30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eleven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_11Day 11: For today’s Close Up Monday, the species in question is the tiny but mighty tadpole.

In our minuscule wildlife pond we have at least two tadpoles. It has been thrilling to see them develop. At present they have grown their limbs and will soon emerge from the pond. Let’s look more closely into their life-cycle.

A female frog or toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs known as frogspawn. Tadpoles are the larval stage of the cycle and hatch from around 1-3 weeks. They eat vegetation and have adapted jaws to do this.

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Tadpole with legs

The tadpoles in our yarden have been undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis. Unlike the butterfly, who goes into a crystals to morph, the tadpole changes before our very eyes.

Lungs develop, gills vanish, and limbs grow. I thought one of our tadpoles looked pretty mean! You can see its limbs clearly in the picture. Over time the tail is absorbed and the frog/toad becomes terrestrial.

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Lifecyle of Frog/Toad

Frogs and toads are Anuran which means tail-less. Their skin is permeable to water meaning that if a frog is thirsty they just have to jump into water, while toads just need to find a muddy spot in which to absorb moisture through their stomachs. Frogs and toads are carnivorous and eat mosquitoes, files, snails and other invertebrates. Frogs reach maturity at three years old whereas toads at four. Frogs can live up to eight years and toads 12 years. I found most of my information from the Woodland Trust website, here. and Arkansas Frogs and Toads.

Do you have any frogs/toads living in your pond?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild.

Christine x

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High Winds and Temperatures!

The Sunday of this years Spring Bank Holiday, saw temperatures rise to the mid 20°’s. However the westerlies were gale-like and even though they were refreshing from the heat of the sun, they did knock us about a bit as we climbed though Burtness Wood and on towards Bleaberry Tarn. Bleaberry Tarn was the destination of our walk. We watched as many continued up the staircase-like steps towards Dodd and Red Pike, but David and I decided that the walk to Bleaberry Tarn was enough for us.

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Bleaberry Tarn

Our day began at 6am. A two and a half hour drive was ahead of us. Thankfully the roads were quiet and we made good timing, arriving at Buttermere around 9am. Even at that time, Buttermere was humming with walkers and day trippers alike. We found a space at the National Trust parking by the Fish Inn and paid £8 for all day parking. Then paid 30p for toilet privilege before we began out walk from the car park.

We followed the path towards Buttermere before heading right, over a bridge and left through a gate towards steep steps through Burtness Wood. The tiring two hours walk took us 497m through woodland and then over a boulder field with views from the paths overlooking a glistening Buttermere and Crummock Water.

We passed the unfortunately named outflow, Sour Milk Ghyll, the second of that name, (the first we encountered at Easdale), before we came upon a corrie surrounded by Wainwright’s, Red Pike and High Stile. There were many people enjoying a well earned rest before Bleaberry Tarn and David and I did the same. We picnicked and rested at the waterside, looking at mountains all around.

I think Bleaberry Tarn has been the smallest body of water I have swam in (to date)! Where we picnicked the water was very shallow. There was also a captive audience which I wasn’t happy about. I prefer to swim in more seclusion. We decided to walk to the western side of the tarn. From there the entrance to the water was better, less stones to scramble over and the water was deeper. From here you got swimming pretty quickly which was a godsend as the water, though 16°C felt pretty chilly.

A good two hours was spent at the tarn. I swam in clear, silky waters, floated before craggy peaks and a burning hot sun and even braved dunking my head for an underwater shot!

Our return walk took one hour. Hot and tired, David and I enjoyed an ice cream from Croft House Farm Cafe, before we struggled past cars that were parked on double yellow lines, on our way out of Buttemere and Lorton.

Bleaberry Tarn was a most enjoyable swim. The second of 2018. I wonder where my 3rd will be? Have you any ideas on where I should swim/walk next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Walking Riley at Pennington Flash

Yet again, David and I have had a simply wonderful bank holiday weekend! 😀 Our plans were fitted around the changeable weather on Saturday, were we spent time visiting family. With better weather forecast for Sunday, we headed up to the Lake District for a spectacular day out (post to follow)! Monday, the hottest day of the year (so far), dawned bright with not a cloud in the sky. Our plan was a visit to the very popular Pennington Flash, with Riley in tow.

At only 40 minutes drive from Liverpool, Pennington Flash is a local nature reserve in Leigh. Boasting a 70 hectare lake, bird hides, bridle paths and even a golf course! Pennington Flash seems to have it all.

