Some weeks ago, David and I took a day trip to Snowdonia. The choice of swim spot was decided rather late so I had to research the legends after the swim. We headed west towards Llyn y Dywarchen. In fact there are two Llyn y Dywarchen’s in Snowdonia. We visited the one near Llyn y Gader, where I had taken an Easter swim that April.
Llyn y Dywarchen has it’s very own little parking bay directly outside a gate that leads to a boat house. The lake is leased by the Angler’s Society, which made my heart sink a little, but on arrival, the llyn was deserted.
We followed a path towards the south side of the llyn, from where I took my swim. The water had chilled to 13°c and the breeze was fresh. It was nice to see the changing of the light on the mountains all around and the colours come to life.
On coming home and preparing the video for YouTube, I researched several legends around the llyn. Much like Llyn Cwellyn, fairies featured heavily.
One tale was of a shepherd coming upon a group of fairies, falling in love with one of them and then having to guess her name to marry her. Once married she was bound by a curse never to be touched by iron, and during one mishap, she touched an iron object and vanished back to the fairy realm.
However, there was one truth about the llyn and that it once had a floating island. In 1698 astronomer Edmund Halley, (of Halley’s comet fame), swam to the island and said the island was a floating piece of turf that had detached from the shore. Others believed the floating island was fairy made. So the banished fairy could still see her husband, the floating island was made so she could float on the llyn while her husband was on shore, from there they conversed. When the winds blew the island to shore, you could see the lovers kiss.
The island is no longer, but tales of the fairy folk remain.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Vertebrae Publishing regarding publicising a new swimming book that was being published. I thought about it and decided to agree. They sent me a copy of Calum Maclean‘s book, 1001 Outdoor Swimming Tips.
After a week or so of planning, David and I headed towards North Wales to Llyn Cwmorthin a slate quarry we had previously visited in 2016. I had already sketched a rough plan of the video, we just needed lots of footage. The day was a mix of sunny spells and gusts. It remained dry and we got some great footage of the old quarry buildings and of the 14°C swim. The location was very busy with walkers and tours of the mines below. The swim wasn’t very secluded and there was a mean current that made swimming difficult. I was in the water for around 15 minutes and was tired after I got out.
Cwmorthin Slate Quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog (slate capital of the world), was established in the early 1800’s, and was in operation until the late 1990’s, changing ownership on several occasions. Visiting today it’s like stepping back in time. A walk around the old ruins of terraced houses and chapels, feels like walking alongside ghosts. Indeed, during the late Victorian era, poor working conditions gave rise to the name locally as The Slaughterhouse due to 20+ deaths during a 20 year period. Once Cwmorthin was connected to Oakeley Quarry it became part of the largest slate mine in the world. 90,000+ tons of slate left the quarry between 1861 and 1876. The area today is marked with the signs of slate industry, huge scree mountains of broken slate dominates the land.
It’s taking me a while to sit down and write this blog. To celebrate Easter, I decided to do something similar to my Christmas swim. You can read about that here. So I purchased some fluffy rabbit ears and tail and this Easter bunny went for a swim in a Snowdonian llyn.
It’s getting harder now to find accessible swims in both the Lake District and Snowdonia, but one llyn was situated not far from the car park to the Rhyd Ddu Path for Snowdon. So on the Easter weekend, David and I took an early morning trip. On arrival I was surprised at how busy the car park was. I was not aware (at first) that the car park was for one of the six trails to Snowdon. Luckily, we managed to find a space and after paying a reasonable £3 for three hours, we donned our heavy backpacks and headed across the road towards the path which would lead us to Llyn y Gader.
The path is wheelchair accessible for most of the way and is a distance of seven miles to Beddgelert. However, we were only walking perhaps one mile to the llyn. The day was overcast yet mild. We walked through conifer forest towards the lake shore where common sandpipers were flitting about. Careful not to tread on any ground nests we scanned the water’s edge for good entrance points. There weren’t many, but I found one where I could ease myself in and manage to clamber back out again. The water was murky yet had a silky sheen to it. At 11 degrees it was the warmest swim this year! There were fish in the llyn and one jumped out of the water which freaked me out a little and before I knew it, my mind was irrationally thinking what was in the water beneath me?
