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!
It’s taking me a while to sit down and write this blog. To celebrate Easter, I decided to do something similar to my Christmas swim. You can read about that here. So I purchased some fluffy rabbit ears and tail and this Easter bunny went for a swim in a Snowdonian llyn.
It’s getting harder now to find accessible swims in both the Lake District and Snowdonia, but one llyn was situated not far from the car park to the Rhyd Ddu Path for Snowdon. So on the Easter weekend, David and I took an early morning trip. On arrival I was surprised at how busy the car park was. I was not aware (at first) that the car park was for one of the six trails to Snowdon. Luckily, we managed to find a space and after paying a reasonable £3 for three hours, we donned our heavy backpacks and headed across the road towards the path which would lead us to Llyn y Gader.
The path is wheelchair accessible for most of the way and is a distance of seven miles to Beddgelert. However, we were only walking perhaps one mile to the llyn. The day was overcast yet mild. We walked through conifer forest towards the lake shore where common sandpipers were flitting about. Careful not to tread on any ground nests we scanned the water’s edge for good entrance points. There weren’t many, but I found one where I could ease myself in and manage to clamber back out again. The water was murky yet had a silky sheen to it. At 11 degrees it was the warmest swim this year! There were fish in the llyn and one jumped out of the water which freaked me out a little and before I knew it, my mind was irrationally thinking what was in the water beneath me?
I was in the water for about 15 minutes, and it was a nice swim apart from losing my rabbit ears before luckily finding them in the shallows! After I got back on dry land and dressed, while sipping a hot coffee, I watched as the steamtrain from Beddgelert to Caernarfon billowed past.
Not wanting to waste the day we retraced our steps back to the car park and headed towards RSPB Conwy’s reserve where we spent an hour walking the boardwalk and spying on the wildlife.
For mid March, David and I had an opening in the calendar for a few days away. Eager to get my wild swimming season started again, I booked a few nights away to our usual home from home in the Lake District, Hermiston, Braithwaite. We have been visiting this B&B since 2016 when the current proprietors took over, and Phil and Helen are always so welcoming and helpful. We will always recommend them for a stay in the North Lakes.
My first swim of the 2022 season was Ullswater. It was not just any swim, it was a swim with a bevy of swans, who were very patient with me and almost seemed to be welcoming. Swans can be temperamental so I kept my distance, it was the swans who drew close to me. I was very calm and respectful and I think the swans realised that I was no threat. They were curious more than anything. The access point at Ullswater was Glencoyne Bay and was a wonderful gentle slope into the shockingly six degree water.
Our day out to Loweswater was very different from the first time we visited back in 2016. That time it was a sunny autumn day, on this cold March day, the weather was dreary. We wrapped up against the elements of driving rain and scathing wind and walked the path towards Holme Force waterfall. After our walk through woodland, we managed to catch a slight respite in the weather and made for a wide shingle beach, where I took to the murky waters of Loweswater. This seven degree swim was so much better than the dip in October 2016, despite the lack of sunlight, and the entrance to the water was again a gentle slope. In the summer Loweswater can be a breeding ground for blue-green algae but in this cool March day, it was a joy!
I’ve been trying to return to Wastwater for a more satisfying swim since 2016, but on several occasions, I’ve chosen not to swim due to poor weather. On our last day in the Lakes the weather gods were looking favourably upon us. The day dawned bright. We drove an hour from Braithwaite and managed to find parking at Over Beck car park. We crossed the road to a wide stoney beach with fantastic views of the head of Wasdale and the Scafells. The scenery was breathtaking. I could have stayed in this piece of heaven all day. After David managed to get Buzz, our drone up in between gusts, I waded into chilly waters of seven degrees. It was quite a surprise that Ullswater was the coldest swim of the holiday! I really wished I could have stayed in the water for longer and soaked up the wonderful mountainous views but not wanting to chance fate and after-drop, I spent 10 minutes in the beautiful water blue-green water and then sensibly returned to shore.
It was a wonderful few days away to the glorious Lake District and I am sure I will return sometime in the near future. There are so many mountainous tarns I need to visit. Until then…
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!
Finally, I have managed to push the boundary back in terms of how long my wild swimming season lasts for. In recent years I have been wanting to see how I cope in colder temperatures. This year, I had a week off work in November, so I booked a two nights stay in our favourite Lake District B&B, Hermiston. The plan was to do a couple of swims, but where? I have sadly swam in all the accessible lakes/tarns in The Lake District and now have to gather fitness and resources to go further inland and up mountains!
Luckily, the Eskdale Valley, west of the Lakes, was a destination we had not visited before and the area seemed to be less frequented by tourists. Correct me if I am wrong! So during our stay, I planned on doing two swims. The first was Blea Tarn (the last of the three) and the second Devoke Water.
