Mud, Sweat and Tears

We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.

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Blencathra

Day One:
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.

The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.

We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.

A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.

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Rosthwaite Round Walk

Day Two:
The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!

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Dock Tarn

By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!

Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.

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Dock Tarn Swim

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.

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Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.

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Blea Water

Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.

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Blea Water Swim

Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.

So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.

Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Overdue…

My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.

I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!

As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.

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Riley at Grasmere

Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!

Then lockdown happened.

At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.

Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.

That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.

With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!

In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.

With parking paid for all day, at £5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.

I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!

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Coniston Water

The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!

Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!

On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.

From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.

We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.

I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?

Thanks for reading,

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.

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Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

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

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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

A Year in Photos – 2019

As December comes to a close and the end of the decade draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2019. The year was slow to get going but when it did it snowballed! The second half of 2019 has been a roller-coaster! Together, David and I have been on many exciting adventures. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight the year that was 2019!

January:

The year began with a ten mile walk around Kewsick, where I introduced Riley to the joys of paddling in Derwentwater.

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Riley in Entrust NT Hands

February:

During this cold month I embarked on many Riley walks with friends and family.

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Family walk to Formby Beach

March:

David and I became members of the RSPB and visited many reserves in the North West. A favourite of mine is Leighton Moss, Morecambe where we got to feed hungry robins and tits.

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Feeding a Robin

April:

We purchased our first female Lady Gouldian Finch. She is a nice addition to the aviary.

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Rize the Lady Gouldian Finch

May:

I managed to go on my first wild swim of the season in May. I took a gentle walk to High Dam near Windermere for a peaceful swim amidst nature.

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High Dam swim

June:

June had so many highlights it was difficult to chose just one, from raising painted lady butterflies to being bee-keepers for the day. However playing host to our American friend Jennifer who came to visit for a second time was even more fun than her first visit. We hiked in the Ogwen Valley and wild swam in Llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

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Selfie time at Ogwen Valley

July:

Work wise 2019 hasn’t been a great year for neither David nor myself. To outweigh all the negativity in his workplace David joined in a fun day with dalmatian puppies.

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David and Dalmatian Puppy

August:

Saving a poor gull who had fallen from its nest (high up on a roof) from uncertain death was ultimately fulfilling especially when a week later it flew off independently.

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Harald

September:

We finally managed to go on a short break to the Lake District after postponing earlier in the year.

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Grasmere from Grey Crag

October:

I finally ticked off Glaslyn after booking a short break away to Snowdonia for my birthday.

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Glaslyn

November:

David bought a new car! A Honda Civic but I still miss his old car the Renault Clio.

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Honda Civic

December:

Though December is all about the excitement (or stress) of Christmas, this year’s trip to New York overshadowed Christmas preparations. My most lasting memory of the holiday was standing on the shoreline before a magnificent Brooklyn Bridge.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

Let’s hope 2020 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

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

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

Mud and Sphagnum!

This Sunday, David and I finally planned a Lake District adventure! It was nice to be back to our days of exploring. 2019 has thrown us a few curve balls but hopefully illnesses and job woes are all behind us!

Our destination this Sunday morning was the western shores of Thirlmere. We arrived at the Dobgill pay and display car park at 8.30am after an early rise. Whilst enjoying unprecedented weather this summer bank holiday weekend, the decision to visit the quieter Thirlmere was beneficial as we only saw a handful of people on our walk towards the picturesque Harrop Tarn.

The walk through woodland was steep but not exhaustingly so, we spotted many types of fungi bathed in sunshine.

The tarn itself has only one shingle beach with access to the water. We aimed for this beach but had to squelch through moss and bog to get there!

Thankfully no one else was swimming when we arrived but a group had set up a wild camp in the conifer trees beyond. Mindful of people at close proximity I quickly stripped to my swimming costume and donned my neoprene shoes and gloves. I entered the water quickly as the sloping shingle shore was steep and shifted under foot. I spent a leisurely 15 minutes swimming back and forth with butterflies fluttering over head and the Helvellyn massif stretching impressively to the west. The water was around 16°C but was rather murky. It was only later that we discovered that I shared the swim with little silver fish.

Back on land I struggled into another swimsuit, a second swim was planned! However I recalled that on arrival at the car park I’d exclaimed, ‘I’ve forgotten the sunscreen!’ David and I were going to bake as the sun was already high in the sky and burning hot!

We retraced our steps through bogland towards a forest path and then struggled through a muddy, stone littered track towards the open fell of Watendlath. The second tarn of the day was going to be Blea. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District: Landgale, Watendlath and Eskdale, only the Eskdale Blea Tarn to do!

