

So on Sunday, David and I got up at 6.30am, picked up Riley and headed north up the M6. We had chosen a low level walk to Rydal Water and Grasmere via White Moss Car Park. As the sun rose on a beautiful late autumn day we managed to drive two hours without hiccup. Riley enjoyed his break at Lancaster Services where there is a designated area to walk dogs. I don’t know if other services have this facility? We pulled into a busy White Moss car park around 9.30am.

It had been two years previously since David and I had visited the area, then I completed two fantastic wild swims. You can read about that adventure here. With Riley on lead we embarked on a six mile walk along the shore of Rydal Water, up towards Rydal Caves and then back down along the River Rothay towards the shores of Grasmere. Some three hours walking were enjoyed by us all.

At Grasmere we tried Riley in the water. At first he was a bit nervous but once I had waded in with him, he seemed to enjoy paddling in the shallows. Perhaps in time he will become my swim buddy?

I was so happy that we managed to get Riley to the Lake District. On the way home, he slept the two whole hours. It was all that fresh air! I hope this is the start of a new venture. I wonder where David and I will walk Riley next? Do you know of any easy dog friendly walks in the Lake District?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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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

Islands at Chester Zoo

On Saturday David and I headed towards Chester Zoo for our pre-booked members preview of their new ‘most ambitious’ development, Islands.

Chester Zoo. Islands

Chester Zoo. Islands

The premise of the new enclosures, of six South East Asian Islands, is for them to be an immersive exhibition where the visitor is to be the ‘intrepid explorer!’ The project has taken over five years and cost in the region of £40 million! It is the ‘biggest’ development in the history of UK zoos! It opens to the public on the 13th July 2015 but I think that is slightly premature as there are still building works going on, a few of the Islands are not completed and only the Visayan Warty Pigs are in their enclosures. The Sumatran Tigers and Orang-utan’s have yet to be relocated!

I thought that the opportunity for members to see the new development before it opens to the public was a nice gesture on behalf of the zoo. It was an opportunity I jumped at, though I was a little trepid on finding out that not all of the animals were in their enclosures and that the Biome – Monsoon Forest was not open.

Our allocated time was 11am. With ticket in hand David and I headed for the queue at the entrance of the new development. There was an excited buzz in the air from the other zoo guests.

The adventure begins!

The adventure begins!

The sun shone down and I regretted bringing my jacket and not having sun screen on! The Islands that are open to the public in this first phase are: Panay, Bali, Papua, Sumba and Sulawesi as well as the Lazy Boat Ride. 😀

The first Island you encounter on your exhibition, is Panay with its white Coral Sands! It is based on a real island in the Philippines.

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The vegetation changes as you enter Bali.

Bali

Bali

The Island of Sumba is where you catch the Lazy River Boat Ride. It can be a very long wait on busy days, but we only queued for about 5-10 minutes! They despatch two boats at a time each carrying up to 17 explorers! David and I hopped into one and enjoyed the leisurely cruise. For me it was the most enjoyable part of the experience! It will be even better once the project is complete and the animals are happy in their new homes! For now we enjoyed the warmth of the sun, drifted past the Visayan Warty Pigs and watched as the new enclosures and exhibits were being developed.

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Our preview lasted just over half an hour. Some people stopped off at Sulawesi and lunched at Manado Town. I was really energised by the experience and look forward to visiting again once the project is fully completed. It will be a shame that by that time our membership will have run out by then!


Afterwards we had lunch at the Red Pandas, two of whom came out for bamboo.

Male Red Panda

Male Red Panda

We went to visit the Giant Otters but because there were too many people at the enclosure we decided to leave them for another day. I haven’t been to the zoo for a while and forgot how busy of a summer it can get!

We enjoyed seeing lots of baby’s. One was of a Spectacled Owl chick who was bigger than its parents and Red Breasted Geese chicks. We also saw the recent Giraffe calf and the Onager foals. The pictures below were taken by David!

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Even the two baby Asian Elephants were kidding about in the mud!

I always love going to Chester Zoo, even if we only stay a few hours we always get to see something new! I will be sad when our membership runs out, perhaps I can bend David’s arm and renew again soon? :p

Operation Kelpie, with a Few Dolphins, Two Bridges and an Abbey thrown in for Good Measure…

… are what made our weekend away to Scotland 2014 memorable!

With having no internet connection in the three B&B/hotels we stayed in I am having to update when back at home. Over the three nights/four days we saw a lot of sights, drove for 17 hours and ranked up a total of over 800 miles! There are a lot of pictures to go through, and I mean a lot!!!

