A Walk in the Clouds

The August bank holiday weekend arrived with the promise of warm sunny weather, (we have been starved of summer recently). My Saturday began at 5.30 am, when bleary eyed I got ready to go on another adventure to Wales. I had intended to join in with #Photo an Hour, but gave up half way as most of my day was spent in a car, travelling.

The previous night, we settled on visiting Cadair Idris and the glacial corrie Llyn Cau, (#1 on my bucket list). As we drove through North Wales with blue skies and golden light we could be forgiven into believing that the Met Office predictions were accurate.

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However, on arrival at the car park, the mountains were shrouded in low clouds that billowed like smoke, and a faint drizzle made us glad we had brought our waterproofs! We paid £5 for all day parking. We could have paid £2.50 for four hours but I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to walk to Llyn Cau. Snowdonia National Park gave an estimate of an hour but with my little legs that could mean two hours! In reality it did take David and I approx. one hour to walk to Llyn Cau.

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We followed the Minffordd path steeply through a relic 8000 year old oak wood, before we passed a gate towards the mountainside.

The term cadair can be translated as chair from the early Welsh language. Cadair Idris or chair of Idris in legend was where the giant warrior bard Idris sat to view the stars. It is said that if you stay a night on the mountain you will come down either mad or a poet! However Idris was shrouded in cloud the day we visited.

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Llyn Cau

According to Welsh mythology Llyn Cau is said to be bottomless and home to the afanc. The afanc or crocodile/demonic beaver (!) once terrorised the villages near Llyn Barfog (bearded lake), before King Arthur reputedly caught the afanc and imprisoned it in Llyn Cau. Stories tell of the afanc dragging unsuspecting swimmers to their doom! I kept an eye out for the afanc as we approached the waters edge.

I had imagined visiting Llyn Cau and Cadair Idris in bright sunshine and blue skies. But on the day I would have to make do with moody clouds and rain. Warmed by the strenuous hike, I soon cooled as I walked into the clear, silky waters of the lake. Terence registered a cold 14°C. While swimming I felt the landscape was unforgiving. You either respect the land or risk your life. It was a perfect day for the Afanc to emerge from the waters. I noticed I swam a little faster! Mythical creatures aside, the only audience I had were curious walkers watching me swim! I felt rather self conscious!

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Llyn Cau. The entrance to the water, though looked rocky was actually easy underfoot and you quickly got swimming which was a god send as the waters were rather chilly! The only downside was that our feet were already wet due to the boggy nature of the land around the lake. It was hard to find a dry path towards the lakeside.

I totally underestimated how popular the Cadair Idris path would be. I had imagined Llyn Cau to be a secluded place to swim but as we turned to leave the lake I was surprised to see the path swell with walkers and families alike. It was even busier than Cat Bells!

A note of caution. The walk to Llyn Cau and further to Cadair Idris is a steep ascent. The lake itself stands at around 350m. The path rarely levels out. I have found that the next day my thighs are sore. Even walking the Watkin Path to Snowdon I did not feel like this. For shorter legs beware of aches the next day!

Have you walked to Llyn Cau? Conquered Cadair Idris? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Scenes from the Lake District. (Whinlatter Forest.)

Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.

On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.

David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.

The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.

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Seat How Summit

As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!

Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!

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Fudge

The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.

Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.

Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.

Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swim Bucket List for 2017!

I’m not one for making resolutions or planning challenges at the beginning of the year. I don’t like the idea of setting myself up for disappointment if I don’t achieve the goals. So I am keeping this list simple. Many of the wild swims featured are swims I have wanted to do in 2016 but had not had the chance. So 2017 will see more of the same!

Snowdonia National Park, Wales:

1 . Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris

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Llyn Cau, Pinterest

I simply adore the name of the mountain that Llyn Cau sits half way up, Cadair Idris, it rolls off the tongue lyrically. I was looking at maps for llyns to walk to when I saw this south of Snowdonia. It was going to be the walk David and I took at the end of 2016 but we ended up walking towards Snowdon instead. I have fallen in love with the dramatic scenery of Llyn Cau. It is definitely one for 2017!

