Sunday Sevens #39

This weekend, I wasn’t going to compile a Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), however after witnessing something amazing on Saturday, I just had to share it with you!!

Birthday: Monday was my birthday. I was kindly gifted some beautiful flowers and the 50th anniversary editions of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

#walk1000miles: As part of the celebrations, David and I headed towards Snowdonia for a 4.5 mile walk. We took the path overlooking Dinorwig Power Station before visiting the shores of Llyn Padarn.

With still counting my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, at the time of writing I am currently at, 1,102 miles!

Collecting: This week I came across the 2017 edition of the 50 pence Peter Rabbit. There’s still Tom Kitten, Benjamin Bunny and Jeremy Fisher to find! Have you found any?

Book I am reading: I am currently ploughing through Katherine Webb’s post WW1 mystery, The Hiding Places. I must admit there is a lot of preamble. However it is keeping me company on the daily commute. Have you read any good books lately?

Ok. Now for that something amazing I was talking about at the beginning of this blog! This Saturday our yarden witnessed a beautiful visitor. He was not enjoying the seed on offer but waiting for a tasty morsel of a goldfinch, or perhaps a starling? He was a sparrowhawk.

Now you maybe thinking, nothing special about that sighting, but living in a city, you don’t often come across raptors. David and I stood in awe for over five minutes watching the sparrowhawk survey the territory. We’ve had many charms of goldfinches and rowdy starlings visiting our feeders this weekend, so this activity possibly drew the sparrowhawk to our yarden. Ultimately it was a thrilling experience. He stood still long enough for me to grab my camcorder and film him. Have you had a close encounter with a raptor? What is your favourite bird of prey?

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Hans Zimmer Live

To finish off:  While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to tracks from Hans Zimmer’s Live in Prague CD. As you know I have seen Hans’ concerts twice now, more recently in Liverpool this year. When I heard he was releasing a compilation of the concert I just had to pre-order. I am biased as I love the medley’s featured of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight Trilogy, the music is skin tingling and exhilarating! I would recommend if you like movie soundtracks!

So, that was my diverse week. How was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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A Close Up with Red Pandas

Recently a friend shared a picture of Red Pandas being fed grapes on my Facebook wall. It made me reminiscent of when I fed Red Pandas in 2010 at Paradise Wildlife Park. I paid £99 for 30 minutes with their then Red Pandas, Ros and TJ. So I decided to write a post about the experience.

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Feeding a Red Panda

Looking back at the memory I believe I was very fortunate to have got so close to one of my favourite animals. As you can imagine the 30 minutes went past so quickly. Part of the experience was to collect the pandas’ dinner, a bowl of fruit, vegetables, pellets and panda cake, which is a mixture of essential nutrients added to their meals. We then visited the Red Panda enclosure. The Red Panda’s habitat had tall trees in which they could rest among the boughs or seek privacy from one of their nest boxes on a purposely built platform.

On our arrival both Red Pandas were looking eagerly for their lunch. It gave me such a buzz seeing both cute faces peering down at me. Ros seemed more used to human contact than TJ, who was much more reserved.

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Feeding Red Pandas

While I fed each panda, the zoo keeper, Matt gave informative facts about Red Pandas, where they come from etc. I was surprised to learn that they have adverse effects to anesthetic, so any operation carries a higher risk for Red Pandas.

After feeding slices of pears and apples to the pandas, it was time for them to have their favourite food, young shoots of bamboo! I held the leafy branch up to TJ while Ros bravely came down to feast on the lower leaves. I even got to stroke Ros. I was ecstatic! I had read before the encounter that touching was not allowed, but I was offered the chance to feel how coarse and dense a Red Panda’s fur really is. They need the insulation for the cold climes of the Himalayas.

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Feeding bamboo to Red Pandas

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Stroking a Red Panda

More recently there are many other UK zoos and wildlife parks offering the chance to meet their Red Pandas. Paradise Park in Cornwall have a similar experience where the Red Pandas can even sit happily on your lap. Something to think about in the future. A possible present for me next year David? :p

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing? Has there been a time when you came face to face with your favourite animal? Do share your experiences with us below.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

P.S. If you are interested in more information on the Red Panda, a past post, My Love for the Red Panda, has many facts about the history of the Red Panda, anatomy and conservation.

 

Tomorrow Isn’t Promised

daf69acd5b56a7e615a891b2cd2769d8Recently I have been thinking of my own mortality. It’s not a topic many people want to discuss. Whilst contemplating the end of life, the phrase tomorrow isn’t promised, cropped up. This made me think of being mindful. To live life in the present. It is a mantra I have been trying to follow every day this year; to take each day as it comes and not to think too much of the future. However much we may plan, life has a way of throwing spanners in the works! So enjoy today and be thankful for the people we share our life with and of the places we see along the way. Life is like a journey. It’s not the destination that matters, but our route along the way!