I was in the water for about 15 minutes, and it was a nice swim apart from losing my rabbit ears before luckily finding them in the shallows! After I got back on dry land and dressed, while sipping a hot coffee, I watched as the steamtrain from Beddgelert to Caernarfon billowed past.
Not wanting to waste the day we retraced our steps back to the car park and headed towards RSPB Conwy’s reserve where we spent an hour walking the boardwalk and spying on the wildlife.
Finally, I have managed to push the boundary back in terms of how long my wild swimming season lasts for. In recent years I have been wanting to see how I cope in colder temperatures. This year, I had a week off work in November, so I booked a two nights stay in our favourite Lake District B&B, Hermiston. The plan was to do a couple of swims, but where? I have sadly swam in all the accessible lakes/tarns in The Lake District and now have to gather fitness and resources to go further inland and up mountains!
Luckily, the Eskdale Valley, west of the Lakes, was a destination we had not visited before and the area seemed to be less frequented by tourists. Correct me if I am wrong! So during our stay, I planned on doing two swims. The first was Blea Tarn (the last of the three) and the second Devoke Water.
There are three Blea Tarns, the first in the picturesque Langdale Valley, the second in Watendlath and the third in Eskdale. Eskdale’s Blea Tarn can be accessed via Beckfoot, a train station on the Ravenglass and Eskdale 15″ gauge Railway. David and I were going to park up in the station at Dalegarth but we managed to find off road parking right opposite the Beckfoot platform.
After donning our backpacks, we crossed the train track and headed through a gate towards the hillside beyond. The walk only took 30 minutes, it was steep in places but not too strenuous. At the top I thought we would find Blea Water looking resplendent but we had to traipse over sphagnum moss a little further inland before the tarn appeared.
On the day the weather wasn’t very inviting, a mean wind whipped across the tarn and cloud drifted over the hills. After the restrictive swim season that was 2020, I have been desperate to just get into the water and swim. So, we quickly made camp and I stripped to my swimsuit; strapped Doughnut, my tow float to my waist and new GoPro to my chest and I was ready for a dip in chilly waters!
I had prepared myself for cold waters, but in fact Llynnau Mymbyr was much colder! I managed a 15 minute swim in Blea Tarn, though I could have swam for longer. I was weary of not being cold water aclimatised, so I stayed close to shore and had a short swim. The wind kept splashing water in my face while I gazed at the mist enshrouded hills around me. Mentally, I didn’t enjoy the swim as much as I should have, but I am glad I have managed to tick this tarn from the swim map!
Getting dry back on land was a chore with a cold wind and rain falling steadily. I think it took me as long to get dry and dressed as I did swimming! But wrapped up warmly afterwards, we headed back down the hill towards the car.
Much like during the swim at Blea Tarn the day before, the weather for the Devoke water swim was very inclement! In fact the wind was more blustery and whipped up white horses on the water!
As Devoke Water is in the same region of the Lakes as Blea Tarn, the journey from Braithwaite took just over an hour. We found roadside parking a 20 minute walk from the tarn and followed the sign post towards Devoke Water. I knew this tarn would be less popular than any other tarn I had swam in but I had thought I would have seen people on our swim/walk. However, it was just David and I who traipsed the unremarkable path towards the tarn, then tramped though marshy, wet land to a windy swim.
We made camp and I took to the waters with the same enthusiasm and a little bit of nervousness I have for all of my swims. Despite the wind being raucous and throwing water into my face, I really enjoyed this swim, the wind was cold but the water wasn’t so bad. I swam for about 15-20 minutes! The scenery around Devoke Water is as bleak as it gets but occasionally there were shafts of sunlight piercing through the clouds. It’s definitely a tarn I would visit again.
For the past couple of years (excluding 2020), it has been a tradition of mine to have a cold water swim on my birthday! This year was no exception. Having tried to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr a couple of times this year, it was the obvious destination. David and I awoke early and drove two hours towards the village of Capel Curig. We arrived at 9am and unlike the last time we visited, when there was a triathlon on, the area was quiet and subdued. We found roadside parking overlooking the two llyns (llynnau) and donned our new walking boots and heavy rucksacks.
A short path snakes along the south side which we followed looking for lakeside access. The walk was pleasant through a conifer forest, where sheep grazed and coal tits flew among the boughs. We had to course over swollen streams and pools of mud. We walked to the end of the path where a barbed fence blocked our way, so we had to retrace our steps and look for a path through sphagnum moss and fallen trees for lake access.
