An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.

After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.

My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.

OSS_Logo_300px-01_300_300_c1.jpg

Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)

Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.

Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.

YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.

One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.

So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.

I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles (which I have never worn)
  • Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)

David thought I was insane but humoured me.

DSC_0106

First swim at Derwentwater

Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.

  • Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
  • A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
  • To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
  • A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
  • Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.

And finally.

colour-guide-dryrobe-range-Small

The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!

Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.

I’ve found many Facebook pages relating to wild swimming. Outdoor Swimming Society has one, COWS or Cumbria Open Water Swimmers is a good page for the Lake District and nearer to home #ChesterFrosties have an inspiring page too. I’m sure there will be one for your area too!

The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.

I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Christine x

Advertisements

Yew Tree Tarn and Tarn Hows.

Nestled next to the A593, Yew Tree Tarn is one of the most accessible tarns in the Lake District. There is a rather expensive National Trust Car park across the road, (£6.50 for four hours) or if lucky free lay-by parking alongside the tarn. David and I have past this small tarn many times, journeying from Coniston on our way north to Keswick.

Yew Tree Tarn 1

Yew Tree Tarn

I’d planned on a longer walk to Holme Fell before testing the water temperature of Yew Tree Tarn. However the walk didn’t pan out, due to time constraints and being stuck in slow moving traffic around Ambleside. It was decided that after David befriended the local Belted Galloways, I’d take a dip in Yew Tree Tarn before taking a walk around the popular Tarn Hows.

On our walk around Yew Tree Tarn we found a bench overlooking a shingle cove which was a good entrance into the water. Terence registered a cool 12°C, but it felt much colder with the wind that always seems to appear every-time I strip off to my swim-suit! I hadn’t been in the water since August (Llyn Cau), which was probably why the cold affected me. I admit my mindset wasn’t on wild swimming that day, so I cut the swim short after five minutes.

After struggling to get dry and dressed, David and I headed towards a walk around the picturesque Tarn Hows via the Glen Mary ravine and Tom Gill. If there had been more time, I probably would have been tempted to take a dip. In hindsight both tarns I think would benefit from an early morning or evening visit during summer-time.

Tarn Hows is partially man made. Three tarns (The Tarns) were joined together in the 19th Century, lending a very park-like feel to the area. In the 1920’s Beatrix Potter bought the area before selling to the National Trust. You can see why the tarn is so popular today, as the two mile low level path is ideal for all abilities. However for David and I, Tarn Hows didn’t have the special appeal such as Blea Tarn or Wast Water has. Perhaps we are being unkind?

Have you visited Tarn Hows? If so what were your thoughts? Have you been tempted to take a wild swim/dip?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Blea Tarn and Brothers Water.

I was almost deterred from swimming in Blea Tarn and Brothers Water as they have been designated SSSI’s or Sites of Special Scientific Interest. However with both having been on my ‘to do’ list since the very beginning, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Blea Tarn:

20170713_125739

Blea Tarn and the Langdales

David and I drove to Blea Tarn at the start of our few days away to the Lake District. As we came from the direction of the Great Langdale valley the tarn looked rather uninspiring. Undeterred we parked up at the National Trust Blea Tarn car park, and paid the rather steep charge of £5.50 for 4 hours. Parking is right across the road from the tarn with an accessible walk to the waters edge and stunning views. I was surprised the area wasn’t more busy, we only saw a handful of people!

We followed the National Trust trail and took a gentle meandering walk past the tarn, gazed at towering Scots Pines before heading out towards the fells and then the ultimate viewpoint over Great Langdale, which was stunning!

During our walk we saw common spotted orchids, golden ringed dragonflies (to fast for us this time, though we would see them again during our walk over Beda Fell), and a beautiful summer visitor, a pied flycatcher.

DSC_0060

Blea Tarn

We returned to the shingle beach of Blea Tarn where we set up base and I stripped to my new tankini. Terence the turtle registered a balmy 18°C but with the wind I soon cooled quickly. Here’s some pictures and video of my very enjoyable swim, the best of the weekend! The entrance into the water was easy underfoot. No scrambling over rocks is always a plus in my book!