So as a little recap of the year so far, here’s some of the people and places that have made my journey through 2017 a joy!

I am thankful to have David in my life. He is quietly strong, someone who you can depend upon and a wonderful friend. I love you with all my heart! We have been on many walks this year. Lake District walks to Thirlmere, Dodd Wood and a walk through the bluebells at Rannerdale.

We have shared walks along hot, sunny beaches, picked our own strawberries and visited nature reserves. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather be on these walks than with you, David!

On many of our local walks, to Liverpool Festival Gardens, Sefton Park and Crosby Beach, we have taken bubbly, lively Riley with us.

If I have to mention Riley, I have to mention Artie and Evie and my wonderful aviary of foreign finches.

My mum has been a constant support over the years and I thank her for her love. We shared a special afternoon tea at Jam, Liverpool in March.

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Mum and I

Music has such a big place in my heart, and the music of Hans Zimmer is right up there with the symphonies of Mahler and Rachmaninov. In 2017 I luckily saw Hans’ World Tour visit Liverpool. To say his music is electrifying is an understatement, just listen to his Dark Knight medley from his live concerts!

A new passion of mine has become wild swimming. This year I have had seven wonderful swims. Blea Tarn was not disappointing.

Work takes up a lot of my time but working with Sue and her guide dog Kallie often doesn’t feel like work. It feels like muddling through a day with a friend. Sue has become a wonderful confidante.

I have tried to read and follow as many blogs as I can. There is one blogger who has become an online friend (we shall have to meet in person one day, with our dogs) and that is Sharon from her wonderful blog sunshine and celandines. I have enjoyed our many online chats on the culture/holidays and walks we both blog about!

I love street art. So when there is a new Wild in Art animal trail or a mural, I try and visit. Birmingham’s Big Sleuth was entertaining and Paul Curtis’s For all Liverpool’s Liverbirds mural was a must for any Liverbird to visit!

I have tried to notice the smaller things in nature this year. It really does make you more appreciative of life. Feeling the warm sun on your skin to foraging for berries. Seeing a bird of prey being harried by a family of swallows or seeing a snowdrop during the coldest of days makes your heart swell. These small events make life’s worries and trivialities disappear or seem easily overcomable (if that’s really a word!)

There’s four month’s left of 2017, but for now I want to live for today and feel blessed with the memories of the places I have seen, with the people I hold dear.

Thank you for reading,

Live life in the moment

Christine x

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

Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

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Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Angle Tarn and Beda Fell.

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Angle Tarn

With a planned walk to Angle Tarn on the itinerary, David and I headed towards Patterdale. We parked the car opposite the Patterdale Hotel and paid the very reasonable £4 for all day. At 9.30am I was surprised at how busy the village was with walkers. With a grey leaden sky and a chilling breeze we headed down the lane and took a left turn onto Goldrill Bridge. We followed signs to the tarn and Boredale Hause.

I found information on getting to Angle Tarn rather sparse online, perhaps that was why we took so many wrong turns. What should have been a two to three hour walk ended up being a five and a half hour epic! Things started to go wrong when we reached the first of many forks in the path. We interpreted the walk featured on The How Cottage website wrongly and took a left turn instead of a right. After walking for half an hour, we found that we were heading out onto Place Fell overlooking Ullswater. I knew this was the wrong direction so we turned tail and retraced our route back to the fork, where we took the right-hand path.

After reaching a second fork we took the top pathway. In hindsight it would have been far easier if we had taken the lower path as this would have seen us directly to the mountain pass of Boredale Hause. Instead it was the beginning of our woes as the top path branched off before Boredale Hause and we ended up traipsing across mossy blanket bogs, soaking our tired feet in mud and water. I soon grew fearful as we seemed to be heading in the wrong direction to Angle Tarn. The sky darkened broodily causing my sense of isolation to increase. With map skills at a minimum, GPS not functioning properly, and David doggedly wanting to see what was at the end of a steep path, we walked for further than needed. Instead of heading south we headed east and ended at a cairn overlooking two valleys. However we had inadvertently bagged another Wainwright, this time Beda Fell. With my mood as morose as the weather I didn’t take a picture. Thinking back the scenery was impressive, I just wish that it didn’t look so desolate. I was not enjoying myself out on the fells!

Almost close to tears and wanting to give up, we retraced our footsteps back down the path. Some of the pathways were not clearly defined, but (luckily) we finally ended up at Boredale Hause and its cairn. There were numerous paths leading from the cairn and one that was sign posted with red flags (the coast to coast walk). We followed this path which seemed popular with other walkers. It was also aiming in the right direction for Angle Tarn. I had not given up totally of seeing it. The well defined path was gravelly underfoot with sheer drops in places. I didn’t look down! There were however stunning views of Brothers Water nestled among the Hartsop Dodd fells.

