Touring the Trossachs – Day Five.

Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.

The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.

During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?

Perhaps I can do a birthday swim in October?

Where would you like to see me swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My September

I’m not much of a fan of September. I don’t particularly like the encroachment of the darker mornings and evenings and I still have echoes of the dreaded ‘going back to school’ feeling, even though I am in my 40’s! The beautiful season of autumn as the leaves change colour is no consolation. September has been a mixed bag for David and I, but oh boy how fast it has gone! I can’t quite believe I’m writing this review!

At the beginning of September, David and I were in the middle of our holiday to the Trossachs in Scotland. I had many swims, including a sunrise, sunset, afternoon and even a night time swim at Loch Venachar and also visited the chilly waters of Loch Chon, Lubnaig, Earn and Katrine. It was a fab holiday! 😁

Our cabin for the week in Scotland had a feeding station and not only woodland birds visited but red squirrels and even a shy great spotted woodpecker!

The aviary saw the sad passing of our female silverbill, Silvie. It was a shock as Silvie had been in good health previously. I feel sorry for Bill her partner, singing all alone. 😪

September is the month we got Artie, he was a big seven this year! We celebrated by buying him a new cat tower.

One mid September weekend turned out pretty bad for our wild bird rehabilitation. We picked up two birds, who were sadly too far gone to be helped. All we could give was palliative care. We took in a pigeon who was so weak and diseased with canker that she only lasted one night. The next day we picked up a poor goldfinch who was so ill, he only lasted a few hours and passed away in David’s hands. Our only solace was that both were safe in our home, and not left vulnerable outside.

This September I have been enjoying watching some TV. I am a big fan of Silent Witness, so I am busy catching up on the new series. While visiting my mum, we are enjoying A House Through Time, which is more a social history lesson, but so interesting!

Since I am back working five days a week and my hours have changed I am doing a lot more reading while on the long commute. This month I have read the Agatha Christie thriller, Witness for the Prosecution, and have now started Libby Page’s The Island Home.

To cheer up a wet and cold end to September, here’s a picture of a cosmos, there are many of these growing around work which does lift the spirits.

How has your September been?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day Four.

A very different morning dawned on our fourth day in the Trossachs. Our weather apps had been accurate all through our holiday and this morning we weren’t surprised when a low cloud with drizzle hung over the hills. It was a chilly day, with morning temperatures reaching just 14°.

We had two swims planned this morning and I don’t think the weather detracted from the beauty of either loch. However, neither plan seemed to work out as organised.

We arrived at Loch Lubnaig with the sound of screaming teenagers piercing the air. We had sadly chosen the wrong car park to park in (pay and display) and a group of young adults in their underwear were bracing the chilled waters of the loch, but not very quietly! I had been looking forward to swimming in this loch but perhaps I should have not had a lie in and arrived much earlier? I made the most of the situation and managed a 10 minute swim, even if it wasn’t as peaceful as I had hoped!

We quickly departed Loch Lubnaig and drove a little further north towards Loch Earn. I was hoping to swim from The Four Seasons statue by Rob Mulholland, or Mirror Man. Though, again I was thwarted as I couldn’t find this mirrored sculpture. 😦 Slightly subdued I told David to turn around. I feared I wouldn’t get a swim in Loch Earn. However, we did finally manage to find parking a little further up the road, though it seemed popular with fishermen!

Just like Loch Lubnaig, I was determined to swim whatever the cost, so we made camp on a little shingle peninsula and I quickly took to the water. I managed a cold 15 minute swim in Loch Earn which was very choppy due to the wind. It was the coldest, stormiest swim of the holiday.

We retreated back towards the safe, warm confines of our cabin, where I had a warm shower and we had lunch. Since it was just after 1pm we headed into the Invertrossachs Forest (a privately owned wood) for a casual walk. We walked from the Invertrossachs car park and followed our Google Maps/GPs towards the end of the path where we stopped and admired the view of Loch Venachar. There was a hidden lochan in the woods, but with no path to be found, we retraced our steps back to the cabin.

