Scotland Wild Swims

Just a quick post today. A big thank you to David who slogged for over a month on a video compilation of my three loch swims. I think he’s done a fab job!

Thanks David!

Christine x

 

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Doughnut’s First Swim!

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

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At Stickle Tarn

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

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

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Regatta Rucksack

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

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

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

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Stickle Tarn

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Close Up With – Bottlenose Dolphins of Cromarty Firth

A while back I wrote about my face to face encounter with Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park. It got me thinking of the many wildlife encounters I have had over the years. The first memory that popped into my head was the 2011 encounter with wild Bottlenose Dolphins in Cromarty Firth.

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Bottlenose Dolphins Cromarty, Scotland.

In 2011, David and I incorporated a Grand Tour of Scotland to our travels. We started in Stirling, then headed to Inverness before returning south to Edinburgh. While B&Bing on the Black Isle we booked an hour+ long tour with EcoVentures to see their local pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

On the day I remembered we were kitted out in waterproofs. After a safety briefing we were escorted towards the RIB.

David and I sat near the back of the RIB which didn’t detract from the experience. The RIB coursed into Cromarty Firth and then followed the headland where there were nesting birds. Within 30 minutes of the trip we came close to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. Though we didn’t see any Harbour Porpoises or Pilot Whales on our trip, the Bottlenose Dolphins more than stole the show. They followed the RIB as it coursed through the water. It is a memory I shall cherish all my life.

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Bottlenose Dolphins

Afterwards, back on land, poor David succumbed to seasickness, but the memory of seeing these wonderful creatures in their habitat more than overcame the discomfort. The below video shows some of the best moments we experienced.

Have you experienced dolphins close at hand?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #46

I love sharing my weekly news with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. 🙂 Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. This week has been rather uneventful so hopefully I’ve managed to scrape enough pictures together to keep you interested.

A few days off work:

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great on the days David and I took off work this week. It simply rained all day Monday. Despite this we took Riley on a 4.6 miles walk around Sefton Park. It may have been wet and dreary but we enjoyed the exercise and being outside. There were many crows flying about, tufted ducks on the lake and crocus and daffodils brightened up the gloominess.

Tuesday dawned in much the same light as Monday, however as we drove to Formby the clouds cleared and a warm spring sun came out. It was lovely on the beach. The air held the hope of warmer days to come. Riley enjoyed his run and loved the freedom of the beach.

I calculated that Riley has walked/ran 13 miles this week!

Which brings me nicely to my #walk1000miles. I’ve managed to walk 36 miles this week, bringing my annual total to 398 miles! If you are joining in the challenge, how are you doing?

Spring:

Though it doesn’t seem like spring has arrived for most. This week in the NW of England it has felt very springlike. David and I spotted some lovely crocus flowering in Newsham Park. How gorgeous are those blooms?

Music:

Last week I was approached by Kerry Andrew who kindly asked if she could use a clip of my Buttermere swim in a music video she was creating. I agreed. The completed video went live a week later.

You are Wolf (where Kerry is vocalist/composer) have created a video that evokes the essence of memory and of a time gone by. I was surprised at how much of my clip she used and in hindsight I could have offered her much more. It seems Kerry is a keen wild swimmer herself! While writing this post, I did some research and discovered that You are Wolf create Alt Folk music and Kerry has performed pieces from the recent, Robert McFarlane book, The Lost Words. This book with beautiful illustrations by Jackie Morris, is one I am looking forward to reading. I particularity liked Kerry’s rendition of Bluebell.

Kerry has also written her debut novel Swansong which I have added to my list of books to read!

Book I am reading:

This week I have embarking on Ben Okri’s Booker Prize novel The Famished Road. I discovered Ben’s poetry when he featured in the enjoyable Future Learn course Literature and Mental Health. The novel looks a big read. Have you read it? Let me know what to expect!

Baking:

This weekend David baked a cake. He cooked a chocolate sponge with a filling of half peanut butter and half chocolate, with a chocolate ganache covering. The cake was very sweet.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

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:

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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.

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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

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 2

o0OhgWNNI have to admit, I am struggling with this years 30 Days Wild. Having already invited nature into my every day life, I am finding it difficult to share with you anything new. I don’t have much time at present for many wild adventures and I am fearful of repetition. So I apologise if I write about something I have already blogged about in previous years!

 

Day Eight: Thursday.

Today was World Oceans Day. A day to celebrate the wonder of our oceans. Though I didn’t participate in any events, I did sign up for the Plastic Challenge, an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The challenge runs from the 1st to the 30th of June. Perfect for 30 Days Wild! The pledge is to give up or cut down on single use plastics. I have already started the cut back as I purchased a reusable water bottle. I shall also be wrapping my lunch in tinfoil or grease-proof paper. Do you have any other ideas on how to cut back on plastics?