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View from a hide

On recommendation (as it gets very busy), we arrived early, paid £1.20 (which is for all day parking) and took a leisurely 3.5 mile walk around fens, woodland and meadows. Riley seemed to enjoy himself, even taking a short dip in the flash (a term for a lake derived from mining subsidence).

Of the numerous wildlife sightings, the highlights were, lapwings (which were too far for me to photograph), a yellow iris, my first sightings of damselflies, (too fast for me to photograph) and striking common blue butterflies.

I enjoyed the walk as much as Riley and hope to revisit in future. Perhaps a more detailed visit is in store for 30 Days Wild?

Have you visited Pennington Flash? If so, what were your impressions?

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

Oops…I Did it Again!

What gorgeous summer-like weather we have been having here in the UK! All this warm weather has made me itch to get back into the water.

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My first swim of 2018

My poll this year, on where to begin my wild swimming wasn’t very decisive. This Friday, David had taken a day off work for a planned Lake District adventure. I also packed my swim suit and new Dryrobe® just on the off chance of catching a swim!

On the day, our first destination was free parking between Keswick and Portinscale. We discovered this area while we ambled the 10 miles around Derwentwater in March. You can read all about that adventure here. We followed the road towards Spooney Green Lane, the start of our walk towards Latrigg.

The path took us through woodland, where chaffinches chattered from boughs and peacock butterflies flittered on the wing. Newborn lambs sunbathed before an impressive vista of Skiddaw, before we reached the summit with a glistening Derwentwater and surrounding fells before us.

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Derwentwater from Latrigg

David and I sat and enjoyed the view buffeted by a chilling wind before we returned to the car.

We headed into Keswick (fast becoming our second home). Payed the £5.30 to park for three hours at Theatre by the Lake and headed into town. We perused the shops with the tones of a soprano and a country singer vying for attention. With chips from The Old Keswickian, we settled in Crow Park and enjoyed watching dogs play in the water with the backdrop of Derwentwater behind them. It was here that I saw my first swallow of the season.

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Crow Park

After lunch, we walked towards Calfclose Bay, looking for a sheltered beach from where to embark on a first swim of 2018! My third at Derwentwater, and how different it was from my previous experiences! (My first time, and second time). From the first entrance I paddled a bit (in 14° waters), but did not find the depths in which to swim so we headed towards the National Trust Centenary Stones where I waded out into deeper waters there. However a mean wind that wiped across the water meant I was fighting waves a surfer would have enjoyed rather than actually doing much swimming. I swam a few strokes, posed before the Centenary Stones and tried to catch the views of Castle Crag and Cat Bells before a wave of fresh water was thrown at me from a gust. I found it hard to navigate and keep my head out of the water. I discovered I prefer to swim in waters less choppy.

The only upside of this experience was that I tested out my new Dryrobe®. It was roomy and kept the wind at bay. I will have to acquire the skills to change into fresh clothing as I got hopelessly tied up in knots, but it is a welcome addition to my ever-growing array of swimming paraphernalia.

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Testing out the Dryrobe®

We returned home from a wonderful day in the Lakes, tired, aching and having caught the sun. A certain person forgot to take the sunscreen, oops! My swim/walk adventures have well and truly begun. I can’t wait to take to the fells again and see where my next swim/walk takes me! Where do you think I should venture to next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Wild Swimming – A Few of My Favourites and Looking Ahead!

2017 was the second year of my wild swimming adventures. I thought I would do a post reminiscing about some of my favourite swims of 2016 and 2017 and then look forward to some swims planned in 2018!

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Swim Map

Bowscale Tarn:

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Bowscale Tarn

One highlight from the 2017 season was my swim at Bowscale Tarn, where I went in search of immortal fish but only found a rubber trout! :p

Derwent Water (or Derwentwater): I prefer the latter spelling.

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Derwentwater

You can be forgiven for forgetting that all this ‘madness’ stems from a crystal clear winters day in 2016. When I visited Derwentwater for the first time and wondered what it would be like to dip my toe in its silky waters. Two years later and I have swam at Derwentwater twice.

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Swimming at Derwentwater

My second swim, during a cool autumn morning is one of my best wild swimming memories. The early morning light that caressed Cat Bells made the morning seem ethereal. My hands burned with the cold, hence wearing neoprene gloves from then on!

Rydal Water:

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Rydal Water

There must be something about early morning swims. Another highlight from my 2016 season was a 9am swim at Rydal Water. With wisps of mist still lingering on the hills, I shared the dawn of a wonderful day with a weary but majestic swan.

