Mud, Sweat and Tears

We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.

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Blencathra

Day One:
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.

The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.

We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.

A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.

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Rosthwaite Round Walk

Day Two:
The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!

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Dock Tarn

By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!

Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.

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Dock Tarn Swim

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.

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Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.

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Blea Water

Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.

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Blea Water Swim

Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.

So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.

Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Alcock Tarn and Grey Crag

‘A dreary sheet of water named Alcock Tarn.’

Apparently Alfred Wainwright was rather disparaging of Alcock Tarn, nestled below Butter Crag east of Grasmere. Personally I enjoyed my swim in this peaceful small tarn. The views from Grey Crag were a bonus!

We managed to find a lay-by with free parking alongside the A591, and took the path behind the Swan Hotel, following signs for Alcock Tarn. The walk, though steep in parts was very picturesque. We followed a babbling Greenhead Ghyll and had luscious views of Helm Crag and Grasmere as we quickly gained height. The whole walk was beautiful, possibly attributed to the blissful weather we were lucky to have. The whole walk was a positive experience for me.

It took about an hour to get to the shores of Alcock Tarn, previously called Butter Crag Tarn. In the 1800’s Mr Alcock of Grasmere had enlarged the tarn to stock with trout! There were lots of minnows in the shallows when we set up camp.

Our arrival was welcomed by two female mallards who quickly made a beeline for us. Both came onto land and one, searching for food pecked at my toes as I got undressed. The ducks were so cute, one even sat next to David whilst I took to the waters.

The swim itself was divine. I entered the water when there was no other walkers about and had the tarn to myself, David and the two ducks. I thoroughly enjoyed the 8° waters and wish I could have stayed in longer. The wind was not as cutting as it was at Scales Tarn, Blencathra. Even though I swam through reeds they were manageable. Pipits called from the hills and peacefulness pervaded. I was in the water for about 15 minutes before I started to feel cold.

We picnicked on shore, sharing our lunch with the ducks while I warmed up. I could have stayed there all day.

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David wanted to explore the area and so we ended up walking towards Grey Crag overlooking a resplendent Grasmere with Windermere glistening in the distance. I was drunk on the colour green! The whole countryside looked vibrant in the noontime sunshine.

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Sadly it was time we retraced our steps back towards the car. The whole day was wonderful. It was the best swim/walk of the weekend. Perhaps this was due to having no expectations?

Have you visited Alcock Tarn? What are your favourite walks around Grasmere?

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

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

‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

To coincide with David’s few days off work this week, I planned a nice little day out to (you guessed it,) the Lake District.

The day started all bleary eyed at 5am. We drove the two hours to Rydal’s, White Moss car park and arrived a little after 8am! Just in time for an early morning swim!

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We took the path towards Rydal Caves, which meandered past Rydal Water that looked calm and magical.
20160915_085012The sun burned through the morning mist, promising a beautiful early autumn day. Rydal Water has become one of my favourite swims of the year! At 9am, not many dog walkers/tourists were about, at one point it was just the lake, myself, David and two swans! Bliss!!

After a good hour at the lake side, David and I headed on towards Rydal Caves.

From there we walked Loughrigg Terrace with beautiful views of Grasmere.

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It took another hour of sweat and toil to ‘climb’ the steep pathway towards Loughrigg Fell. When we got to the top, sadly low lying cloud drifted over, obscuring the views, though Windermere glistened golden in the distance.

After a relaxing picnic we headed back down to Grasmere, where the clouds dispersed and the sun came out again!

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Wearing a fresh swimsuit, I waded out into the waters for my second swim of the day! Grasmere is a busier lake than Rydal Water but it didn’t dispel from the enjoyment. Also, I wasn’t the only one splashing about the waters that day! It was nice to see so many people (and dogs) enjoying the lake.

20160915_144456-2I have desired to bag two swims in one day for a while now, and to achieve it was an amazing feeling! On leaving the shores of Grasmere, I had the biggest grin on my face! We took the riverside walk to the car park, that had a car-number recognition camera, £7 for the day. The path followed the River Rothay, which was dappled in golden afternoon light. The day couldn’t have been more perfect!

I think it will be difficult to better such a day, but we’ll see!

Christine x