It’s been a month or so since Max the Miracle Dog of Keswick passed away. I had intended for Riley (our border collie) and I to visit his statue in Hope Park, Keswick while he was still alive but that never happened. However, we managed to finally take a visit to Keswick one day in May.
Riley himself has been having some health issues. He has been fussy with his food and losing weight. So before we took him to the vets, we spent a day at the lakeside of Derwentwater.
After parking by Keswick’s Theater by the Lake and paying £8 for six hours, we walked across the road to Hope Park where we enjoyed the flower displays before visiting Max’s statue. Riley thought the statue was a real dog and was rather reluctant to sit on the bench. We managed to get some photos before we decided to head toward the shoreline of Derwentwater.
As you know Derwentwater is my favourite lake, and Riley first visited the lakeside in 2019.
This time we took a slow walk towards Friar’s Crag, admiring the view of Castle Crag, before taking the meandering path towards the Centenary Stones at Calfclose Bay. Before we got to Calfclose Bay, we came across a wide stony beach with a perfect view of Catbells. From here we set up camp and I quickly headed into the 13 degree water. I love swimming here, and although the water clarity is poor due to New Zealand Pygmy Weed, it was a silky smooth swim. I didn’t want to get out. Perhaps I’m becoming a mermaid?
Riley seemed to enjoy his walk to Derwentwater. That next week we took him to the vets to seek advice. He was given antibiotics and probiotic paste, but the vet also mentioned a heart murmur. Hopefully, the medication will help Riley feel better. He is a 13 year old boy after-all!
This will be my final post in this monthly series. December 2021 has been rather a quiet affair for David and I. Christmas spent with family, was a tiring couple of days and after all the excitement of the preparations, I somehow felt sad and forlorn. The weather this month hasn’t helped either with very few sunny days. I’m writing this post with grey laden clouds diffusing the light, giving me a headache. Here’s what happened in December.
The beginning of the month saw me sign up to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2022. I wonder what bird visitors I’ll count on the day?
The aviary also got a new resident, Beau, a Lady Gouldian Finch, a friend for our lonely female, Rize. Beau, has settled in well and seems to be of a amiable disposition.
During the long, dark nights David and I have been watching box sets with a syfi theme, from the 90’s comedy of 3rd Rock from the Sun, to the more dramatic final series of Lost in Space.
To top the month off I a managed to get in a Christmas swim at Bassenthwaite!
How has your December been?
I wish you all health and happiness this happy new year and thanks for your continued support.
Fellow readers… I’ve finally managed to push my wild swimming season into December and have completed my first wild swim!
Since discovering the joys of wild swimming, it has been an aspiration of mine to have a Christmas swim and finally, this year, I’ve managed to achieve it, thanks to the help of David.
After all the Christmas shopping had been done, there was one weekend free before Christmas. On a cold, foggy Saturday we drove up the motorway in darkness to Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District. While most of the UK was covered in cloud, we arrived at the shores of Bassenthwaite at 9am to the sun rising golden in the east and low mist hanging seductively over the lake.
We accessed the lake at Blackstock Point where there is free parking just off the A66, though the car park is easier to get to while driving south from Cockermouth.
We walked around the edge of the lake looking for good access points. From where we made camp, the lake was very shallow and didn’t make for the best swim. I later read that Bassenthwaite Lake is only 21 metres deep, but I can attest that the water was cold. I think I need thicker gloves as my hands bore the brunt of the cold and kept clawing, so I kept the swim short. I swam for seven minutes, but maybe it should have been shorter as I am not cold water acclimatised and it took me ages to get dry and dressed! I did feel very cold after the swim and it took about half an hour to warm up (I had a hot coffee and cake afterwards), but I loved feeling the cold of the water, being surrounded by wonderful vistas, and seeing ducks and geese silhouetted in the low winter sunshine. Below is a video of my first Christmas swim, and hopefully not the last.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and hopefully a better new year than 2020 and 2021!
For the past couple of years (excluding 2020), it has been a tradition of mine to have a cold water swim on my birthday! This year was no exception. Having tried to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr a couple of times this year, it was the obvious destination. David and I awoke early and drove two hours towards the village of Capel Curig. We arrived at 9am and unlike the last time we visited, when there was a triathlon on, the area was quiet and subdued. We found roadside parking overlooking the two llyns (llynnau) and donned our new walking boots and heavy rucksacks.