We had been walking for three hours, our feet had started to blister when I saw David ahead of me jump for joy! Over a hill we spotted the dull tinge of cloud reflecting water. Angle Tarn spread out before us enticingly with its two islands and spit. We stiffly walked to the promontory and found a little cove where we set up camp and had lunch. I was too tired to be happy. I had found the whole experience underwhelming.

Even though I felt cold I decided to continue with the planned itinerary and go for a swim. It ended up more of a dip as I felt so exhausted! Terence said that the water temperature was 15°C. From our cove the main island was only a few metres away. Once in the water I decided to swim over and explore. I had always wanted to swim to an island and Angle Tarn’s island was not too far away.

After my swim, we returned to Boredale Hause and thankfully our journey back to the car park was uneventful. Our descent took two hours. On the way down, David spied a huge golden ringed dragonfly at the side of the path. Out came the lenses and he managed to snap a great photo of it!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

In calculation, we had walked for over five hours, ten miles in total and my Samsung Health clocked a whopping 26,000 steps! It was an eventful day, one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Have you walked around the fells of Patterdale? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Finale

o0OhgWNNSadly, it’s the end of June and the finale of The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! Though it has been a challenge this year, I have enjoyed stretching myself to experience nature through different activities.

Initiatives like this makes you more appreciative of nature. Whether listening to birdsong, smelling a fragrance or IDing a tree or plant. It gives colour to our lives.

Day Twenty-nine: Thursday. 

As I’m writing this my skin feels so itchy. It’s psychological. I decided today to have a look at the washing-up bucket pond we set up last year. In the space of a year, the rockery plants have grown, and we had to change the oxygenating plant as the mare’s tails died. I’ve never pond dipped before so I didn’t know what to expect. The pond is not very big so I just used a glass to scoop up some of the water. I beheld hundreds of strange floating, twisting insects. In hindsight I should have took a video but a blurry picture will have to suffice.

After some research I was shocked to find that the little critters are all mosquito larvae. Images of malaria breeding insects came to mind. I read that there are approx. 30 species of mosquito in the UK. Only females drink blood as they need the protein in blood to create their eggs. In warmer climes they are the biggest killer of humans. Makes you thankful the UK is often cool!

They are often the first to colonize a new pond and other pond life and birds eat these insects. So I’m wondering, is it a good thing for these insects to be a part of my wildlife yarden? What do you think? Perhaps I need to get another oxygenating plant to help clean the water some more? Some advice would be most appreciated.

Day Thirty: Friday.

For the final day of 30 Days Wild I decided to open a bottle of the elderflower champagne and toast to the wild!

As I have never tasted elderflowers I didn’t know what to expect. The bottle kindly didn’t pop, and what was decanted into champagne flutes was a fizzy, light coloured liquid that had a hint of zest and a floral bouquet. It reminded me of grapefruit. David said the drink was refreshing but my mum said it was an acquired taste. I enjoyed it, but don’t think I could drink a lot of it.

Have you made elderflower champagne? What was your experience?

Summary: 

My third year of participating in 30 Days Wild has been a memorable one. From blissfully hot summer days to endless days of rainfall. My favourite highlights included, making elderflower champagne, beach combing on Crosby Beach, strawberry picking on the Wirral and visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing over the course of the month?

Looking ahead: there are still many activities to keep wild well into the summer months and into autumn and winter too. Taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count, which begins 14th July to the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch come January. There is no excuse for us to not stay wild!

What future activities are you looking forward to participating in?

A Look Back:

2015: Moths and butterflies

2016: Dancing in the rain and IDing weeds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #32

I haven’t written a Sunday Sevens in a while, and I so love doing them. So thanks to Natalie at Theads and Bobbins, who devised the wonderful series, and here’s my seven (plus a few more), for Sunday!

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New work space

DIY: Last weekend, David was busy sprucing up the guest bedroom/study. We spent most of Saturday driving back and forth from Warrington’s IKEA to purchase box cupboards which would conceal all our detritus. I think he’s done a fantastic job! We have so much more storage space and a bigger work surface.

#walk1000miles: I think it’s always nice to update you all on how my walk 1000 miles challenge is going. This week I have managed to rake up a reasonable 34 miles, (my best tally so far!), which brings my total for the year so far to 601 miles! My miles are mainly made up of hours on the treadmill, walking between bus stops, lots of scanning in work (the scanner is at the opposite end of the corridor from the office) and walking the dog. I think Riley appreciates the increase in walks. He is eight now and carrying a few extra pounds due to being neutered when he was three. I thought I was doing the right thing by neutering him, but no one told me he would put on weight after it! Anyway, Riley (and myself) has loved his park runs and visits to Crosby Beach, even if the wind was fierce the last time we visited!

