Back to Where it all Began!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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2019 Wild Swim Season – #1 High Dam

I found it difficult to chose the first wild swim of 2019. I’m like a child in a sweet shop, there are just so many possibilities! I’ve spent so many hours recently trawling the internet looking for swims/walks.

This weekend David and I planned on visiting The Lake District for the first swim/walk of the season. I don’t know what made me decide on High Dam near Windermere but SwimmingTheLakes’ fantastic blog post on High Dam settled it for me.

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High Dam Swim

High Dam is a man made tarn. Built in the 1800’s to provide hydro energy to power a 32 foot diameter water wheel at the nearby Stott Park Bobbin Mill. The mill produced up to a quarter of a million wooden bobbins to aid Lancashire’s spinning and weaving industries at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Though the weather decided to be stubbornly gray on the day, we headed up the M6 and arrived at 9am at the High Dam National Trust car park, just north of Finsthwaite. From this car park (we paid £2.50 for 2 hours) we enjoyed a bird song filled short walk through a woodland stuffed with bluebells and ferns. In parts the path was rough and steep but at only 2 miles it was a relatively easy walk for us.

The route took us passed a smaller tarn, Low Dam before drawing close to High. High Dam reminded me of Glenco Loachan near Glencoe, (which we visited last year). Perhaps it was the cloudy weather conditions that made me think of this similarity?

We walked around the perimeter of the tarn, looking for good access points to the water. I didn’t want to scramble over rocks or wade into ankle height water for meters. We found a promontory with decent access and I quickly stripped to my tankini. I had worked up a sweat on the walk and didn’t feel too cold. I occasionally feel nervous entering the water but on this occasion I waded in! I was so elated to be swimming again! Terrence registered a comfy 15-16°C. I managed to swim for around 20 minutes without feeling cold. Actually, I found it hard to get out of the water. The peaceful solitude of the tarn struck me. Nature seemed very prevalent. As I swam, a curious wagtail watched me from a rock, the song of a cuckoo echoed across the tarn, whilst great tits flittered among trees and a heron flew overhead.

Have you been to High Dam? If so what were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2018

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. As December comes to a close and 2019 draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2018. And what a year 2018 has been! David and I have been on a wonderful adventure together. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight what a fantastic year 2018 has been!

 January:

The year began with a seven mile walk at Gisburn Forest, in the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It certainly blew the cobwebs away and set the tone for the rest of the year ahead.

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Forest Walk

February:

Desperate to get out and catch as much winter sun as we could, David and I embarked on a 10 mile circular walk of my much loved Derwentwater in the Lake District.

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Derwentwater

March:

The highly anticipated exhibition of China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opened at Liverpool’s World Museum. I visited in March with David and then again in September with mum.

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Terracotta Warriors

April:

I was over the moon when I completed my first 500 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. I only had another 500 to complete, which I accomplished in July!

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Reaching 500 miles

May:

With the weather hotting up David and I took yet another trip to The Lake District. This time we walked towards Bleaberry Tarn for a blissfully warm wild swim.

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Bleaberry Tarn

June:

June for me is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This year was extra special as I managed to blog every day. We spent a wonderful month visiting many new nature reserves and even managed to squeeze in a short break to The Lake District, where we waked alpacas along Derwentwater.

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At Derwentwater

July:

The highlight of July was having my friend from California, USA come to stay with us for a few days. As requested, we visited the Lake District for what turned out to be a rather soggy hike around Rannerdale Knotts.

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Selfie Time!

August:

We took a trip down to see Dippy the Diplodocus at Birmingham Museums. This free  exhibition was a little bit different from our other days out this year.

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Dippy at Birmingham

September:

A wild swim dream came true this month when David and I took a short break to the Highlands of Scotland. I managed to bag three swims! It has whetted my appetite to visit again in future.

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Getting changed, Loch Etive

October:

As a birthday treat I, along with David and my mum took a visit to Liverpool’s newly opened Cat Cafe. We seemed to be a magnet for naughty, hungry kitties.

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Christine and Rose

November:

The Lake District has played a heavy part in 2018. Imagine my happiness when we discovered that Riley could manage the two hours travel up to Cumbria. (He suffers badly with car sickness). Our first visit with Riley tagging along was to the serene Rydal Water and Grasmere.