A short path snakes along the south side which we followed looking for lakeside access. The walk was pleasant through a conifer forest, where sheep grazed and coal tits flew among the boughs. We had to course over swollen streams and pools of mud. We walked to the end of the path where a barbed fence blocked our way, so we had to retrace our steps and look for a path through sphagnum moss and fallen trees for lake access.
We finally got to the lakeside. The water levels were high and most of the beach was submersed. We quickly made camp as there was a cool wind blowing and I got dressed into my swimming paraphernalia. David had gifted me a new GoPro to replace Wilson, so I strapped him to my chest and slowly waded in.
The last time I was in water was in September and swimming in October I found the temperature had cooled to single figures. Due to the water levels being so high I plunged into the water, waist high and decided to just go for it and swim! So I did, and boy did I gasp aloud! The cold of the water took my breath away but in my head I just kept saying, ‘keep swimming!’ The water made my skin tingle and it was an effort to move my limbs but I soon got used to the chill and swam for about 10 minutes. The views from the water were spectacular, the Snowdon Massif was lit in golden autumn light and I was mesmerised. I wish I could have stayed in the water longer but that would have been foolish. As I was climbing out of the water I spotted a flash of blue and a kingfisher bobbed past. Glorious!
I got dry on land using my new OS towel map of Snowdonia. It was soft to the touch and made me feel warm and dry. I had a quick hot coffee when I was dressed to warm up my core.
It was a blissful birthday swim and I was so lucky to have been able to experience it with David who stood on the shore and took video for our YouTube channel. I look forward to using my new GoPro on the next swim/walk adventure, especially with the superior video quality.
Have you visited Llynnau Mymbyr? I couldn’t find any Welsh myths regarding this lake but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any.
My birthday month hasn’t been so kind to me this year. It’s been a month of severe stresses and worries and not much fun in between. David has had many trips to the hospital this month, after his pneumonia diagnosis during the summer. We all feared the worst but after a PET scan, we finally got some good news that it wasn’t the disease we all dreaded. However, the specialist doesn’t really know what is wrong with David’s lung and there will be another scan in three months time. Fingers crossed all will be well.
The beginning of October, saw David and I take a visit to the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. However, this years festival wasn’t as good as previous years and the selection of apples was limited. We did come away with some sunset and ellison orange but even the apples weren’t at their best this year.
Our aviary lost yet another resident, the lady gouldian finch, Nero. Nero suffered from neurological issues and had become paralysed down one side. He did manage heroically but in the end he passed away. Fly free little one.
During an early morning start at work, I witnessed a wonderful autumn sunrise with mist enshrouded fields. It was a beautiful beginning to a day.
We had another success with our pigeon rehabilitation. Mocha came to us with a runny tummy and breathing issues. We treated for coccidiosis, a parasite that affects the digestive system. We saw an improvement after two days of giving the medication and then Mocha stayed with us for a further five days when we treated for canker, and kept her warm. Her respiratory difficulties eased and we released her back to the wild, but not before giving her a white leg ring, so we can keep track of who we have helped. Soon our yarden visitors will all have leg bracelets on. 🙂
In October, we finished watching all 10 series of Stargate, which we thoroughly enjoyed! We also watched the controversial Squid Game, which was both horrific and sad in equal measure and we have just finished the second series of the supernatural Locke and Key. Do you have any recommendations on what to watch next?
It’s that time of year again when sparrowhawk visits increase. One Saturday we were visited by a male sparrowhawk who stayed around the area for over half an hour. He managed to get a meal a few days later.
At the end of October we made a quick visit to Liverpool’s City Centre to see the River of Light Festival. We visited the light festival in March, but I though this October’s selection of lights were better than in March!
David’s family had a get together for Halloween. Some of us dressed up. I went as a Jaffa from Stargate. I wanted to go as Teal’c but the bald wig I bought didn’t cover my hair so I had to go as a makeshift Jaffa instead. Did you do anything fun for Halloween?
For the past couple of years I’ve celebrated my birthday with a cold water swim! This year, since The Lake District was underwater with streams that were once paths, I decided to choose Snowdonia as the place to celebrate. Llynnau Mymbyr was the llyn I chose and it was such a wonderful birthday swim with the Snowdon massif looking glorious in rich autumn sunshine. I dried off with my new towel, the ordinance survey map of Snowdonia.
