Gummer’s How and Windermere

This June I’d organised a few nights away to the Lake District, however I had to cancel due to David being floored by a virus. Thankfully we managed to book again for September. David and I had three days of fun filled adventure.

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On the journey north we stopped off at Gummer’s How and Windermere before heading to our B&B for the two nights, Hermiston Guest House, Braithwaite.

Gummer’s How is just a short walk from the (free) Forestry Commission car park, two miles drive from Newby Bridge. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path, (steep at times) and admired the views of Windermere and surrounding fells from the 321m summit. Though the weather was overcast it remained dry and mild.

From Gummer’s How we continued on our journey along the A592 which hugs the eastern shores of Windermere. Our destination was Rayrigg Meadow car park. Surprisingly I hadn’t swam in Windermere, partly due to it being too commercial and touristy. This I wanted to address, so we parked the car and carting my bulky Dryrobe®, we took a five minute walk to the shore.

Windermere is a busy lake, much busier than the small lakes and tarns I am used too swimming. Whilst in the water with the shrouded Langdale Pikes in the distance, I was weary of speeding boats and leisurely cruisers. I kept close to the shore and watched as the boats drifted by. Due to this activity the water was choppy and I was buffeted by the wake the boats caused. That aside I enjoyed my 20 minutes in Windermere. The water temperature was around 10° but once out of the water I was kept toasty by my Dryrobe®.

Have you visited Windermere? Been on one of the cruises?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scales Tarn – Blencathra

The room we were given for our stay at Hermiston Guest House, was the compact and cosy Blencathra.

I felt this was a good omen as the next day I had planned on hiking up Blencathra to its beautiful and remote tarn, Scales.

David and I started out early and managed to get (free) roadside parking not far from the village of Scales. The weather forecast was perfect, the sun was out with a gentle breeze which grew in strength the higher we walked. As par the course we took a wrong route and had to back track to find the path towards Mousthwaite Comb.

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I knew the walk up Blencathra would be long and arduous. It took us three hours to finally get to the shores of the glacial corrie, Scales Tarn. The tarn sits some 598m high and is ringed by Sharp Edge, Tarn Crags and Hallsfell Top. From the shore we marveled as people clambered across Sharp Edge just the thought of it makes me shudder!

Tired and hungry I decided to embark on my swim and quickly stripped to my swimsuit. The entrance was rocky and shallow, and with a chilling wind that scudded across the tarn it made for a very cold swim. The water was around 8° but the wind made it feel much colder. I swam for around 15 minutes but it wasn’t the most enjoyable swim I’ve had. Once back on land and upon getting changed into dry clothes I struggled to hold my hot cup of coffee as the afterdrop struck me quite violently. It took me a while to warm up but with hot drinks, lunch and layers of clothing I managed to recover.

We were both physically tired after our five hours traipsing around my favourite mountain Blencathra, though I was thoroughly satisfied I had swam in Scales Tarn. Perhaps this success means I could attempt Red Tarn in future?

Have you walked Blencathra? Tackled Sharp Edge?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Alcock Tarn and Grey Crag

‘A dreary sheet of water named Alcock Tarn.’

Apparently Alfred Wainwright was rather disparaging of Alcock Tarn, nestled below Butter Crag east of Grasmere. Personally I enjoyed my swim in this peaceful small tarn. The views from Grey Crag were a bonus!

We managed to find a lay-by with free parking alongside the A591, and took the path behind the Swan Hotel, following signs for Alcock Tarn. The walk, though steep in parts was very picturesque. We followed a babbling Greenhead Ghyll and had luscious views of Helm Crag and Grasmere as we quickly gained height. The whole walk was beautiful, possibly attributed to the blissful weather we were lucky to have. The whole walk was a positive experience for me.

It took about an hour to get to the shores of Alcock Tarn, previously called Butter Crag Tarn. In the 1800’s Mr Alcock of Grasmere had enlarged the tarn to stock with trout! There were lots of minnows in the shallows when we set up camp.