During our walk the weather brightened up. The clouds parted and the warm sun shone down. It was a lovely afternoon, which we decided to enjoy back on the shore of Loch Venachar. Sadly we didn’t take our cameras with us so I have no footage of David finally biting the bullet and submerging himself in the cool waters. The waters of Loch Venachar weren’t as warm as the day before, but it was much quieter on shore. As there was no one around, David, coaxed by myself, waded slowly into the shallows, the minnows nibbling at his feet. David was brave and with much encouragement, submerged his body under water. He growled as the cold water touched his skin. He held doughnut (tow float) and floated in the shallows. I was proud of him and happy that he had tried something that I love. Well done David!

Back at the cabin, after dinner we watched as the sun set. I had planned on a sunset swim and in the end it became a mad dash to get to the water before the sun set behind the mountains. I think in the end, we managed it and got some lovely shots. It was another wonderful experience. I think our holiday at Loch Venachar will stay with me for a very long time.

After the sun set, we headed back to the cabin. I had another shower and we settled down for our last night in Scotland. What an amazing week it had been!

Have you visited Loch Lubnaig or Loch Earn? Did you see the Mirror Man?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day Three.

The hottest day of the holiday dawned on the Wednesday, 1st September, and another long day was planned. Since we had 24 hour access to Loch Venachar, I was itching to make the most of this and planned a sunrise swim. We crawled sleepy eyed out of bed at 5.50am and watched as mist drifted down from the hills. The water was still and it looked like a peaceful sunrise was going to take place. So, I wriggled into a swimsuit and David snatched his cameras and we headed down towards the quiet loch. The air temperature was only 7° but the water felt warmer. It was a wonderful way to wake up!

After breakfast, David and I headed towards RSPB Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond. We passed Lochs Ard and Chon and I debated which one to swim in. As we passed Loch Arklet with it’s scenic views of the Arrochar Alps, I would have plumped for that one, but being unable to find adequate parking, I decided to leave that loch for another holiday. 😛 We left the car at Inversnaid Hotel car park and walked a part of the Highland Way through Atlantic Oak woodland. We didn’t see much wildlife, save for a lost, discarded fish, sign an osprey had been around!

At lunch time we found car parking for Loch Chon which I’d decided was going to be the swim of the day. The loch was very quiet and picturesque and researching afterwards, I discovered that this loch is fabled to have the worlds largest population of faeries! I think on this day, all were sheltering from the hot midday sun!

We set up camp at a shingle beach. The water was warm and deep, and it didn’t take much time to dry afterwards. In the shallows were tiny minows and darting along the water lilies were giant dragonflies (or were they faeries?). It was beautiful, and I could have stayed there all day, but David dislikes the heat, so we packed up our picnic and headed for the relative shade of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

We paid £3 for all day parking, though we were only there an hour. We had come to walk the white trail and to see Vestige or the Mirror Men by Rob Mulholland. These six figures of men and women made of polished stainless steel merge ethereal-like into the woodland around it. I was however, slightly underwhelmed, but we had fun lounging in hammocks and sitting on toadstools as we walked the trail.

Having done all we had planned to do that day, we arrived back at the cabin by 3pm, and found that we still had time to head down to the beach of Loch Venachar and enjoy a bit of sunbathing. David finally got his shoes and socks off and went for a paddle, while I succumbed to the water and had another swim.

In the evening, over dinner of an M&S curry, we watched the sun set before heading back out one final time for a night time swim. As I took to the water with doughnut (my tow float) lit up with a torch, bats swooped around the shore feasting on moths. The air was still and the darkness slowly crept in. I’d never had a night time swim before and it was eerie to wade into dark waters unknowing what was below or ahead of me. It was a magical moment.

Have you ever done a night time swim?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day One.

David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!