That was my October, how was yours? Do you like this time of year with the crisp mornings and golden trees or like me, just want to hibernate?
Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.
The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.
During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?
The hottest day of the holiday dawned on the Wednesday, 1st September, and another long day was planned. Since we had 24 hour access to Loch Venachar, I was itching to make the most of this and planned a sunrise swim. We crawled sleepy eyed out of bed at 5.50am and watched as mist drifted down from the hills. The water was still and it looked like a peaceful sunrise was going to take place. So, I wriggled into a swimsuit and David snatched his cameras and we headed down towards the quiet loch. The air temperature was only 7° but the water felt warmer. It was a wonderful way to wake up!
After breakfast, David and I headed towards RSPB Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond. We passed Lochs Ard and Chon and I debated which one to swim in. As we passed Loch Arklet with it’s scenic views of the Arrochar Alps, I would have plumped for that one, but being unable to find adequate parking, I decided to leave that loch for another holiday. 😛 We left the car at Inversnaid Hotel car park and walked a part of the Highland Way through Atlantic Oak woodland. We didn’t see much wildlife, save for a lost, discarded fish, sign an osprey had been around!
At lunch time we found car parking for Loch Chon which I’d decided was going to be the swim of the day. The loch was very quiet and picturesque and researching afterwards, I discovered that this loch is fabled to have the worlds largest population of faeries! I think on this day, all were sheltering from the hot midday sun!
We set up camp at a shingle beach. The water was warm and deep, and it didn’t take much time to dry afterwards. In the shallows were tiny minows and darting along the water lilies were giant dragonflies (or were they faeries?). It was beautiful, and I could have stayed there all day, but David dislikes the heat, so we packed up our picnic and headed for the relative shade of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
We paid £3 for all day parking, though we were only there an hour. We had come to walk the white trail and to see Vestige or the Mirror Men by Rob Mulholland. These six figures of men and women made of polished stainless steel merge ethereal-like into the woodland around it. I was however, slightly underwhelmed, but we had fun lounging in hammocks and sitting on toadstools as we walked the trail.
Having done all we had planned to do that day, we arrived back at the cabin by 3pm, and found that we still had time to head down to the beach of Loch Venachar and enjoy a bit of sunbathing. David finally got his shoes and socks off and went for a paddle, while I succumbed to the water and had another swim.
In the evening, over dinner of an M&S curry, we watched the sun set before heading back out one final time for a night time swim. As I took to the water with doughnut (my tow float) lit up with a torch, bats swooped around the shore feasting on moths. The air was still and the darkness slowly crept in. I’d never had a night time swim before and it was eerie to wade into dark waters unknowing what was below or ahead of me. It was a magical moment.
I decided to take the opportunity of getting up early to enjoy the silence of the loch and admire the views from the veranda. I took my coffee outside and stood watching the woodland birds devour the seed we had topped up the day before. There were blue, great and coal tits in abundance, nuthatches flew like bullets to peck at the peanuts and chaffinches waited patiently in the trees. It was calming to listen to the bird song and to watch the mist drift from the mountains before me.
After breakfast, David and I packed our rucksacks and headed towards Aberfoyle, and the Three Lochs Drive. A seven mile drive through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, stopping at a lochan and two lochs along the way. We decided to make a day of it!
The charge per car was £2 which was reasonable given that we spent over five hours driving, walking the trails and swimming in the lochs. Our first stop was at Lochan Reòidhte, the smallest of the three lochs, very picturesque and tranquil. We found water access besides a picnic bench, I took to the murky waters while David gave Buzz (our Mavic Mini) a stretch of its blades.
After a peaceful swim and a gentle saunter through a conifer plantation, we parked up at our second destination. The car park of Loch Drunkie, which had a toilet block. We walked along a path overlooking the loch which finally lead us towards the water’s edge. The fair weather we had that morning began to change and clouds started drifting in. Loch Drunkie, though a nice swim, was very muddy and I crawled out of the water covered in mud!
Our final destination of the drive was Loch Achray, we managed to find roadside parking and I waddled towards the beach with tow float and dry robe in hand. Access to the water was very shallow and I felt I could have walked for miles in knee high water. It was a rather disappointing swim to end the Three Lochs Drive.
Here’s the video compilation of all three swims:
Back at the cabin, we spent the evening wildlife spotting at the feeders. We spied a hungry red squirrel nibble at the peanuts and even a shy, nervous great spotted woodpecker visited.