2 . Llyn Glaslyn, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Teyrn

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Llyn Llydaw

After reading Kate Rew’s reference book and researching wild swimming, these three llyns have been on my list ever since. All three are located below Snowdon on the Miner’s Track. I think after the walks David and I have managed in 2016, that these three llyns are very much achievable in the future!

3 . Llyn Gwynant, Llyn Dinas, Llyn Cwellyn

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Llyn Gwynant

After having visited Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Cwellyn late in 2016, I have planned a return visit some time in the new year. All three are close to each other and David and I could spend a whole day in the area, walking and swimming these very fine llyns.

4 . Llyn Padarn

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Llyn Padarn

As one of the longest llyn’s in Wales, I thought I would include Llyn Padarn. I had intended on visiting the llyn in November after viewing the poppies at Caernarfon Castle but plans changed and Llyn Padarn was added to the ‘to do’ list.

5 . Llyn Idwal

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Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal is the place where the wild swimming seed was planted. David and I visited on an icy February day, the rest they say is history. I would like to revisit Llyn Idwal and actually swim where my wild swimming journey began.

The Lake District National Park, England:

6 . Grisedale Tarn

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Grisedale Tarn, fellsphoto.co.uk

It seems that all the swims on my bucket list are in Wales. However there are still many in the Lake District I would like to visit and revisit, one is Grisedale Tarn. Grisedale was one of the first tarns I wanted to swim, after watching YouTube videos by Trek and Run Online. With a two hour walk to the tarn, Grisedale became overshadowed with easier swims in dramatic scenery such as Wast Water. Nonetheless, Grisedale Tarn firmly remains on my bucket list.

7 . Blea Tarn

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Blea Tarn, National Trust

Yet another tarn that is still on my list is Blea Tarn nestled in the Langdale Valley. There have been many opportunities for myself to swim here but somehow none have materialised. With only a short walk from the car park to the tarn there is really no excuse to not swim here in 2017!

So, there you have it, a small selection of some of the wild swims I would like to accomplish in 2017. There are many, many more, not to mention a few of the lochs in Scotland, (if I ever get up there that is,) but I thought I would keep the list simple and achievable.

As yet, we have no plans for 2017, no holidays or weekends away booked. That’s not to say I don’t have any ideas though.

If you know of any wild swims that I have left off my list or think I should try, then let me know in the comments below.

I wish you all much peace and happiness in 2017! 

All the best,

Christine x

Grizedale Forest and Hermiston B&B.

On our journey north towards our bed for two nights, I planned an excursion to Grizedale Forest. It was the perfect opportunity to look for the colours of autumn. However, the day dawned grey and oppressive. Indeed all weekend the weather forecast was for heavy cloud cover.

Grizedale is the UK’s first sculpture forest and while David and I walked the route towards Carron Crag we looked for sculptures en-route.

The walk to Carron Crag took two hours. There are many other walks, some strenuous, others less so. Our visit was brief but Grizedale is definitely a place to re-visit. Have you been? What did you think of the place?


Grizedale was an hours drive from our B&B, Hermiston Guest HouseHermiston is situated in the quiet village of Braithwaite, just 10 minutes drive from Keswick. On arrival we were met at the door by Helen who welcomed us inside. She carried my suitcase and showed us to our room, Skiddaw. The room was well appointed, in neutral colours with an en-suite (the shower was lovely!) The window opened to glorious views of the Skiddaw mountain range.

While we chatted about my wild swims over coffee, tea and cake in the guest lounge, Helen informed us that she had left me a gift for my birthday from herself and husband Phil. I was astounded by their generosity. They had gifted a bottle of bucks fizz! I was warmed by their kindness!

David and I had planned on an early rise the next morning, meaning we would miss breakfast. Helen offered to make me a fruit salad to take on my travels, which I kindly accepted.

Even breakfast the day after was a relaxed and friendly affair. Phil served the meals and friendly chatted to the guests, showing real interest and giving suggestions on places to visit. Helen and Phil made us feel very welcome in their home. David and I really enjoyed our stay and would recommend their B&B. It would be nice to visit again in the future.