Our arrival was welcomed by two female mallards who quickly made a beeline for us. Both came onto land and one, searching for food pecked at my toes as I got undressed. The ducks were so cute, one even sat next to David whilst I took to the waters.

The swim itself was divine. I entered the water when there was no other walkers about and had the tarn to myself, David and the two ducks. I thoroughly enjoyed the 8° waters and wish I could have stayed in longer. The wind was not as cutting as it was at Scales Tarn, Blencathra. Even though I swam through reeds they were manageable. Pipits called from the hills and peacefulness pervaded. I was in the water for about 15 minutes before I started to feel cold.

We picnicked on shore, sharing our lunch with the ducks while I warmed up. I could have stayed there all day.

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David wanted to explore the area and so we ended up walking towards Grey Crag overlooking a resplendent Grasmere with Windermere glistening in the distance. I was drunk on the colour green! The whole countryside looked vibrant in the noontime sunshine.

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Sadly it was time we retraced our steps back towards the car. The whole day was wonderful. It was the best swim/walk of the weekend. Perhaps this was due to having no expectations?

Have you visited Alcock Tarn? What are your favourite walks around Grasmere?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Sunday Sevens #70

It’s been a while since I updated you all with a Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

The Lake District:
Last Sunday David and I finally managed to get to the Lake District for a well earned short break. During our three days we did lots of walking. We took a six mile slog up Blencathra, but the relatively short 3.5 mile walk to Alcock Tarn and the views from Grey Crag were among my favourite. All these miles have added to my weekly total of 40, bringing my annual tally for the #walk1000miles challenge to 1,469. Do you think I’ll make 2000 miles by the end of the year?

Wild swims:
As you probably guessed I partook in a few wild swims during my short stay in the Lake District. I finally managed to tick off Windermere!

Badgers:
During our break we finally got to RSPB Haweswater and participated in their weekly Monday badger watch. During the hour we saw two badgers, Porridge and Gremlin.

The Aviary:
Once back home it was like we hadn’t been away as we found one of our blue-faced parrot finches, Forrest showing early signs of stargazing. We have had a finch with this illness before but it was no less saddening to see Forrest suffer with disorientation.

Books I am reading:
I’m reading two boooks at present, A New York Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. I didn’t know this was a huge tome but it is keeping me company whilst travelling to work. The second book is The Horse Dancer by JoJo Moyes. This book I saw on the shelves of Asda and I swooped in to purchase it. I am half way through but not sure whether I am enjoying the story or not. I’ll let you know!

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Riley

Walking the Dog:
What fabulous weather we have had this week here in the NW of England! It has felt like the last breath of summer before autumn really takes charge. It has been a perfect week off work! I spent my free time taking Riley on many walks to the park.

That was my week, how was yours?

Christine x

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

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

No Room at the Car Park…

No matter how much you plan a day out, even after getting up at 5.30am and driving for two hours, sometimes things just don’t go to plan. That was what happened to David and I recently, as we ventured to Pen-y-Pass car park, Snowdonia.

The plan was to walk the Miner’s Track to Snowdon and take in three swims, Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn. However on arrival at 8am, staff were putting out orange bollards with signs saying full! Other car parks along the A4086 were also full. We were not the only disappointed visitors that day. There were many cars trying to park on verges as we drove to a new destination.

I had to think fast. Perhaps I should have suggested Idwal and Ogwen, (still llyns I’ve not swam in), but I thought the Idwal car park would be just as busy as Pen-y-Pass. So I decided we should drive on towards Llyn Dinas and see if there was any available car park spaces. There was! We paid £2.50 for the privilege of four hours. In hindsight we could have had free car parking further up the road, but we were going by my memory and that’s not the best at any time.

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Llyn Dinas

From the car park there were free toilets, only one for women, (be prepared to queue), the men fared better. We then walked south west along the A498 towards Llyn Dinas. Llyn Dinas boasts an all accessible pathway but that was further up the road and I had no map. There were many accessible routes from the road to the llyn but none with a good lake-shore until I found a site with a wide shingle beach. Not totally secluded but closest to, we decided to make this our camp.

