Overdue…

My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.

I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!

As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.

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Riley at Grasmere

Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!

Then lockdown happened.

At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.

Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.

That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.

With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!

In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.

With parking paid for all day, at £5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.

I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!

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Coniston Water

The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!

Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!

On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.

From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.

We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.

I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_28Day 28: For today’s 30 Days Wild, David and I, with Riley in tow took a three mile meander around Port Sunlight River Park. The weather was showery, with a light breeze. The sun was warm but not warm enough to coax butterflies from their shelter. On arrival we spotted a kestrel hunting, house martins flew over the lake and we sat and rested while listening to skylarks nesting in the scrub. I even saw a new plant, St John’s Wort which a bumblebee was enjoying.

What’s your favourite place to go nature spotting?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Fourteen.

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Day 14: It’s been a stormy few days up here in the NW of England, meaning lots of great cloud formations.

Today’s 30 Days Wild is linking in with #SilentSunday. One picture, no words. Perhaps you can join in?

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Storm Clouds

Thanks for stopping by, and stay wild!

Christine x

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2020

Now a permanent fixture in my calendar, the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this year fell between 25th -27th January 2020. I decided to do my hourly count on the Sunday, 11am to 12pm. Earlier I had topped up the yarden feeders in preparation. I boiled the kettle and made a pot of Bird and Wild espresso coffee which I got free with my order of the lovely RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch mug!

I sat by the window and waited for my feathered friends to visit. Though my tally was not as varied as previous years, there were no visits from the dunnock, robin or starlings. I did count 14 goldfinches, 9 pigeons and two noisy blue tits within the hour. The weather was grey and squally with a chilling breeze making the 8°C feel colder. I was hoping for a visit from the sparrowhawk, but she kept out of sight.

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Graph of my count

If you were joining in with the count, how did you do?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

 

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today’s blog is all about bees, honeybees. David and I drove to The Bee Centre in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, for a two hour pre-booked bee experience. After donning our bee suits and taking the obligatory photos, we (of a group of nine) were escorted to the outdoor hives. Kath opened up a hive and explained what was happening in the frames.

Kath used smoke to make the bees (native black bees) more docile, while she inspected the hive. The bees gorge on honey, thinking there’s a fire so that they can take stores with them when they set up a new colony. We witnessed a drone (male) being born and lots of male/female brood cells and also the odd queen cell. It was fascinating to learn so much about life in a hive! Everyone has their own role and worker bees can fly up to three miles for food. The queen lays 2,000 eggs a day and is solely dependent on being cared for by the other bees. A worker bee can live up to six weeks whereas a queen can live to five years.

After meeting the bees we returned to the centre for honey tasting. The centre has an ethical and sustainable view on beekeeping and only extract honey when there is a genuine surplus. Due to this year’s wet June the bees are having a hard time and need our help! You can do this by planting more bee friendly plants, a helpful list can be found here.

Our experience really whetted our appetite for beekeeping and whether a hive would be something our yarden could accommodate?

Have you ever kept bees? Like the idea?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-one.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_21Day 21: Happy Litha or Summer Solstice!

2019’s longest day, saw the UK welcome 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. However, after all this celebration of light, the shorter days and darker nights begin from here. Today the weather for the NW of England has been fair and warm. Perfect weather to release my painted lady butterflies.

I was sad to see my butterflies fly but knew I had given them the best start in life.

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Painted Lady Butterfly

After coming home from work David and I headed out to a sun drenched yarden. The chirrup of sparrows and the cooing of pigeons sounded in the air. Once I had opened the habitat one butterfly, (I would like to think it was my little caterpillar who hadn’t made it to the top of the cup), flew straight up into the air! The other four butterflies needed a little more coaxing. I noticed one feeding on the watermelon I had given them before he/she took to the wing.

All five butterflies safely flew away. I hope they enjoy the sunshine on this solstice and manage to breed and begin the cycle again.

It has been a wonderful experience. I was amazed at how quickly I grew attached to the caterpillars and then saddened when they became chrysalids, but soon celebrated the emergence of them as butterflies. Nature is truly miraculous!

Would I do it all again? Probably, though I stressed about feeding the butterflies and when I couldn’t release them. But the positive experience more than out weighed the worries.

Have you been inspired to give the experience a go? If so, you can read more about butterfly gardens from Insect Lore.

Thanks for following my caterpillars to butterflies,

Stay wild!

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Six

Day Six: Today’s photo prompt is weather. Today’s weather in Liverpool has been dull and unimpressive. Cue most boring picture alert!

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Clouds over Mab Lane Community Woodland

Yesterday it rained all day and was dark and dingy. The weekend bodes slightly better with sunny spells but breezy.