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David and Riley at Rydal Water

December:

December is all about the excitement of Christmas. My favourite picture from December is undoubtedly Riley with Santa Paws.

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Let’s hope 2019 will be another kind year!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

Birthday Swim 2018

It’s taken me ages to write about my birthday swim!

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Loughrigg Tarn

The public vote this year very much focused on the Lake District. I decided to leave the Langdale Angle Tarn (the clear winner) for next year and chose another tarn in the Langdale Valley, Loughrigg for my birthday swim!

We left home early in the morning and after a two hour drive we headed towards parking alongside Loughrigg Tarn. Due to it being early, we managed to get free parking in a lay-by beside the tarn. From there we followed a bridleway towards the Loughrigg Tarn.

It was a cold, crisp autumn day. Loughrigg Tarn proved popular with dog walkers, photographers and families alike. This is due to the – access for all – Miles Without Stiles easy, low level walk around the tarn.

After taking in the views David and I walked around the tarn looking for good entrance points. These were were few and far between. I found the entrances uninviting or littered with obstructions. Loughrigg Tarn wasn’t my favourite swim of the year, though I did manage a good 10 minutes in the water once I got in!

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42! Birthday swim at Loughrigg Tarn

The water I found was murky and I didn’t like my feet sinking up to my shins in sediment as I walked into the tarn! Maybe I chose a bad entrance to access the water? But I was trying to find a more secluded spot so I would not be watched by an audience. Perhaps I should start rating my swims? The views were gorgeous, the swim less so.

Have you visited Loughrigg Tarn? Swam there? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

My Birthday Swim 2018

For my 42nd birthday next week I want to go for a swim, but I am having trouble choosing the right one. So I need your help in making the decision. Below, find a selection of four swims, two from Snowdonia and two from the Lake District. Which one would you prefer?

Snowdonia:

Llyn Padarn

I attempted to swim in Llyn Padarn for last years birthday but found that it got busy later on in the day. If I was to go back again this year I would go much earlier. Perhaps see the sunrise?

Llyn Idwal

What better than to revisit the place where my wild swimming bug was born. Another one for an early start as the area gets busy. Do you know of any easy walks nearby? We’ve walked the circumference of Idwal and Ogwen in the past.

The Lake District:

Windermere

A perfect autumnal walk to Todd Crag would be a good accompaniment to a dip in iconic Windermere.

Angle Tarn (Langdale)

I first saw this swim/walk on swimmingthelakes, I didn’t know there was more than one Angle Tarn! This tarn is not far from Stickle Tarn which we visited in June. It has a similar look to Stickle.

Which swim would you like to see me do next?

Thanks,

Christine x

A Day on the Isle of Skye

I don’t know why, but I’ve found it rather hard to write this post. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the day was marred by the weather? Or that I was generally disappointed in not taking in a swim? Either way this post has been a long time in coming.

Skye was some three hours drive from our base at Fort William. On our drive west we passed many lochs, some more picturesque than others. I found the view of Loch Cluanie rather rugged and industrial. I later read that it is a reservoir for the generation of hydro-electric power.

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Eilean Donan Castle

On towards Loch Duich, we passed signs for The Battle of Glenshiel, where British Governmental Forces faced and defeated Jacobites, who were supported by a Spanish regiment during a rebellion in 1719. During this insurgency Eilean Donan Castle, was partially destroyed, having been taken by the Spanish as their headquarters and subsequently bombarded by the British Navy. For 200 years the castle lay ruined until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and restored the castle to its former glory.

We crossed the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and progressed north towards Portree. On our journey along the A87 we stopped to admire some Highland Cattle. They drew quite a crowd!

From Portree we headed towards the Old Man of Storr. We got to this iconic rock formation at midday, and even though rain filled clouds obscured most of the Trotternish Ridge and the car par was full, we luckily found parking in a lay-by further along the road.

The landscape of oddly shaped pinnacles and rocky buttresses that make up The Sorr was created by an ancient landslide. We followed the path from the car park up towards these towering outcrops. As we gained height, swathes of cloud swirled around the Old Man. It made for very atmospheric pictures. The area had a mythological feel to it, and I could imagine armies of Orcs from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings appearing from out of the mist.

During our two hour walk there were no views of the Sound of Raasay or of Loch Leathan as cloud obscured everything the higher we got. There came a point when even the Old Man was concealed. It was time to call it a day, so we headed back to the car. We found that on our ascent our backs got completely drenched by the rain, whilst on our descent our fronts got the same treatment. We returned to the car with three layers of clothing sodden.