Llyn Dinas is named after the nearby hill fort Dinas Emrys, which has mythical connections to the Arthurian figure Merlin. Merlin is reputed to have been recruited by king Vortigern who having fled the Anglo-Saxons was constructing a fort. Vortigern asked Merlin ‘why after building the fort would the construction come crashing down the next day’.

Merlin said that there were ‘two dragons or vermes who lived in a pool’ where the fort was being erected. It was they who destroyed the building. Once the dragons were freed the fort was constructed. In 1954 and 1956 the area was excavated by Archaeologist, Dr H. N. Savory who indeed discovered a pool inside the fort. Whether the myth has some foundation is debatable. Vortigern himself was supposed to have hidden the Throne of Britain beneath a stone at Llyn Dinas. Though this story seems to tally with a stone that was set to mark the boundary between three land cantrefi or borders.

On my swim I did not meet any dragons nor many people. The llyn was peaceful at 9am. The sun was warm and the water notched 20-22°C. It was the warmest wild swim I had ever experienced. I stayed in the water over half and hour and in hindsight I could have stayed in longer. I emerged from the water before the canoeists arrived. It was a most pleasurable swim.

I don’t seem to be as successful with my Welsh swims as I have been with my Lake District swims. There are so many llyns I have not attempted yet. Perhaps when the weather gets cooler I can reattempt the Miner’s Track?

Have you traversed the Miner’s Track to Snowdon? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

An Introduction to Wild Swimming

via An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I’ve never Pressed This before, so hope this works!

I just thought I would update my Introduction to Wild Swimming post as I have recently made an addition to my swim kit, with the purchase of a tow float, affectionately named Doughnut!

Tow floats are safety devices that make the swimmer visible to other water users. They are also great for when having a rest. Instead of treading water you can just lean on the float and drift about. I even used Doughnut as a float during my most recent swim at Llyn Dinas and paddled along the shoreline.

The tow float I purchased from Lomo was relatively inexpensive at £18, inclusive of postage (other models/makes available). I purchased a small tow float (there are larger ones available), with top dry pouch to house items such as a phone or keys. I was very happy with my purchase and couldn’t wait to take it on my next swim to test it out.

That time came when we holidayed in the Lake District for a few days this June. Of course I took in a few wild swims and Doughnut’s first outing was at Stickle Tarn. The tow float has a connecting waist strap to safely connect the tow float to the swimmer. My phone remained dry within the dry pouch, but I placed it in an extra dry bag just to be on the safe side.

Doughnut has accompanied me on all my recent swims. I think it is a great addition to my wild swim kit and would suggest any newcomers to wild swimming to invest in one. It’s a relatively inexpensive visual device to keep the swimmer more safe in the water.

What are your views (if any) on tow floats?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My First River Swim

On coming down from the mountains after my Stickle Tarn swim, it was evident that there was time for a further swim that day. So we headed the short drive back towards Elterwater. Elterwater is actually three tarns connected via the River Brathay. I read that the River was also an outflow of Elterwater. As all my swims have been in lakes and tarns, I have always wondered what a river swim would be like. I was excited to see if I could squeeze in a short river swim too.

We parked up at the Silverthwaite car park off the B5343. The car park has a number-plate recognition camera where you pay on departure. I carried my Dryrobe® along the river path towards Elterwater. The path was well maintained with wonderful views of the Great Langdale Valley. The whole area would benefit from a longer visit rather than this whistle stop tour.

At the junction where the tarn joins the river there is a decent shingle beach. This was where we set up base. I inflated Doughnut, strapped Wilson to my chest and donned my neoprene gloves and boots. I found an easy entrance into the river (not very deep) and after admiring the reeds that lined the river bank set off towards Elterwater.