Loch Venechar

Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.

We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.

After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!

Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.

After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.

An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!

Have you holidayed in the Trossachs?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My August

I can’t quite believe that it’s almost the end of summer. August for me is a time for mourning. Mourning the warmth, the lighter days and all the wonderful wildlife that visit my yarden. I’m not sure if others notice it, but there’s a slight shift in the angle of sunshine, a scent of autumn is carried on the wind, and in my yarden there is the scratchy call of hundreds of starlings eating their way through all the fat cakes I make. August is summer’s swan song and the song of the starling, is for me, the sound of autumn.

The month began by celebrating David’s birthday. He wanted to go to Leighton Moss to get to grips with his new camera. So we headed up the motorway and spent a peaceful couple of hours spotting birds and enjoying nature.

The wildlife highlight for me this month has been watching the visiting bat, Batty and their friend hunt around the yarden. One night Batty was particularly energetic, hunting moths and midges, turning summersaults in the air.

The other evening we were witness to a spectacular sunset. I tend to miss many sunsets but this one made the whole sky look like it was on fire!

In June I sowed a packet of wildflower seeds for 30 Days Wild. This month they are finally flowering. I have field marigold and camomile growing with a host of field poppies, that are attracting bumblebees and hoverflies.

During the evenings David and I have been watching some older TV shows, both I hadn’t seen before. We started the month with Ricky Gervais’s The Office and now getting through the seasons of Stargate SG1.

At present I am reading The Mabinogion, a set of Celtic Welsh tales, suggested to me by fellow blogger Charlotte Hoather.

All of the Dyfi Ospreys have embarked on their migration south. Safe travels my gorgeous Ystwyth, (Bobby Bach). I wish them all well on their travels. I don’t know why, but the leaving of these beautiful birds makes me feel sad. Another sign that summer is ending. 😦

On a day off work, I was cleaning the bird feeders when I saw a bird strike the kitchen window with a thud! I rushed out into the yarden and discovered a baby goldfinch lying on its back, still breathing. I scooped him up and put him in the hospital cage with the heat lamp on and a hot water bottle. Within half an hour he had perked up and was fluttering about the cage. So, to lessen the stress, David and I let him free. I hope he recovers from his collision. Fly free little one.

My August 2021 ends in spectacular fashion! The Airbnb we had booked for my birthday last year, (and which we had to cancel due to Covid-19 restrictions), luckily we managed to re-booked in April. Thankfully Covid-19 restrictions have eased and we have finally managed to get to this beautiful loch side cabin in Scotland!

Well, that was my August, with a lot of wildlife sightings! How was your August? Did you get up to any adventures?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My April

I’ll get the sad news out of the way before I delve into this post. While I was putting the finishing touches to this blog our blue faced parrot finch, Leaf became ill. He declined pretty quickly and this morning 30th April, we found that he had gained his angel wings. We only had him for four years but he had a lasting impact on the aviary. He will be missed.

April 2021 may have been one of the driest on record but inside our home it was one of the chilliest! Half way through the month our boiler packed up, leaving us without heat and hot water for over two weeks. Finding the right type of boiler for our home was a difficult decision, and not to mention radiators and BTU’s! Thankfully after lots of research we found the right boiler and radiators for our home. I decided to replace four out of the seven radiators we have as some looked old and leaked. It’s amazing how adaptive we are, as we layered up against the chill, but I can now smile and say we have hot running water and warm radiators, much better than boiling a kettle every-time we wanted to wash the dishes!

On a more happier, less stressful note, Easter was a joyous occasion. David and I spent the long weekend by taking long walks with Riley. At the local park we went on an Easter Egg hunt and at Sefton Park we took in the gorgeous daffodil fields.

We’ve not watched any TV shows or films of note this month, but I have started watching the new series of Call the Midwife.

My reading is still very sporadic but I have begun All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle.