We finally got to the lakeside. The water levels were high and most of the beach was submersed. We quickly made camp as there was a cool wind blowing and I got dressed into my swimming paraphernalia. David had gifted me a new GoPro to replace Wilson, so I strapped him to my chest and slowly waded in.
The last time I was in water was in September and swimming in October I found the temperature had cooled to single figures. Due to the water levels being so high I plunged into the water, waist high and decided to just go for it and swim! So I did, and boy did I gasp aloud! The cold of the water took my breath away but in my head I just kept saying, ‘keep swimming!’ The water made my skin tingle and it was an effort to move my limbs but I soon got used to the chill and swam for about 10 minutes. The views from the water were spectacular, the Snowdon Massif was lit in golden autumn light and I was mesmerised. I wish I could have stayed in the water longer but that would have been foolish. As I was climbing out of the water I spotted a flash of blue and a kingfisher bobbed past. Glorious!
I got dry on land using my new OS towel map of Snowdonia. It was soft to the touch and made me feel warm and dry. I had a quick hot coffee when I was dressed to warm up my core.
It was a blissful birthday swim and I was so lucky to have been able to experience it with David who stood on the shore and took video for our YouTube channel. I look forward to using my new GoPro on the next swim/walk adventure, especially with the superior video quality.
Have you visited Llynnau Mymbyr? I couldn’t find any Welsh myths regarding this lake but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any.
My birthday month hasn’t been so kind to me this year. It’s been a month of severe stresses and worries and not much fun in between. David has had many trips to the hospital this month, after his pneumonia diagnosis during the summer. We all feared the worst but after a PET scan, we finally got some good news that it wasn’t the disease we all dreaded. However, the specialist doesn’t really know what is wrong with David’s lung and there will be another scan in three months time. Fingers crossed all will be well.
The beginning of October, saw David and I take a visit to the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. However, this years festival wasn’t as good as previous years and the selection of apples was limited. We did come away with some sunset and ellison orange but even the apples weren’t at their best this year.
Our aviary lost yet another resident, the lady gouldian finch, Nero. Nero suffered from neurological issues and had become paralysed down one side. He did manage heroically but in the end he passed away. Fly free little one.
During an early morning start at work, I witnessed a wonderful autumn sunrise with mist enshrouded fields. It was a beautiful beginning to a day.
We had another success with our pigeon rehabilitation. Mocha came to us with a runny tummy and breathing issues. We treated for coccidiosis, a parasite that affects the digestive system. We saw an improvement after two days of giving the medication and then Mocha stayed with us for a further five days when we treated for canker, and kept her warm. Her respiratory difficulties eased and we released her back to the wild, but not before giving her a white leg ring, so we can keep track of who we have helped. Soon our yarden visitors will all have leg bracelets on. 🙂
In October, we finished watching all 10 series of Stargate, which we thoroughly enjoyed! We also watched the controversial Squid Game, which was both horrific and sad in equal measure and we have just finished the second series of the supernatural Locke and Key. Do you have any recommendations on what to watch next?
It’s that time of year again when sparrowhawk visits increase. One Saturday we were visited by a male sparrowhawk who stayed around the area for over half an hour. He managed to get a meal a few days later.
At the end of October we made a quick visit to Liverpool’s City Centre to see the River of Light Festival. We visited the light festival in March, but I though this October’s selection of lights were better than in March!
David’s family had a get together for Halloween. Some of us dressed up. I went as a Jaffa from Stargate. I wanted to go as Teal’c but the bald wig I bought didn’t cover my hair so I had to go as a makeshift Jaffa instead. Did you do anything fun for Halloween?
For the past couple of years I’ve celebrated my birthday with a cold water swim! This year, since The Lake District was underwater with streams that were once paths, I decided to choose Snowdonia as the place to celebrate. Llynnau Mymbyr was the llyn I chose and it was such a wonderful birthday swim with the Snowdon massif looking glorious in rich autumn sunshine. I dried off with my new towel, the ordinance survey map of Snowdonia.
That was my October, how was yours? Do you like this time of year with the crisp mornings and golden trees or like me, just want to hibernate?