I’d planned on a walk to Loch leathan to embark on another Highland swim. However the dark, dreary weather had taken it’s toll on me and I decided that a soaking at the Old Man of Storr was enough for me that day. We agreed to leave the area and head south, trying to escape the approach of tropical storm Helene.

Our final destination on Skye was Kylerhea, part of Scotland’s Forestry Commission. From the car park there is a short walk to a wildlife hide which overlooks the strait towards the Scottish mainland. The hide is billed as one of the best places in Britain to see otters, dolphins, sharks and the mighty white-tailed sea eagle. On this dismal day all we saw was a seal popping up for air, a grey heron and many sea birds that were too far away to identify.

On leaving a darkening Kylerhea, I felt that the visit was rather a waste of time. However on the three hour drive home we agreed that we had manage to see all we had planned with the exception of a swim. Though the weather may not have been kind to us on Skye we did enjoy the sights we saw, even if we were drenched to the skin!

Have you visited Skye? Any fond memories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Glencoe and Loch Etive

Since holidaying in the town of Fort William our journey to and back home passed the famous Glencoe valley. The Three Sisters need no introduction. Bidean nam Bian as they are also named, create the picturesque and iconic scene which so many travellers have photographed. On our journey home we had to stop off and take a picture of this wondrous mountain range.

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However before we headed towards the Glencoe valley, we paid a short visit to Glencoe Lochan, some 20 minutes drive from Fort William.

Glencoe Lochan is a man made lochan created by Lord Strathcona in the 1890’s. Lord Strathcona was governor general of Canada before returning to Scotland. He created a landscape planted with North American trees to aid his homesick Canadian wife. However Lord Strathcona’s attempts failed and the couple later emigrated to Canada. Today some people comment that the lochan looks like a miniature Lake Louise in British Columbia.  I had planned on a wild swim here, but on the day the water looked brown and uninviting and there was no easy entrance into the lochan. Sadly I gave this swim up and made my way towards Glencoe and Glen Etive.

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Glencoe Lochan

Glen Etive is some 30 minutes drive along the A82 from Glencoe. The Glen is accessible via a winding single track road with passing places. As we drove deeper into the Glen, a white rapid River Etive surged to our left. In the distance low lying clouds drifted enticingly over the loch. There is a car park to the north end of Loch Etive with some access to the loch-side. On arrival I noticed a distinct salty scent to the air, thus being because Loch Etive is a sea-loch.

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Loch Etive

We made our way to the shoreline and stood on a sandy beach overlooking Loch Etive. Though the entrance looked inviting, I wanted somewhere more secluded. So we headed south towards a small ruined jetty, where once ferries docked. Having found a decent entrance point I began my rigmarole of getting ready for a swim. I don’t know whether it is because I chose poplar viewpoints to access the water but whenever I go for a swim, I always seem to draw a crowd. Loch Etive was no different. While I was fighting the rain and midges whilst trying to strap various accouterments to my person I noticed a man with a dog watching from the jetty, then a young couple joined him. Then to my horror a man with a fishing rod was seen poking his head from the jetty wall. From experience and reading stories from others’ I know that swimmers and fishermen do not mix! I was fearful of confrontation! Thankfully, I kept my distance and the fisherman seemed to go back to his watch.

The entrance to Loch Eive was deceptive. Though the shallows looked rocky, it soon smoothed out into a bed of sand and seaweed. Much like Loch Lomond, I walked out into the water. I really enjoyed the swim in Loch Etive and was in the water for around 15 minutes. Terrence the thermometer clocked 13° but it felt much warmer.

While swimming, the man with the dog walked to the loch-side and stood chatting with David. His dog (a terrier) barked at me, and I wanted him to come swim with me, but he wasn’t that kind of dog. So I swam alone. As time passed the rain grew heavier. Worried for David, I cut short my swim and stumbled back onto land, where I hurried into my Dryrobe® and threw everything into my rucksack. I would get dry and changed in the relative warm confines of the car.

Loch Etive was my final swim in Scotland for 2018. Perhaps I can get up again next year?

Have you swam in a Scottish Loch? Visited Glencoe and the surrounding area?

Thanks for reading,

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.

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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