We’ve not had any days out this April, but many of our weekends have been filled with freshening up our décor. The front of the house got a new coat of paint during the Easter weekend and the last week of April we painted the guest room/study and bought new furniture. There’s a few more rooms I want to freshen up in the coming months.

As we are slowly coming out of lochdown my mind naturally turned to days out and holidays. As a ‘take two’ we decided to book again for the Trossach holiday we had planned, but sadly had to cancel last year. Hopefully, ‘fingers crossed’ we will make it to this gorgeous looking cabin for a few days of overdue R&R.

This month I discovered a new yummy recipe. I follow Sunday Brunch on Instagram and one of their posts was of a Moroccan Spiced Sea Bass. The combination of spices, sun dried tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas made for a surprisingly filling meal.

Method, serves 4:
1. Mix a Tbs each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, Tsp chilli flakes, Tsp garlic powder, Tsp ginger and a Tsp salt together.
2. Take approx. 1/3 and rub onto 4 x 150g sea bass fillets.
3. Fry the fish 3mins each side in oil, then finish with a knob of butter
4. Gently fry 4 chopped spring onions for 2mins
5. Then add 12 sliced sundried toms, Tin cooked, drained rinsed green lentils, Tin drained, rinsed chick peas and 1 finely diced carrot.
6. Add the 200ml of vegetable stock and the remaining spice mix, simmer 5-6mins
7. Finish with 50g butter and juice and zest of 1 lemon and and handful of chopped parsley

The wildlife highlight of the month was spotting a buzzard resting in a tree in the local park! Sadly I only had my camera phone with me, so it’s a blurry photo of a buzzard!

April has been a mixed bag for David and I, hows your April been? Have you any plans for after lockdown?

Take care,

Christine x

Wild Swimming with Christine – My Top 10

Since we are still in the grasp of a third lockdown and I am far from the Lakes, I have been musing on making a top 10 video of my favourite wild swims. It’s taken me a while to finish the video, and it has gone through a few revisions since its inception, but here it is!

I thought I would write a little paragraph about each swim and why it made it into my top 10!

10. Blea Water

Blea Water, the deepest tarn in the Lake District, at 63 metres deep, had to make an appearance in this list due to the quality of the swim. It takes just about an hours walk to the shore from the Mardale Head car park, Haweswater. There is only a small beach area in which to access the water but the peacefulness of the area is astounding. Blea Water is on the route towards High Street and is a perfect stopping place to rest and recharge.

9. Llyn Dinas

Llyn Dinas is another llyn that could very well be further up the list. Though not our first choice for a swim on a very hot August day, it quickly dispelled any disappointment with the quietude of the surroundings and the 20° waters! It was another body of water I’d swam in with lots of tiny minnows in the shallows.

8. Loch Lomond

My first Scottish wild swim! I’d planned a short break to the Scottish Highlands in 2018, with wild swimming at the core of the itinerary. The weather wasn’t kind to us, deciding to unleash a tropical storm our way, but Loch Lomond was the least wild of the swims and was a joy. With easy access from the A82, the beach I entered the loch was lovely and soft with an easy incline into the water. I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area.

7. Derwentwater

One of my loves in the Lake District. Derwentater was the first lake I swam, and I have been back several times over the years. The footage in the video is from my second swim at Derwentwater, when at 9am, it was just David and I and a cool sun rising. It’s a beautiful lake to visit for a walk or swim and we will probably revisit again in the future.

6. Loch Etive

One of the best swims during a brief holiday to the Scottish Highlands. Loch Etive is a sea loch and was shrouded in low lying mist on a drizzly morning the day we visited. We hadn’t been favoured with good weather but the mist and rain added to the atmosphere of this beautiful loch.

5. Llyn Idwal

Idwal was the llyn where all this wild swimming malarkey began in 2016. On that cold winters day I stood at the shoreline and wondered what it would be like to swim there. Fast forward three years and I visited Llyn Idwal again in 2019 with a swim buddy in tow to finally swim in its mythical waters. It was a fun swim and the llyn is very popular with day trippers due to its accessibility.