Brothers Water: 

We got to the shores of Brothers Water after a five hour hike around Beda Fell. At 3.30pm there were only a few dog walkers around, I had the entire lake to myself! Tired and with aching feet we stumbled along the shingle shore towards the waters edge. From there I struggled into a new swimsuit and waded out ungracefully into the shallow and reedy waters. I did not stray too far from the shore, though in hindsight I think maybe I should have ventured out further. I was afraid of fronds catching at my ankles, much like Loweswater. However the waters were silky against my tired limbs and the views were soul nourishing. Pictures of Brothers Water to me, always looked like a mini Wast Water but once there the lake was reminiscent of Buttermere. The water was a warm 17°C but the swarm of flies that hovered about the surface of the water, and then me, was slightly off putting. I think with being exhausted from a mentally challenging walk, I didn’t enjoy swimming at Brothers Water as I should have. The real stars were the small fish that swam in shoals in the shallows. If anyone can ID them for me that would be great! Here’s a small selection of pictures and video of my swim.

Have you visited this tarn/water? What are your memories of them?

Where do you think I should swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#PoppiesTour – Caernarfon Castle.

If you have seen my previous posts about the poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool, you will know that I am trying to see them as they visit various places around the UK!

Sadly we never made the journey to see The Wave at Lincoln Castle, but I made sure we booked free tickets to see the Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle! The event was hotly anticipated and we managed to get a time slot on the penultimate day the poppies were being displayed. All other Saturday’s had been booked up! So on the 19th November, David and I headed for the A55 and Caernarfon.

caernarfon-castle

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle has always been on my list of places to visit. Seeing the poppies and the castle together was a perfect combination. Then add the free entrance to the castle whilst the poppies were at Caernarfon and it made for a fantastic day!

The castle was already bustling with people when we arrived at 11am. (Having parked the car for £4 at the harbour carpark). I have a feeling the castle has never been so popular as it has been since the poppies arrived! I now understand why you had to book a time slot to visit. The narrow staircases going up and down the towers were treacherous. It was bad enough climbing single file but when faced with people wanting to go past you on a narrow stone staircase, things grew a little scary! Thankfully we were only stuck on a tower’s staircase once, and I came away with a slightly grazed hand!

stairs

Stairway

The poppies were as I remembered them. Their emblematic hue made people pause, silently in awe. We took hundreds of pictures of the poppies and below are a selection of the best!

Once we had seen the poppies, we made the most of the free entry and explored the castle. We walked along curtain walls, took in the views from the towers and even managed to dress up at the Welch Fusiliers Museum.

We spent a good two – three hours at the castle and I would recommend a visit if in the area.


From Caernarfon we headed home via two llyns (lakes). I was on the lookout for prospective swims for next year and two I had in mind, fitted the bill!

llyn-cwellyn-2-a

Llyn Cwellyn

The first was Llyn Cwellyn, actually a reservoir. Sadly there wasn’t much of a walk along the lakeside and we were only at the lake for about an hour. (Having paid £2.50 parking fee for four hours!) To make the llyn wheelchair accessable there is a wooden walkway but sadly, there was only one actual ‘beach’ in which to enter the water.

However the water was crystal clear and the shingle floor looked an easy entrance into the llyn that seemed to deepen quickly. David and I were the only people at the llyn, (while others headed for highs such as Snowdon). The area was so peaceful, the sun sitting low on the horizon, gave me a sudden wave of nostalgia. Wast Water came to mind. I wish I had brought my swimming costume with me and braved the cold!!

Afterwards, we headed towards Llyn Gwynant. Looking for parking places we passed Llyn Dinas which also looks a lovely place to swim!

We parked alongside Llyn Gwynant and headed for the shore. I got Terence (turtle thermometer) out and measured a very chilly 7°c!

 

Both llyns have got me super excited for next year. Spring/Summer 2017 can’t come quick enough!

Have you visited North Wales/Snowdonia? What are your favourite llyns?

Christine x