Collecting: It’s been a while since I found a Beatrix Potter 50p. This week while counting the petty cash in work, my boss and I found a third collectible, Squirrel Nutkin! How cute is he?

Pets: This week our Blue-faced Parrot Finch, Forrest has been laying eggs. Her mate Leaf has been busy lining the nest with feathers and straw. I wonder if any of the eggs will hatch? We shall see in a fortnights time! I’ll update you all!

Book I am reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’m only 50 pages into the book but it’s accompanying me while on my daily commute to work. I am enjoying the characters so far. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Culture: This Saturday (17th) was the day Hans Zimmer and his Live on Tour came to Liverpool. This was my second time of seeing him live on stage. You can read my review on the Birmingham 2016 concert here. Though it was the same programme as his European tour, there were subtle differences. The orchestra and choir had been paired down. I personally preferred the energy of the Birmingham concert, but there was the same chat by Zimmer with anecdotes on the films he had scored. The lighting was just as fierce but I think there was less camaraderie between the principal performers. The Liverpool audience were a little too vocal for my taste but the show of phone torches after Aurora was touching, though I wish he wouldn’t talk over all of it. It is a beautiful composition, reminiscent of the vocal version of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. My two favourite pieces did not disappoint, in fact One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean Three brought tears to my eyes. The Dark Knight medley was just as energetic and inspiring! I felt blessed to see my music hero live onstage!

Have you been to see any live music recently? What’s your experience of arena tours?

Days out: The weather this weekend has been beautiful. Perfect summer days filled with lots of warm sunshine and mild clear evenings. I must say it has been a very full weekend! I was going to end the post with Hans Zimmer’s concert but I just wanted to share with you my wonderful Sunday.

After visiting Claremont Farm in the Wirral and picking our own juicy strawberries. David and I headed for the coast and Thurstaston Beach, to have our lunch overlooking the sandy estuary. I’ll write more in my 30 Days Wild – Week 3, but for now here are some pictures of our wonderful day.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Thirlmere and Castlerigg Stone Circle.)

Breakfast at Hermiston is served between 8am and 9am. As we were the only guests staying with them during this week, we had the entire buffet to ourselves!

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David enjoying the view from the breakfast room

On offer there is a selection of cereals, muesli and gorgeous fruit salad. You can request a cooked breakfast but as David and I are not big morning eaters we stayed with the continental. Phil served us fresh coffee and tea, and as we sat gazing out at the freshly fallen snow on the peaks, we chatted with Phil and Helen about our plans for the day.

I had planned a day around Thirmlere, with a walk up Raven Crag and then a lakeside stroll.

Thirlmere is about 20 minutes drive from Braithwaite. We parked the car in a lay-by opposite the start of the walk, crossed over the road, entered through a gate and began our ascent. It was tough going to start with. We passed another two gates and walked along a path through recently fallen trees, before we walked up steps towards the viewpoint.

From Raven Crag there is unparalleled views of Thirlmere below, and of the snow covered Helvellyn range. We even spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying over the tree tops!

Once we had navigated the route back to the car, we headed further up the road to Armboth car park (and toilets). Parking is free at present due to damage to some of the paths by Storm Desmond last December. We had our packed lunch in the warmth of the car and watched as the weather turned squally.

For the next hour or so we traversed the lakeside path. Some of the going was tough due to boulders blocking the way. Low lying cloud obscured the view and we were soon cold and wet.

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Thirlmere

Deciding that the weather was not going to improve for the rest of the afternoon, we decided to head back to the B&B. On our way we took a whistle stop tour of Castlerigg Stone Circle, just so I could see Blencathra! The snow caps from the morning had melted in the rain!

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and Blencathra

We returned to Hermiston cold and tired. Phil offered us tea and coffee which we gladly accepted and the homemade cake was very restorative. Just what we needed! From the guest lounge we watched as clouds obscured the mountains.

For dinner we planned on popping into Keswick and trying our luck with their only Indian restaurant, Lakeland Spice Cuisine.

They serve evening meals from 5.30pm. We got a table straight away, indeed we were only one of two couples eating at that time. Keswick in March seems to be really quiet, well especially around 5pm! David ordered a chicken tikka masala and I a vegetable balti. David enjoyed his coconut infused meal, while mine at first was tasty but got samey as the meal progressed and there was a lot of oil! A bit more vegetables wouldn’t have gone amiss! I still think the meal we had at India, Kendal a few years back was of better quality.

Fulled by a warming meal, we headed back to the B&B to relax with a film. Hermiston’s guest internet is of a good speed. A full day out in the elements had tired us so we had yet another early night.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x