In this post I will try and cover all the highlights with a selection of pictures I have not shared on my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed visiting some wonderful sights in the East of Scotland.

Our holiday started on the Thursday when David and I drove up to Falkirk from Liverpool. The four hour journey went without a hitch and the weather stayed dry, if not cloudy once crossed the boarder.We had lunch at the Helix with the Kelpies in the distance. We had a tour booked for 2.30pm!

Our tour guide was Andy and he was informative if not flamboyant! He really entertained David and I and the other six people on the tour! The tour was £5 each and lasted one hour which I thought was value for money! The tour explained the history behind the development of Helix and the Kelpies and then went on to explain about the past, of the areas industrial roots and the canals. The tour ended inside the base of one of the Kelpies, Duke I think it was. After the tour we spent another hour walking around and taking pictures from different angles. The sun broke through the clouds and we got some great pictures!

 

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After four we drove to our B&B in Stirling, West Plean. It was our third time of staying there and the welcome is always friendly.

West Plean B&B

West Plean B&B

We dinned at the River House, and afterwards we decided to go back to the Kelpies to see them lit up at night. It took over an hour for the sun to set but we got some fantastic pictures of the Kelpies lit up with red lights. To me they looked demonic!

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The Friday dawned with mist over Stirling. We shared a lovely friendly breakfast with a French couple from Paris and a German couple from Berlin. As Moira the proprietor of West Plean said, it was an international breakfast table!

After breakfast David and I left for Aberdeen. We came across cloud and more cloud before it turned to sharp piercing rain. We stopped for lunch at Dunnottar Castle and we’re going to visit, but we had good views of the mist shrouded castle from the headland so we snapped a few pictures and then went on our way!

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

We arrived in a rain soaked Aberdeen after 1.30pm and quickly went in search of Marischal College where the 50 dolphins of the Wild Dolphins art exhibition where housed before auction. They were displayed in an open courtyard and David and I were not protected from the ‘dreich’ weather!

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After 4pm we checked into our second base for the night, the Hilton, Treetops Hotel. It was a four star hotel but we were in a three star room! The other downside was that we were staying next to a ‘bride to be’ and she and her friends kept us up during the night with their antics!

The only positive of the stay was the restaurant. After nursing a migraine and not having brought any medication (the only thing I did not have) we went for dinner. After ordering the salmon, we were then entertained while waiting by a magician called Garry and his pet rabbit Basil! It was amusing and highly different! David had a smile on his face all evening!

Garry the Magician with Basil

Garry the Magician with Basil

Saturday dawned much brighter with the sun shining, my headache and sickness lifted. We did not pay for the £10 each for breakfast, we decided to just have a coffee and head off to Edinburgh. We were planning on visiting Highland Wildlife Park but the satnav said a three hour drive awaited us and then another 2.5 hours to Queensferry, so we opted to visit my favourite city instead. We stayed in Edinburgh for lunch and walked around Calton Hill, Holyrood Park and the Royal Mile. It was nice visiting old haunts.

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After 3pm we set off to our last base for the holiday.

Hawes Inn

Hawes Inn

We checked into the Hawes Inn, a pub on the river front. It was a three star and the room we were in was testament to that. We were in an outhouse, and in the basement as that, hence no internet signal! It was not the best B&B we have stayed in, but it was liveable! We were not there much of the time anyway!

After check in, we decided to mingle with the locals who were there for a food and drink festival. We took pictures of the two bridges and looked for restaurants. In the end we had a delightful curry at an Indian called the Queen’s Spice. At the end of the meal I was gifted a red rose, a nice touch!

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On leaving the restaurant and after I took a tumble, (silly high heeled shoes!) we rushed back to the hotel and then out again to see the sunset over the Firth. (Don’t worry I did not break any bones, just had a scraped knee.)

The Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge

Later on that evening we headed back out (again) to see the bridges lit up with lights.

The Forth Bridges

The Forth Bridges

The Sunday saw us getting up at 8am for a continental breakfast. We left Queensferry on our journey south. I with a tear in my eye said a farewell to Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat as we saw it fading into the distance as we dove along the A7! We headed to Melrose Abbey for two hours of strolling around ruins. It was a pleasant, peaceful day!

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We got back to Liverpool after 4pm on Sunday, tired but satisfied that we had had a nice, diverse time.

I hope you have enjoyed my recital of our little weekend and inspired you to visit Scotland?! I will try and make a video of the highlights and post on here.

Christine x