There are three Blea Tarns, the first in the picturesque Langdale Valley, the second in Watendlath and the third in Eskdale. Eskdale’s Blea Tarn can be accessed via Beckfoot, a train station on the Ravenglass and Eskdale 15″ gauge Railway. David and I were going to park up in the station at Dalegarth but we managed to find off road parking right opposite the Beckfoot platform.
After donning our backpacks, we crossed the train track and headed through a gate towards the hillside beyond. The walk only took 30 minutes, it was steep in places but not too strenuous. At the top I thought we would find Blea Water looking resplendent but we had to traipse over sphagnum moss a little further inland before the tarn appeared.
On the day the weather wasn’t very inviting, a mean wind whipped across the tarn and cloud drifted over the hills. After the restrictive swim season that was 2020, I have been desperate to just get into the water and swim. So, we quickly made camp and I stripped to my swimsuit; strapped Doughnut, my tow float to my waist and new GoPro to my chest and I was ready for a dip in chilly waters!
I had prepared myself for cold waters, but in fact Llynnau Mymbyr was much colder! I managed a 15 minute swim in Blea Tarn, though I could have swam for longer. I was weary of not being cold water aclimatised, so I stayed close to shore and had a short swim. The wind kept splashing water in my face while I gazed at the mist enshrouded hills around me. Mentally, I didn’t enjoy the swim as much as I should have, but I am glad I have managed to tick this tarn from the swim map!
Getting dry back on land was a chore with a cold wind and rain falling steadily. I think it took me as long to get dry and dressed as I did swimming! But wrapped up warmly afterwards, we headed back down the hill towards the car.
Much like during the swim at Blea Tarn the day before, the weather for the Devoke water swim was very inclement! In fact the wind was more blustery and whipped up white horses on the water!
As Devoke Water is in the same region of the Lakes as Blea Tarn, the journey from Braithwaite took just over an hour. We found roadside parking a 20 minute walk from the tarn and followed the sign post towards Devoke Water. I knew this tarn would be less popular than any other tarn I had swam in but I had thought I would have seen people on our swim/walk. However, it was just David and I who traipsed the unremarkable path towards the tarn, then tramped though marshy, wet land to a windy swim.
We made camp and I took to the waters with the same enthusiasm and a little bit of nervousness I have for all of my swims. Despite the wind being raucous and throwing water into my face, I really enjoyed this swim, the wind was cold but the water wasn’t so bad. I swam for about 15-20 minutes! The scenery around Devoke Water is as bleak as it gets but occasionally there were shafts of sunlight piercing through the clouds. It’s definitely a tarn I would visit again.
Happy holidays! I’m a bit late in writing this round up of my November. In some ways 2021’s November has been a short month, I’ve enjoyed getting all festive and planning Christmas and also David and I took a short break to the Lakes mid month. We also visited a zoo, something which we haven’t done in a few years, it was one activity that cemented our relationship. Here’s what I’ve been up to this month.
With the long, dark chilly nights drawing in, I’ve been catching up on some TV shows. The new season of Dexter is meeting expectations and the new series of Shetland is as compelling as usual.
Sadly our aviary had another death. This time it was Bill, the silverbill who passed away. He survived his mate Silvie by two months. I was saddened by Bill’s loss as he was such a loving, friendly little chap. Fly free little one!
During our short break to the Lake District David and I took in a visit to Safari Zoo, which used to be South Lakes Zoo before all the turmoil regarding the owner and malpractice. We spent a leisurely three hours walking around the enclosures. My favourites by far were the Giant Otters and Red Pandas, of course!
The main reason for heading back up to the Lakes was to extend my wild swimming season into November. I assumed that the water would have been colder than my birthday swim in October where I swam in Llynnau Mymbyr, but sadly the water wasn’t breath taking as it was in Wales, although the wind was! The tarns I swam in were Eskdale’s Blea Tarn and Devoke Water, both remote and atmospheric.
The remainder of November was all about looking forward to the festive season. Mid month, I put up my Christmas tree for some much needed cheer and ordered a new wreath for the front door as the old one had given up the ghost. I love buying presents for all our fur babies, and couldn’t resist in purchasing another Christmas jumper for Riley to wear. Doesn’t he look cute?!
What are you most looking forward to during the festive period?
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.
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?
I’m not much of a fan of September. I don’t particularly like the encroachment of the darker mornings and evenings and I still have echoes of the dreaded ‘going back to school’ feeling, even though I am in my 40’s! The beautiful season of autumn as the leaves change colour is no consolation. September has been a mixed bag for David and I, but oh boy how fast it has gone! I can’t quite believe I’m writing this review!