Watendlath’s Blea Tarn is nestled below Coldbarrow Fell at 1500ft. It was a tiring marshy trek over sphagnum moss to get to the tarn and then with no path to the shore or easy access to the water, we had to knock down vegetation and sink into pits of mud and water to get any closer. We picnicked with the view of the tarn and Low Saddle before I gritted my teeth and waded into the wind chopped waters. I was not enamoured with this Blea Tarn. At present the Langdale’s Blea is winning. Watendlath’s Blea had a feel of Small Water for me. I waded out into shallow waters. Too shallow really to swim in. Then there was the blue green algae fluorescing further ahead and fronds of vegetation wrapping around my wrists. Tired and frustrated, I turned tail and returned to shore.

Once dry, we decided to walk back to the car park, which saw us embark on another hour of trudging through marshland. We dodged hungry bumblebees, and avoided ticks as we made our descent towards the car. An inferno awaited us as we opened the car doors, heat flooded out! We returned home tired, sunburned but content that we had spent five hours walking and swimming in the lake district fells. I am looking forward to our next adventure.

How did you spend your summer bank holiday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Roundup!

30 days wildI thought I would write a roundup of my 2019, 30 Days Wild.

Blogging everyday is a challenge in itself but when illness puts pay to plans it makes the challenge all that more difficult! Well it did for me! I had to cancel a weekend break to the Lakes and also a badger hide encounter. However, hopefully I will be able to re-book both in the near future?!

Before 30 Days Wild had even begun my story was featured on the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trusts’ page. I was surprised to see they used my picture of swimming in Rydal Water as their feature! You can read my story here.

Saturday’s in June were meant to be RSPB reserve visits but David and I only managed to visit one site and that was Leighton Moss to meet with their moths.

I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.

Gaia was an impromptu visit but an impressive addition to my 30 Days Wild. I also focused on the moon with some facts about our beautiful satellite.

There were two highlights of the month. One was of course watching my five painted lady caterpillars (from Insect Lore), become chrysalids and then beautiful adult butterflies! I would definitely do that experience again!

The other highlight was the bee experience at The Bee Centre. It really made me wish I had a bigger garden so I could get a hive. I would love to become a bee keeper, and I think David would too.

Looking back, perhaps my 2019, 30 Days Wild really wasn’t that bad at all!

Would I blog again everyday for 30 Days in June? Probably. I do like how the challenge makes you focus on the small things as well as the large.

Have you enjoyed my journey through this years 30 Days Wild? What did you like and what didn’t you like?

Thanks for reading, and for one last time, stay wild!

Christine xx

A New Years Jaunt to Keswick

For the past three years, David and I have headed out for a walk on New Years Day and 2019 wasn’t any different. This year we managed to take smiley Riley along with us. We got up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am (it was still dark) and headed up the M6 towards the Lake District. We took the usual pit stop at an eerily quiet Lancaster Services before driving the remaining 1.5 hours, arriving in Keswick just before 9am.

After booting up, with Riley on lead, we headed towards Portinscale and the western shores of Derwentwater. We spent a good two hours walking to and along the shore of Derwentwater. We passed alpacas in a field of the Lingholm Estate, discovered Hawes End jetty was being rebuilt and picnicked before a resplendent Blencathra and Skiddaw in the strong winter sunshine. Whilst David took pictures, Riley and I paddled in the shallows of Derwentwater and ran chasing sticks along the shoreline. I was surprised at how quiet the lakeside was. It was only after 11am that the crowds started to arrive, by then we were heading back towards Keswick. It was a perfect day and a wonderful start to the new year!

Below find a collage of pictures from our time at Derwentwater.

We walked back to Keswick and joined the throng among the bustling streets. There were just as many dogs as there were humans in Keswick and I relished the chance to share this dog friendly town with Riley. Indeed Riley seemed to enjoy himself and attracted quite a few adoring fans. While we stood outside the Old Keswickian chip shop waiting for David to come out with a portion of chips for Riley’s humans, people approached Riley asking to stroke him. It was like he was a celebrity!

David and I settled on a bench alongside the eastern shore of Derwentwater to eat our chips while Riley chilled at our feet. I think the 10 miles walking had tired him! To end the day, even though the afternoon sun was fierce, we took Riley to a very busy Friars Crag overlooking the Jaws of Borrowdale.

We retraced our steps back to the car and tiredly headed back home. Riley slept the three hours home while David and I made another short stop at Lancaster Services for a restorative Costa coffee. All in all it was a positive beginning to the new year and one I shall remember for a long time to come. Riley at the shores of Derwentwater was a dream come true, but where in the Lake District do you think we should walk him next?

Thanks for reading,

Happy New Year!

Christine x