4. Alcock Tarn

I have many happy memories of our visit to Alcock Tarn, that is almost made it into the top three! Two friendly ducks and a beautiful early autumn day made this swim so memorable. Nestled in beautiful, peaceful scenery above Grasmere, Alcock Tarn was one of those perfect swims. I’d definitely recommend a visit for swimmers and walkers alike.

3. Rydal Water

Rydal Water is a lake I want to return to so desperately. It may be one of the smaller lakes of the Lake District but its atmospheric charm and quaintness makes it so unique. This was the only lake where I shared the water with swans, (at a distance of course) and have visited several times with Riley. Not far from a car park and with a wonderful walk into the fells or around Grasmere, it’s a place I would definitely recommend to other swimmers and walkers.

2. Buttermere

Buttermere has always been a lake close to my heart, and it was a tough decision to put this in second place. My final swim of 2020 was at Buttermere, and it was a spectacular day! The sun was out and for an early October it was pleasantly warm. There was no wind, creating a mirror sheen on the lake that reflected the rugged mountain tops. The water was silky smooth, and the view from the water was breathtaking. It will be a swim I won’t forget in a hurry!

1. Glaslyn

Of my many swims, the beauty of Glaslyn has been unparalleled. On first sight, Glaslyn took my breath away. There was the imposing peak of Snowdon mirrored in water so turquoise I’d never seen anything like it! To have this beautiful llyn all to myself while I swam in its soft waters was pure joy. All other walkers seemed to prefer the Pyg Track to the Miners that day and David and I enjoyed the peaceful tranquility.

Do you agree with my selection? What is your favourite swim of mine, or indeed your own? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Birthday Visit to Formby Point

2020 has been a disappointing year for so many, David and myself included. For my birthday this year we should have been holidaying in a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossach’s National Park, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, we made the best of a difficult situation and spent the day at Formby Point. No trip to the beach is complete without an excitable Border Collie in tow. We may not have seen any red squirrels in the woods but we certainly made the most of our time at the beach, even seeing a few mermaid purses. Here’s a few pictures from our trip.

How have you been coping in 2020? Have any holiday plans changed/cancelled?

Thanks for reading, and keep well,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_08Day 8: Today is World Oceans Day, so in honour of this campaign, today’s Close up Monday will be of bottle-nosed dolphins. I’ll admit that marine wildlife is one aspect of my knowledge that isn’t particularly strong. So I am going to use today as a platform to further my understanding around this subject.

What’s your favourite ocean inhabitant?

The bottle-nosed dolphin is probably the best known of all UK whale and dolphin species (cetaceans). While reading the summer edition of the RSPB’s Nature’s Home magazine, I was surprised to discover that up to 28 of these aquatic mammals have been seen around UK shores.

Some facts on bottle-nosed dolphins:

  • UK bottle-nosed dolphins are the biggest in the world, their larger bodies help with the cold of our waters
  • They can live up to 50 years of age
  • Are carnivore and eat other fish and crustaceans
  • They have good eyesight and their eyes can move independently of each other
  • They can’t detect colour
  • Highly sociable and live within pods of up to 15 members
  • Research has shown that dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from other dolphins
  • Like bats they use echolocation for finding food and navigation
  • Their stomachs consist of three chambers, one to store, one to digest and one to excrete
  • They sleep by shutting one side of their brain and the opposing eye
  • ‘Breaching’ or jumping out of water is a way of cleaning parasites off their bodies
  • As a mammal they are warm blooded and need to breathe through a blow hole

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Moray Firth dolphins

Bottle-nosed dolphins enjoy the safety of sheltered bays and can be seen often at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Moray Firth in Scotland, Cornwall and Dorset.

Have you seen any bottle-nosed dolphins around the coast of the UK? Have you seen any other cetaceans?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x