Blea Tarn:

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Blea Tarn

I was almost deterred from swimming at Blea Tarn (the Langdales) as it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. However I waded in slowly and respectfully. Blea Tarn was a delightful swim with a nice graduated entrance into the water. The views were good too. 🙂

Buttermere:

You can tell which lakes are my favourite as I swim in them more than once. My first swim at Buttermere in 2016 only made me want to visit again in more favourable weather, which came a year later. My 2017 swim at Buttermere turned out to be one of my longest that year, of around 20 minutes. Though in hindsight I maybe shouldn’t have stayed in so long, even though it was a bright but cool autumn day. The shivers on shore afterwards were fierce!

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Buttermere

Wastwater:

No wild swim was more epic than at Wastwater. Another of my longer swims, Wastwater was graced with wonderful scenery. It’s a lake I want to return to.

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Wastwater

2018:

There are so many Lake District swims I want to embark on in 2018. So here’s a small handful.

  • Tarns around the Old Man of Coniston – Blind Tarn and Goat’s Water.
  • Bleaberry Tarn – Buttermere
  • Elterwater and Loughrigg Tarn

Llyn Cwellyn:

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

Inspired by the blog of Vivienne Rickman Poole, who regularly swims the 100+ llyns of Snowdonia, in 2017 I embarked on my first Welsh swim. If I was to suggest a body of water for a beginner to wild swimming, Llyn Cwellyn  would be my suggestion. The water’s edge was close to the car park and the entrance into the water was the best I have experienced. The soft shingle beach gradated slowly, meaning you could walk straight into the water and chose which depth you felt confident with. I spent a good 15 minutes in the water with RAF jets flying overhead. It was a good introduction to swimming in Snowdonia.

 

2018:

I’ve not been as successful with swimming in Snowdonia as I have in the Lake District. Many llyns are still on my bucket list. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to tick off Llyns Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn?

Scotland?

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The Kelpies

It’s been a good few years since I have visited Scotland. The last time I was there I toured the majestic Kelpies. I have fond memories of standing at the lakeside of Loch Ness, Lochy and Lomond, but never thought I would be eager to go for a swim!

Film maker and keen wild swimmer Calum Maclean, has been swimming around Scotland and documents his escapades for Outdoor Swimming Society and his TV series on BBC Alba. His love for the sport is infectious. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to get back up to Scotland and go for a swim? Here’s hoping!

 

Have you swam in any of the many lakes, llyns, lochs or loughs of the UK? Do share your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

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Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

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Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

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I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

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On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

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I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

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On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

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Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Small Water By Haweswater

Another swim/walk was on the agenda today. This time a one hour walk from Mardale Head car park at Haweswater to Small Water. David and I visited the area in 2016 when we rushed to see the sun rise over the fells. That morning the temperature was  -7°C, today it was in double figures, around 13°C.

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Small Water

A blogger friend of mine, Sharon visited Small Water during her stay at Haweswater in 2016 and her post aided my decision to visit this tarn. Since Haweswater is a reservoir and swimming is prohibited, (though it did look inviting), I decided Small Water would be the swim of the day!

From the small car park (we were lucky to find a space), David and I followed the Nan Bield Pass which crept steeply past Mardale Beck towards Small Water. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and within an hour we were at a wide shingle beach. The area was popular with families but we managed to set up camp and when no one was about I made an attempt at a swim.

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Small Water Swim

From pictures I thought the entrance of Small Water looked inviting but unfortunately from our beach, it was very shallow. More suitable beaches were water logged. The lake should be called Shallow Water not Small Water as it took me a good few minutes to walk into any depth of water that I could squat in and push myself forwards. With walking for so long in knee deep water and with a wind (again) whipping around the valley I was frozen before I got swimming.

I swam for about 5 minutes, but I did not enjoy my time in Small Water. The water temperature was about 9°C and I floated above rocks and grasses. I would not recommend Small Water to swimmers, perhaps best for a dip during a hot summer’s day.

For the rest of the afternoon, we decided to walk back down the path to explore The Rigg at Haweswater.

Overall, we spent an enjoyable day of walking around Haweswater (and surrounding area), savouring the quietude and taking lots of pictures. There is another tarn nearby, Blea Water which is the deepest tarn in the Lake District. Perhaps it should be on my swim list for next summer? What do you think?

Have you visited Haweswater? Been to any of the tarns? What are your stories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine

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.

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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