I can’t wait to write up and tell you all about my next adventure. Our full day in the Lake District was EPIC! 14 hours of wondrous sights and experiences! Do continue to follow me as I recount my short but wonderful trip to Cumbria.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

In Search of Wild Things

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Crummock Water

I am currently into week three of my 30 Days Wild, an initiative by the Wildlife Trusts to get people connected to wildlife and nature.

On Friday, David had planned a day off work, so I coerced him into going back up to the Lake District. For a month now I have been eager to return, so I can plunge myself into the cool waters of a lake with mountains all around! Derwentwater sure whetted my appetite.

It was a cloud laden day, the heat of the past fortnight was just a memory, but that did not deter us. It was a chance for us to wear our new waterproof jackets!

We got up at the ungodly hour of 5am! I made breakfast to the song of Mr. Dunnock, then we hit the roads with backpacks packed at 6am. It took us three hours to get to the western lakes of Crummock Water and Buttermere!

We paid £6.50 for all day parking in one of the National Trust car parks, just outside the village of Buttermere. Then walked behind a cavalcade of cows towards The Fish Inn, where you’ll find the path towards the lake. It was relatively easy to get to Buttermere, down a path and through two gates and you were at the northern end of the lake. One path was closed as they have nesting sandpipers but that didn’t detract from the beauty and peace of the lake.

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Buttermere

9c535f_6c4eb00360a94cdd915602a3d068a8e2We headed towards Crummock Water. Though the pathway was relatively easy going it was full of lose stones, a temporary measure due to the flood damage of 2015!

It took us two hours to walk from Buttermere towards Crummock Water. Our destination was Low Ling Crag, a shingle spit that projects out to the heart of Crummock Water.

In places the path was boggy and along the way nesting birds (I couldn’t identify) were flying about the ancient ferns. I managed to stop and hug a tree and the wood was full of calls from redstarts and cuckoos. We even came across a dipper!

Low Ling Crag, didn’t look as appealing as Google search pictures depicted. When we visited, the island jutting out into the cool waters was littered with geese faeces and feathers!

I was thinking about taking a dip but the wind buffeted us and we sat shivering as we ate our packed lunch. Crummock Water will just have to be visited again!

We retraced our steps back to Buttermere. We found a suitable shingle beach in which to enter, though it was in close proximity to the path. The lake was much more sheltered than Crummock Water. Before I had time to think of any reservations, I quickly threw off my clothes, revealing my swimsuit and stumbled into the water. It was much cooler than my first swim in Derwentwater, but once I started swimming I grew acclimatised. It took some persuading for me to climb out of the water. I really enjoyed my swim. I didn’t want it to end! I looked at the clouds above and Fleetwith Pike before me and felt my soul being nourished.

Once out of the water, and a hot mug of coffee in hand (prepared by David), I found that I didn’t shiver as much as I did at Derwentwater, but perhaps the wind chill wasn’t such a factor?

We took the short walk back to the car park and prepared for our journey home. I felt the warm glow of being out in the country, of having a good walk and seeing some lovely sights. I hope soon that we can go on another adventure and perhaps take another dip in a lake?

The problem with wild swimming is that once you have entered the water, there is just no stopping you! You want to do it again and again!

Do you have any tips on where next I should swim/walk?

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

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Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

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Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

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Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

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Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

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While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

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Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x

#PoppiesTour – Liverpool

I have previously written about the 14-18 NOW Wave and Weeping Window poppy tour. You can read my post on my joy at seeing the Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Parkhere. Both sculptures were designed by Paul Cummins (artist) and Tom Piper (designer).

The Wave

The Wave at YSP

In November, just in time for the city’s Armistice commemorations, the poppies, first seen as part of the breathtaking Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, at the Tower of London in 2014, finally came to Liverpool. The Weeping Window at present graces the St George’s Plateau side of the Neo-Classical Grade 1 listed building. I must admit while the sculpture was being constructed I was not overtly taken by the design. After seeing pictures of the poppies at Woodhorn Colliery, it seemed somehow anticlimactic.