We went to bed that night, tired but ready for another great day of touring the Trossachs the next day!
David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!
Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.
We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.
After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!
Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.
After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.
An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!
It had been eight months since I was in the water and was ecstatic when David suggested a day out on the recent bank holiday. ‘Yes please’! I said. I was desperate for an adventure and feeling very stuck in a rut due to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. I never thought I would leave the city again!
David and I quickly slipped back into adventure mode. We got up at 6am, a beautiful day was already awaiting us. We drove two hours to Snowdonia, Wales. I was fearful that we wouldn’t get parking as I assumed (and rightly so) that lots of people would flock towards Wales due to the holiday and the lovely weather. Thankfully, all went to plan. It was like the days of old when David and I headed, carefree to the countryside to swim, walk or explore.
I had already decided, weeks in advance where I wanted my first wild swim of 2021 to be. Last March, before lockdown One, David and I had taken a similar trip to Snowdonia in the hope of starting off my wild swim season of 2020, however on the day the weather was against me and I had to make do with sightseeing and photographing these beauty spots.
I’d first visited the shores of Llyn Gwynant in 2016 and since then I had been eager to swim there. It’s taken me almost five years for that wish to become a reality.
I must admit I had butterflies in my tummy on pulling up alongside the llyn. I hadn’t swam in such a long time and worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with the temperatures or the audience. Thankfully, I clenched my teeth and said, ‘let’s do this!’ I wished in 2020 that I had taken the opportunity to swim in this beautiful place before travel to Wales was restricted, I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers again. With the mournful call of a cuckoo singing from the hills, David and I sauntered towards the shoreline where two tents had been put up illegally. I wasn’t going to let them deter me, so I quickly made camp and got my swim paraphernalia ready.
The entrance to the llyn was relatively easy, no clambering over rocks thankfully. I just waded in slowly, getting used to the cool waters. I was waist deep in water when I decided to push out and commit to the swim. I was in the water for around 15 minutes. I couldn’t tell the temperature as Terence my thermometer broke in 2019 and the replacement I ordered never arrived. 😦 I surmised around 14 degrees. The water was crystal clear and little minnows jumped for joy in the shallows. I would have jumped for joy too if there wasn’t so many tourists around! I swam about, admiring the elephant rock where intrepid divers jump from. I didn’t stray too far from the shore as I was out of practice and fitness. I enjoyed my time at Llyn Gwynant and so glad I managed to get to swim there, eventually!
Llyn Padarn was another llyn I had visited several times over the years and had not been able to capitalise upon. However the swim at Padarn was a very different experience to that of Gwynant.
A campaign was launched a few years ago by the Outdoor Swimming Society to remind swimmers to ‘spread the word not the weed.’ Swimmers were asked to be diligent in the cleaning of their equipment and clothes when going on swims, as small pieces of vegetation could hitch a ride into more cleaner waters and contaminate them. One such weed, New Zealand pygmyweed has been a scourge in the Lake District. This non native, invasive plant outgrows native aquatic plants and also depletes the oxygen levels in the water causing wildlife to die. The advice regarding #spreadthewordnottheweed is that if you are planning to do more than one swim, then to swim in the order of cleanest waters first and to make sure that all equipment is washed and dried for the next swim. These simple measures can help in the control of the spread of invasive organisms.
With this in mind we headed towards Llyn Padarn which at 11am on a sunny bank holiday was already teaming with holidaymakers and day trippers. I had never seen so many people enjoying the water. There were swimmers, paddle-boarders and canoeists. With the same determined mindset as Gwynant we headed towards the pier and waited for a quiet moment to enter the water. While I got prepared and dressed into a new swimsuit, David took pictures of cute cygnets.
The swim at Padarn reminded me of Coniston. It wasn’t the most enjoyable swim and when I noticed the murky, brown hue of the water I knew this was dirtier than Gwynant. Indeed the water had a very discernible pond aroma. Not very pleasant to tell the truth. I swam about for another 15 minutes but I was glad when I managed to scramble out from the pier. I was able to tick this llyn off my Snowdonia wild swim map but I doubt I’ll be returning.
It may have seemed that the day ended on a down but in reality I was buoyant with being back in the water after such a long time. I hope that it won’t be too long before I am in the water again – and until then…