Hows the weather like where you are?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My First Scottish Wild Swim – Loch Lomond

Ever since I started wild swimming, my desire to swim in a Scottish Loch has been like an itch I couldn’t scratch. This September, as an early birthday treat we decided to head to Fort William for a few days in the Highlands.

The journey north from Liverpool passes Loch Lomond and the Trosachs National Park via the A82. The plan for the day was to travel the six hours to Fort William with a stop off at Loch Lomond for my first Scottish wild swim!

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Loch Lomond

Four hours into the journey we stopped at a parking point (near Inverbeg), with views of Loch Lomond. With the amount of preparations I do now, I can’t just have a quick swim. Stripped to my swimsuit, I firstly have to inflate Doughnut and fix it to my waist. Then don my neoprene boots and gloves to protect my extremities. Also, I now have a beanie hat to help keep the heat in. Then I strap Wilson, my waterproof camera to my chest. All this I do before I even head towards the water!

Wrapped in my Dryrobe® I waddled like a penguin towards the shore. The shore I chose to embark on my first Scottish wild swim was of soft shingle, with Ben Lomond on the opposite side. The weather on the day was cloudy, but not too cold. I was prepared for frigid temperatures, but in reality the water temperature was around 14°. I can safely say I’ve swam in colder waters!

With David taking pictures and video on shore. I waded out into the water. I always seem rather nervous before I head into the water. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know what to expect from the water’s bed? Is it going to be blissful soft shingle like Llyn Cwellyn, or rocky as hell and a scramble to get in like Derwentwater? Thankfully my first Scottish wild swim was the former. The shingle beach slopped down in increments and I walked out until the water lapped around my neck.

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Loch Lomond. I swam back and forth along the shoreline and even managed to dunk my head for an underwater shot. Much fun was had and I really didn’t want to get out. However we had to travel a further two hours to our accommodation for the three nights stay.


We booked our accommodation via Airbnb. I had never used the website before until my friend Jennifer informed us that her European trip was booked through the website. After doing a search of the Fort William area, one accommodation seemed promising. A self catering apartment overlooking Loch Linnhe called Glenloch View. With much deliberation we decided to book, at £248 for three nights, it was cheaper than the hotels in the region. Check in was via Lock-box, so we never met the proprietor. However on arrival there was a vase with fresh cut flowers and a bag of tasty fudge for us. The ground floor apartment was clean and bright and very new. It had a lobby where boots and wet clothes could be left to dry. The living room/kitchen was open plan and had nice views of Loch Linnhe. The kitchen had an oven, microwave and fridge/freezer, and everything you needed to cook evening meals or even a cake! The double bedroom and bathroom was at the back of the apartment. There was TV with Freeview, a stereo and Internet. The apartment was very comfortable and we did not want to anything. I’ll end this post with a few pictures of the apartment.

Have you stayed in Fort William? Booked via Airbnb? Even swam in a Scottish Loch/Lochan?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #50

I wasn’t going to do a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins). I haven’t taken that many pictures this week, but I thought I would give it a try and see what I could come up with.

Beauty:

Among a bunch of flowers I bought this week, were some yellow roses. I thought how pretty the folds of petals looked.

Book I am reading:

I’m currently enjoying Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon offering, Origin. Though it’s punctuated with endless lectures on the many geographical and historical places in the novel. I am looking forward to finding out the true reason for Winston!

#walk1000miles:

A quick update on my weeks mileage, which has been 33. Bringing my annual total to 643 miles.

Yarden:

This Saturday, David and I took a visit to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green. We went in the hope of getting (shade loving) rockery plants for around the pond, but ended up getting the wrong type (sun loving). However the mistake was a blessing as the phlox I bought ended up in the main yarden around David’s recently moved acer. In total we bought five plants, and all have now got new homes. 🙂

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Bee Sculpture

I also fell in love with some funky art for the yarden. These funny bee sculptures really do brighten the yarden up and at £3.99, weren’t too expensive either. 🙂

Riley Walks:

This Bank Holiday weekend has been unprecedented. The NW of England has been blessed with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures hitting 24°C. It truly has been a lovely Bank Holiday. On Sunday David and I took a hot Riley to a local nature reserve, Lunt Meadows. We visited Lunt last year as part of my 30 days Wild, so decided to go for another 4.5 mile walk around the reserve.

The sun was hot even at 10am! Peregrines soared before a cloudless blue sky, while greylag geese eyed us wearily. Bees buzzed among orchids and there were innumerous bird songs, most I could not identify. Speckled woods fluttered in nearby woodland. Orange tips, small tortoiseshells and peacocks, were all too fast for us to take a picture! Our leisurely morning walk flew by. Riley, though hot seemed to enjoy the different smells and sounds of the lovely nature reserve.

What have you been up to this Bank Holiday?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x