However the poppies have grown on me and the city has welcomed them warmly.

The poppies are open to the public from 10am to 6pm daily, with a metal barricade placed around the site after hours, but you can still see them and photograph them. The first time David and I went to see them was around 10pm on a stormy Sunday night. My pictures are not as good as the ones I took of the Wave, but I did have my camera on the wrong setting for night-time pictures (silly me!)

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St George’s Hall: Weeping Window at night

The second time I visited, I went with my Mum while Christmas shopping but once again I forgot to change the setting on my phone, so never got any fancy ones with just the colour of the poppies showing through. It was a dreary day light wise too which seems to be the norm of late. No sooner had the poppies arrived in Liverpool, then there seems to have been nothing but a succession of storms. There hasn’t been many days when the sun has shone! I live in hope that there will be at least one bright weekend, before they leave the city on 17th January 2016, so David and I can visit them one last time.

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The 2016 leg of the poppy tour has been recently announced and there could be at least one, maybe two more occasions where David and I will see the poppies. The new sites and dates are as follows:

  • Lincoln Castle, The Wave – 28th May to 4th September
  • The Black Watch Museum, Perth, The Weeping Window – 30th June to 25th September
  • Caernarfon Castle, The Weeping Window – 12th October to 20th November

If you have not had the chance to see the poppies, maybe you will be able to see them at these stunning new locations next year?

© 2015 Christine Lucas.

#PoppiesTour

Thursday dawned bright, yet cold, there was condensation on the windows. David and I, at 9 am set off on our journey to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The journey took us just under an hour and a half and the sat nav guided us through winding country lanes towards the park. We have been to the park before in April this year. We went then to see the outside exhibition of Henry Moore sculpture. This time we planned to go and see The Wave, part of the Tower of London Poppies.

Like everyone else I was mesmerised by photographs of the poppies that graced the Tower of London last year. I was excited when it was announced that the poppies were going on a UK tour!

The poppies were created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper for their installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, commissioned for the World War One centenary. I think their work of thousands of poppies, each one symbolising a fallen British or Colonial soldier took on a life of it’s own.

If you expect to see a sight like there was at the Tower of London, then you will be sorely disappointed. If, like me, you go to visit The Wave, and it’s counterpart The Weeping Window, presently displayed at Woodhorn Colliery, Northumberland, to see a unique art installation, then you will not be disappointed.

The Wave

The Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Once the car was parked and the £8 parking fee was paid (it’s for all day so relatively cheap), we walked the paths and followed the cardboard cut outs of poppies leading the way. It took us about 20 minutes to walk towards the poppies arching over the Cascade Bridge. From a distance you could see the red haze that the many poppy heads created and as you drew nearer, each one had a unique individuality.

Poppies

Poppies

We spent just over two hours at the park. Had our picnic lunch with The Wave resplendent before us. Even on a week day there were streams of visitors coming to look at the poppies, to photograph them or to just take in their symbolic meaning.

Christine and the Poppies

Christine and the Poppies

I wish I could make it to Woodhorn but at three hours drive there and three hours back I don’t think David will be too keen to make that journey. Luckily for us The Weeping Window is set to come to Liverpool’s St. George’s Hall in November so I will get to see the second part of this striking art installation. I can’t wait! 😀

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I’ll end this post with the poem that inspired the poppy WW1 centenary art commission.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
By Anon – Unknown Soldier

The blood swept lands and seas of red,
Where angels dare to tread.
As I put my hand to reach,
As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,
Again and again.
As the tears of mine fell to the ground,
To sleep with the flowers of red,
As any be dead.
My children see and work through fields
of my own with corn and wheat,
Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting
Fields so far from my love.
It be time to put my hand up and end this pain
Of living hell, to see the people around me
Fall someone angel as the mist falls around,
And the rain so thick with black
thunder I hear
Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss
The flower of my people gone before time
To sleep and cry no more.
I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back So sleep, kiss the boys for me.