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

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.

blea tarn eskdale

Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

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

grisedale

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

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Seventeen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_17Day 17: Following on from last week’s Close Up Monday, today’s focus is on the red squirrel.

I am very lucky to live within an hours drive from Formby, which is a stronghold of the red squirrels. Disease and the introduction of the American grey squirrel in the 19th Century has impacted greatly on red squirrel numbers.

Red squirrels, a mammal, are native to the UK and classed regionally as endangered. Though red squirrels can be found in other European countries. Their population in the UK is estimated at approx. 140,000 which is quite shocking given that the figure of the grey squirrel as 2.5 million.

maps working version of comparison

The reason for this disparity is obvious when you see both species side by side. Whereas the red squirrel is small and dainty the grey is larger in body.

The two main competitions are:

  • food
  • disease

Food: The grey squirrel being larger has show to eat more and also to be more successful at foraging. Whereas the red has been left behind and is often pushed out of an area due to the competition for food.

Disease: grey squirrels seem to have a natural immunity to squirrel pox than reds. Pox to the red squirrels has a 100% mortality rate, which is catastrophic to any resident population. According to The Wildlife Trusts, there is currently an outbreak of squirrel pox at Formby, but hopefully it won’t be as devastating to the population as the 2008 pox outbreak when 80% of Merseyside and Lancashire’s red squirrels were wiped out!

Habitat loss is also a contributing factor to the decline of the red squirrel.

Red squirrels are found in the North of England and Scotland. They prefer to live in coniferous forests and nest in dreys. They can have up to two litters a year, with 2-3 kittens per litter. Their diet consists of hazelnuts and pine cones but occasionally they eat small birds and eggs. Like the grey squirrel they do not hibernate.

There are a number of projects currently running to help sustain red squirrel numbers: Red Squirrels United is a partnership with The Wildlife Trusts, academics and volunteers and funded by the EU and The National Lottery to create a scientifically robust conservation programme. In turn Red Squirrels United are working closely with Saving Scotland’s RED Squirrels, who work with local communities to preserve this iconic UK animal. Red Squirrel Survival Trust is an entirely donation run initiative created to spread awareness to the plight of the red squirrel.

What is your stance on the red vs grey squirrel argument? Do you ever see a time when both can coexist in the UK?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further reading:

The Wildlife Trusts:

The Wildlife Trusts saving species:

The Wildlife Trusts’ Projects:

The Woodland Trust:

Red Squirrel Survival Trust

Trees for Life

Wild Swim/Walks… Anticipation 2019

March has arrived! The old adage of March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb, seems to be true as Storm Freya threatens to batter us with high winds. However March also marks the arrival of longer days as the clocks spring forward. It is also a time where I start planning in earnest forthcoming swim/walks.

Over the past three-four years I have made some wonderful wild swim/walk memories. From swimming before giants at Wastwater, beautiful morning swims at Derwentwater and Rydal, to swimming in misty drizzle at Llyn Cau and with fish at Buttermere. I even swam in a Scottish loch or two.

Each swim/walk has been memorable in its own right. I am excited to see what new swim/walk adventures I get up to in 2019!

Of my many hopes for the new swimming season, I aim to bag the big lakes of the Lake District, Winderemere and Coniston, and maybe, just maybe I’ll get to swim in Llyn Lydaw and Glaslyn of Snowdonia fame?

Where would you like to see me swim in 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christinex

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

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-nine

Day Twenty-nine: Today’s photo prompt is, this year – a reflection.

On reflection 2018 has been pretty much a perfect year! There may have been the odd blip (e.g. like the burst water pipe) but otherwise there have been many more positives to glean from the year than negatives. Below find a small gallery of pictures from the year.

How has 2018 been for you?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x