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

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#walk1000miles

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Welcome to my #walk1000miles post!

This has been the first year I have participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine.

For the past 12 months, I have been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the treadmill/cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog Riley and of course holidays and days out with David! My overall mileage for 2017 has been a wonderful 1,316 miles.

In this post I will split the year up into seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

With the dawn of longer days ahead, thoughts turn to days outdoors enjoying nature and the sunshine. Highlights from walks this quarter come from much fun with smiley Riley, taking a bimble through the famous bluebells at Rannerdale, Cumbria and many woodland walks.

Total miles for the month = 332.

Summer: (June, July and August)

It’s not surprising that the long summer months were best for my mileage. However what did amaze me was that in June I tallied my highest miles of the year! I think this was due in some way to the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This wonderful incentive does certainly make you focus on getting out more and noticing the world around you. Then add the #walk1000miles challenge and you have a partnership that goes hand in hand. During the month of June and into summer David and I ventured to previously undiscovered nature reserves, enjoyed a two night break to the Lake District and went in search of art in the streets of Liverpool and Birmingham!

Total miles for the month = 382.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on the 8th October 2017. I felt kind of numb after I calculated passing the 1000 mile mark! I had not planned on completing two months early but it soon dawned on me how much of an achievement it actually was! Among the many autumn delights, were days out to Snowdonia, North Wales and attending our first ever apple festival in search of British heritage varieties.

One pattern that has come from analysing the annual mileage has been how similar both spring and autumn’s totals were.

Total miles for the month = 321.

Winter: (December, January and February)

The shorter days and darker nights mean that winter miles are the shortest of the year. However there have been a few days out. New Years Day saw David and I head towards Coniston and a visit to Banishead Quarry. A Valentine’s treat of afternoon tea at Jam beckoned in February and December is about all things Christmas!

Total miles for the month =  281

Annual Total = 1,316 miles

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook page. Through participation on this page I have had a photo published in their magazine and my story also featured as part of their website to advertise 2018’s challenge. It also took me a while to find my name featured on the ‘We Did It’ page of the January edition.

Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal has pride of place on my gym’s wall.

I’ve signed up to do it all again in 2018, and hoping to better 2017’s mileage. I would love to get to wonder-woman status of 2,000 miles, but I aim to achieve a more feasible 1,500 miles. If I manage anything more then I will be satisfied.

How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

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If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Product Placement – Haith’s

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.

goodiesThe products to be reviewed  were: 

  • MultiFeeder Plus: a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
  • Fat balls (small): I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
  • (Original) wild bird food: Compiled from a recipe dating back to the 1960’s.

I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.

The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.

The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.

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Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.

Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.

What the birds thought of the multifeeder:

It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.

Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!

At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.

The wild bird food and fat balls were a hit with all classes of bird.

What I thought of the multifeeder:

I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!

Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!

The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.

Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.

I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.


Links:

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.

Haith’s website offers more bird foods, such as peanuts, niger and livefood. If you would like to see their entire range follow: http://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: http://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

Just a Little Stroll Then..?

With Christmas done and dusted for another year and both having the week off work, David and I decided to travel to North Wales for a day trip.

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Llyn Gwynant at sunset

We returned to Llyn Gwynant and the surrounding area. I found a moderate walk on the National Trust website that overlooked Llyn Dinas.

20161228_111053-2It was a beautiful winters day. The rugged Snowdonian landscape looked like Martian terrain in the golden light.

It was pretty evident that many people had also decided on visiting Snowdonia National Park, rows upon rows of parked cars lined the verges. Luckily we managed to find parking ourselves (outside Caffi Gwynant Café) before we embarked on our walk.

The first part of the walk began on the Watkin Path, deemed by some to be the hardest path towards Snowdon, due to loss of defined path and loose scree near the top.

The walk meanders through ancient oak woodland, before approaching Cwm Llan, with well defined paths that follow the fast flowing Afon Cwm Llan waterfalls.

Somehow we missed a turning, (there weren’t many way-markers,) so we continued along the path in front of us which wound through the valley. We past a commemoration plaque stating the opening of the route in 1892 by the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone, then on towards the old ruins of a slate quarry before the path drew steadily upwards.

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Ruined quarry buildings

By this time we knew we had taken the wrong path, and had walked further than we ought, but as the path was not too steep we decided to keep going.

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David on the path to Snowdon

On our walk we saw many other people traipsing the same path towards Snowdon, and drawing higher, we heard the whooo of a train from the Snowdon Mountain Railway (even though they say on their website that they are closed!) Perhaps it was a phantom train? As the summit of Snowdon came into view, I could see the train station and visitor centre. It was quite exciting being on a walk we had not planned.

At some 800m above sea level, David and I sat down to have lunch. We pondered on how much further it was to the top and would we get there before sunset. We also had to consider our ability. I am not the best walker/climber. So we decided not to aim for the summit but to go to the ridge and see what was on the other side.

We found Llyn Llydaw on the other side, stretching out far below us. I was ecstatic. Llydaw is one of the llyn’s I want to swim in 2017!

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Llyn Llydaw

From the ridge we turned back and started our descent. It took us another good two hours to walk back to the car park. We were both buoyed by the walk, amazed that we had managed to get 3/4 of the way up the tallest mountain in England and Wales. Today however, we are stiff and sore.

Accidentally taking the path towards Snowdon has made me realise that maybe some tarns in the Lake District are not so unachievable as I believed. Roll on spring/summer 2017!

Have you managed to climb Snowdon? If so what path did you chose, apparently there at six paths?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #4

Saturday 19th March 2016 was Earth Hour, so I plunged David and I into darkness for one hour between 8.30-9.30pm. Did you partake in the hour?

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Earlier that evening, after a busy day of ‘spring’ cleaning, I made a One Pan Mexican Quinoa. I tweaked the recipe a little, omitting the avocado and lime but added a red onion and small pepper. I also 20160319_180028 (2)changed the sweetcorn to peas as David doesn’t like corn!

The meal was simple, just cut the vegetables and measure the quinoa and then pop them all into a pan with beans, stock and tinned tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa releases its tails! The outcome was a fresh, tasting meal. I will definitely be making it again in the future!

On Thursday the postman delivered some lovely news. My tickets for the Hans Zimmer concert in April at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena arrived!! I was so happy!

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That same day while making a cup of tea, I peered out of the kitchen window towards the back garden and my eyes spied a small bird flitting about the tree branches. It was a little Wren! He stayed long enough for me to video him!

The beginning of the week saw lovely blue skies and spring-like temperatures hit the NW of England. David, Artie and I spent some much needed time in the garden, cleaning away old foliage and soaking up the warm rays of the sun. I noticed that there are lots of tulips growing again this season and there are some plants I don’t even know what they are! Perhaps you recognise them?

20160317_175108It’s been two weeks since I planted my seeds of french beans, spring onions and peppers. I have hundreds of beans and onions growing! I don’t know where in the garden I will put them once they are ready to be planted outside! After some studying I read that french beans grow up to a meter in height! I am also going to need some bamboo sticks for support! How do you think my seedlings are coming along?

Do you have any spring projects on the go?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and Bobbins.