We already know that microbeads are bad for the environment and wildlife! These small beads of plastic are in face-washes to toothpastes and are easily washed down the drain, ultimately ending in the seas and food chain. I have recently changed some of my skin products to a UK brand sold in Asda called, nspa. They use natural ingredients such as passion fruit seeds and rice to exfoliate instead of using microbeads.

What natural skin care do you use?

Day Nine: Friday.

One of the many Random Acts of Wildness is to read a nature book or magazine, so I decided to purchase Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. I’m almost near the end and though I am enjoying it, I did find it hard to get into, as the first few chapters are heavy with long sentences of description that could have very well been written in only a handful of words.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Day Ten: Saturday.

Saturday’s are always busy but this evening was allotted for bottling the elderflower champagne. On Friday after work we went to give the mixture a stir and found a thin film of mold on the surface, (after 5 days). I read that it was time to strain and bottle. Straining took over an hour!

Firstly I lifted out the remains of the elderflower heads and then David poured the cloudy mixture into a pan through a thin gauze tea towel before funneling the sieved liquid into sterilized bottles. We loosely tightened the tops and left them in a cool place to carry on fermenting. I shall open a bottle on the last day of 30 Days Wild to see if the mixture has brewed. 

Day Eleven: Sunday.

Inspired by Sharon’s 30 Day’s Wild post, here. David and I headed to the beach in search of treasures. Of course Riley tagged along too! After our beach combing, we came back with a hoard of stones and shells!

Day Twelve: Monday.

Last Year I sent away for free wildflower seeds from Grow Wild, an initiative by Kew Gardens. I still had one packet of seeds left so I planted them in March. The annuals and perennials are now flowering, corn chamomile, common poppy and red campion among the selection.

Day Thirteen: Tuesday. 

I chose looking for newborns as my random act of wildness for today. However I only managed to film a baby goldfinch visiting the garden feeders. On my many walks to work, I have seen begging baby blue tits and a stunning fledged blackbird!

Day Fourteen: Wednesday.

While taking Riley on his many walks around Sefton Park, we have been mesmerised by a couple of swallows who seem to glide effortlessly over the field, hunting insects. I decided to take my camera on our latest walk to see if I could capture them. The park was busy with people enjoying the fine weather, so I only captured a short clip. Swallows are hard to follow as they fly so fast and turn direction in a split second.

Facts:

  • Swallows are summer migrants arriving from Africa from March onwards.
  • Spend most of their life on the wing.
  • Can cover 200 miles in a day and fly at speeds of up to 35 kilometers an hour.
  • Have a lifespan of three years in the wild.

Summary: 

This week I have been much more relaxed in my approach to 30 Days Wild. I have taken time to notice the flying bees and scurrying beetles while walking between bus stops to work. Listening to roosting goldfinches in the park while throwing the ball for Riley to chase has filled my heart. Just smelling cut grass has calmed my nerves.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back: at week two in previous years.

2015:  Spending time in the yarden and National Bird results.

2016: Drawing a dunnock and baking turtle shaped bread.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

The Iron Men – Reprised

Two weeks ago I blogged about taking Riley to Crosby Beach and Sir Anthony Gormley’s Another Place. You can read the first installment here.

This May bank holiday Monday dawned wet and miserable, (as is usually the norm!) I did not want to stay stuck indoors at home, however warm I would be. I wanted to have an adventure, getting wet and sandy would be par of the course!

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Another Place, Crosby

I managed to get David to agree on another trip to Crosby Beach, even if it was drizzling. Riley was excited to tag along! Indeed he was sitting at the front door waiting for me to come and collect him! 🙂

The journey to Crosby Beach, and the coastguard car park took 30 minutes from Liverpool. I thought the journey would never end. Poor Riley get’s car sick and it was something I was hoping to prevent.

Finally we arrived under a grey leaden sky. The tide was out but the rain showered down like arrows! We paid £1 for two hours. It seems all the car parks are pay and display now.

The car park is only a stones throw from the beach and it was not long before Riley’s lead was off and we were running across the wet sand, throwing the ball for Riley to chase.

We got soaked to the skin, Riley even more! Let’s just say we had to give him a bath afterwards!

The figures of Sir Anthony Gormely’s Another Place were even more atmospheric in poor light and bad weather. Somehow they looked wistful.

I took my GoPro along with me and filmed Riley having fun. Below is a montage, I hope you enjoy!

I’m sure another trip will be on the cards in future!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Tale of a Dunnock and a Robin

This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.

Robin:

Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!

They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.

Dunnock:

I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.

I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!

Which garden bird is your favourite?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Goodbye 2016…and Hello 2017!

Happy New Year from David, Artie and myself. I hope your 2017 is filled with love, laughter and contentment.

Below find a short video celebrating our 2016. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

Christine x