I don’t know whether it was because I was swimming against the current or carrying a slight injury from my earlier fall in Stickle Ghyll, but it seemed to take forever to get to Elterwater. A couple sat and watched my slow progress as I swam into the tarn. I tried to ignore their looks but I tired easily. However I finally managed to emerge into the tarn with the Langdales in the distance. It was such a thrill to see them. Elterwater is beautiful!

I surprised myself by being in the water for longer than I thought. I managed roughly 15 minutes. After already having one swim that day and then an impromptu dip in a ghyll, I thought I would have been colder than I was. It was a cloudy and cool day with the weather closing in after the Elterwater swim. As I reached dry land, I vowed to revisit Elterwater again. A peaceful morning swim sounds bliss!

Have you visited Elterwater? Tried river swimming?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Doughnut’s First Swim!

It was the first outing of my orange tow float, and to celebrate this momentous occasion I walked 1.5 hours to Stickle Tarn, in the Langdales (and 1.5 hours back) to test it out!

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At Stickle Tarn

On a particular down day I decided that my swim kit just wasn’t complete without a tow float. I had read that COWS who swim at Derwentwater had asked swimmers to don a tow float so tourist boaters could see swimmers. For the sake of safety I decided to buy a Lomo tow float with pouch (other brands are available). It was only £19 including postage and arrived not two days after I ordered it. I was very happy with my purchase and was excited to test it out.

So when an impromptu break to the Lake District beckoned, the tow float came with me, along with a brand new Regatta rucksack. All this swim kit needs to be carried and the rucksack I had just wasn’t adequate.

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Regatta Rucksack

Our walk started from The National Trust Stickle Ghyll car park off the B5343 (nearest postcode LA22 9JX). David and I, didn’t know how long it would take to walk the route with a swim and picnic, so we paid for all day parking at £7.00. While David calibrated his steady cam I sat and enjoyed the woodland birds visiting the feeders a NT volunteer had put up. I even saw a yellowhammer but was unable to photograph it due to the poor zoom on my S6!

We followed a path from the north end of the car park. Passed a gate which traversed towards Stickle Ghyll and a path that had been stone pitched, that led steeply upwards. There were many plunge pools that looked inviting along the route.

We crossed a bridge which overlooked a hydroelectric scheme, that harnessed the power of the ghyll, from there the path steadily gained height. There were many scrambles which I wasn’t too happy about. However I manged to scale the rocks and overcame the stepping stones across the turbulent ghyll, before we took the final steps towards the tarn.

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Stickle Tarn

The summits of Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark and Pike O’ Stickle once formed the outer rim of a volcano. Many a climber has enjoyed ascending Jake’s Rake. I preferred to sink my body into cold 14°C waters. It was an ancient volcano after all!

I lasted about 15 minutes in the water before I decided to call it a day. While I looked the part, my technique let me down, with turbulent waters I struggled. The water was cold, and the wind that chopped the waters was equally as cold. I suffered badly from shivers on land afterwards. The tow float had a good swim and remained visible. Also the pouch with dry bag kept my phone dry (which I used to measure my swim), even after a capsize! David kindly filmed me swimming, the result can be seen above.

Once warmed up and had lunch we took the descent back to the car park. However we missed the boulder crossing at the ghyll and ended up looking for a way across further down. David found a site he thought was broach-able. For his long legs it was, but I failed in this leap of faith and hit the side of the ghyll. David reached for my left arm and as he kept a hold of me, to stop me from falling down the waterfall, I felt my tendons twist. I managed to climb onto dry land, having taken an impromptu dip in the ghyll. My boots were soaked and I was in the water up to my knees. I had just got dry, and now I was wet again! Add to that a throbbing wrist and I could be forgiven for giving up on the remaining plans for the day. However I did not. I fought the injury to go on a second swim that day.

I am happy to report that the remaining journey down the ghyll was uneventful. Thankfully there were free toilets at the car park and I managed to change into fresh swimwear.  I will write about about my second swim of the day in my next post.

Have you visited Stickle Tarn, or had an unexpected swim? Fallen into fast flowing water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x