Llyn Ogwen wasn’t the first choice for a swim on our most recent trip to Wales. I had planned on swimming in Llynnau Mymbyr but on the day, as we drove passed Llynnau Mymbyr there were lots of people about on bikes and in the llyn itself there were canoes and large pink inflatable buoys! I later found out that there was a snowman triathlon happening at Capel Curig, of which there were 750m of open water swimming, 31km of road cycling and 6.1km multi terrain running. I didn’t really want to be swimming with a load of other swimmers and dodging large inflatable buoys, so we quickly ditched the day’s plan and headed to another llyn I had yet to swim in. We headed for Llyn Ogwen, a llyn I had visited on multiple occasions, most notable in 2017 when we walked all around it’s rugged footpath but had not graced it’s waters.
Just like many places in Snowdonia, Llyn Ogwen has ties with the mythology of King Arthur. Llyn Ogwen is presumed to be the llyn where Sir Bedivere cast Excalibur into after Arthur’s death. Indeed in 2017 a team of NT rangers noticed something buried in mud during work maintaining the paths. After excavation it was found to be that of a sword, dating from the 6th Century, coinciding with the time of King Arthur!
After dodging a stream of triathlon bikes, we arrived at parking near Llyn Ogwen at a very reasonable £3 for four hours and then made the short journey across the road to the rocky shore of the llyn. The July heatwave had dissipated and the water was fresh and cold. Since David had been struggling with a chest infection for weeks, it was only a quick swim. Indeed the whole adventure to Wales was short and sweet, but I aim to get back to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr sooner, rather than later.
Have you visited Llyn Ogwen or the surrounding area?
Where is the year 2021 going? We are now in August and I have very little to show for it! Time seems to be slipping through my fingers at an unimaginable speed! It’ll soon be Christmas at this rate! :p
This month has been all about positive covid-19 tests, thankfully not mine, though it feels like I am running the gauntlet and it’s only a matter of time before I catch it! All covid regulations in England were relaxed in July, it seems to be the case of just get on with it now!
My July began by taking another trip to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to see the Peace Doves with mum. I think she was a little underwhelmed but we visited on a weekday morning and got to see the art installation before anyone else managed to get in the photos!
July was all about the heatwave! Just over a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures in the NW reaching 32°C. Sadly, I didn’t go on any adventures due to a member of the family being ill, but I made the most of staying local by visiting Sefton Park with Riley and Pickerings Pasture, which was full of fluttering meadow brown butterflies.
During this short heatwave, water was vital for all wildlife and after purchasing a £3 paddling pool from Asda for Steven, the herring gull, he wasn’t the only one to be seen having a pool party! The pigeons, starlings and even I, had to have a cool down in these hot temperatures!
After a month of rehabilitation, David and I released Harri. He had grown stronger during his stay with us and managed to eat by himself. Near the end of his stay he was getting a little stressed at being constrained. So the best decision we could make was to release him back to his flock and hope that he gets on ok. On his release it didn’t take him long to come out of the cage and fly up to the roof top. Good luck Harri. It’s up to you now!
Update on Harri: he has been seen visiting the yarden a couple of days after his release! Flying and eating well!
The Dyfi Project osprey chicks I have been following on YouTube, fledged in July. Ystwyth (Bobby Bach) was the last chick to fledge and I watched on a Saturday morning her first flight. It was very emotional and I have to admit I cried. They will remain in the area until they migrate to warmer climes end of August!
No sooner had we released Harri when David caught a lost racing pigeon, who he named Hercules as he was twice the size of the feral pigeons. David contacted The Royal Pigeon Racing Association and registered the number of the lost pigeon. The result came back as his owner was from Birmingham and David contacted him. David found out that Hercules was flying from Guernsey and overshot Birmingham by 100 miles! (I blame Storm Evert). However the lure of our yarden was too much not to visit for Hercules and he enjoyed a few days with the resident Scouse ladies. David and I released Hercules and hope that he makes his way back home! Safe journey Hercules.
David has also caught another sick pigeon. This time one with canker. Idris has been given medication and is being crop fed twice daily. We just hope that we have caught the infection in time. Fingers crossed.
On the final Saturday of July David and I had a short adventure to Snowdonia. We had intended on visiting Llynnau Mymbyr but there was a triathlon going on so we had to quickly change plans and headed to Llyn Ogwen instead for a very chilly and rainy swim!
That was my July, how was yours? Did you enjoy the hot weather or kept to the shade?
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. 😦 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…
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’sPeace 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.
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°C 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!