At the beginning of September, David and I were in the middle of our holiday to the Trossachs in Scotland. I had many swims, including a sunrise, sunset, afternoon and even a night time swim at Loch Venachar and also visited the chilly waters of Loch Chon, Lubnaig, Earn and Katrine. It was a fab holiday! 😁
Our cabin for the week in Scotland had a feeding station and not only woodland birds visited but red squirrels and even a shy great spotted woodpecker!
The aviary saw the sad passing of our female silverbill, Silvie. It was a shock as Silvie had been in good health previously. I feel sorry for Bill her partner, singing all alone. 😪
September is the month we got Artie, he was a big seven this year! We celebrated by buying him a new cat tower.
One mid September weekend turned out pretty bad for our wild bird rehabilitation. We picked up two birds, who were sadly too far gone to be helped. All we could give was palliative care. We took in a pigeon who was so weak and diseased with canker that she only lasted one night. The next day we picked up a poor goldfinch who was so ill, he only lasted a few hours and passed away in David’s hands. Our only solace was that both were safe in our home, and not left vulnerable outside.
This September I have been enjoying watching some TV. I am a big fan of Silent Witness, so I am busy catching up on the new series. While visiting my mum, we are enjoying A House Through Time, which is more a social history lesson, but so interesting!
Since I am back working five days a week and my hours have changed I am doing a lot more reading while on the long commute. This month I have read the Agatha Christie thriller, Witness for the Prosecution, and have now started Libby Page’s The Island Home.
To cheer up a wet and cold end to September, here’s a picture of a cosmos, there are many of these growing around work which does lift the spirits.
A very different morning dawned on our fourth day in the Trossachs. Our weather apps had been accurate all through our holiday and this morning we weren’t surprised when a low cloud with drizzle hung over the hills. It was a chilly day, with morning temperatures reaching just 14°.
We had two swims planned this morning and I don’t think the weather detracted from the beauty of either loch. However, neither plan seemed to work out as organised.
We arrived at Loch Lubnaig with the sound of screaming teenagers piercing the air. We had sadly chosen the wrong car park to park in (pay and display) and a group of young adults in their underwear were bracing the chilled waters of the loch, but not very quietly! I had been looking forward to swimming in this loch but perhaps I should have not had a lie in and arrived much earlier? I made the most of the situation and managed a 10 minute swim, even if it wasn’t as peaceful as I had hoped!
We quickly departed Loch Lubnaig and drove a little further north towards Loch Earn. I was hoping to swim from The Four Seasons statue by Rob Mulholland, or Mirror Man. Though, again I was thwarted as I couldn’t find this mirrored sculpture. 😦 Slightly subdued I told David to turn around. I feared I wouldn’t get a swim in Loch Earn. However, we did finally manage to find parking a little further up the road, though it seemed popular with fishermen!
Just like Loch Lubnaig, I was determined to swim whatever the cost, so we made camp on a little shingle peninsula and I quickly took to the water. I managed a cold 15 minute swim in Loch Earn which was very choppy due to the wind. It was the coldest, stormiest swim of the holiday.
We retreated back towards the safe, warm confines of our cabin, where I had a warm shower and we had lunch. Since it was just after 1pm we headed into the Invertrossachs Forest (a privately owned wood) for a casual walk. We walked from the Invertrossachs car park and followed our Google Maps/GPs towards the end of the path where we stopped and admired the view of Loch Venachar. There was a hidden lochan in the woods, but with no path to be found, we retraced our steps back to the cabin.
During our walk the weather brightened up. The clouds parted and the warm sun shone down. It was a lovely afternoon, which we decided to enjoy back on the shore of Loch Venachar. Sadly we didn’t take our cameras with us so I have no footage of David finally biting the bullet and submerging himself in the cool waters. The waters of Loch Venachar weren’t as warm as the day before, but it was much quieter on shore. As there was no one around, David, coaxed by myself, waded slowly into the shallows, the minnows nibbling at his feet. David was brave and with much encouragement, submerged his body under water. He growled as the cold water touched his skin. He held doughnut (tow float) and floated in the shallows. I was proud of him and happy that he had tried something that I love. Well done David!
Back at the cabin, after dinner we watched as the sun set. I had planned on a sunset swim and in the end it became a mad dash to get to the water before the sun set behind the mountains. I think in the end, we managed it and got some lovely shots. It was another wonderful experience. I think our holiday at Loch Venachar will stay with me for a very long time.
After the sun set, we headed back to the cabin. I had another shower and we settled down for our last night in Scotland. What an amazing week it had been!
Have you visited Loch Lubnaig or Loch Earn? Did you see the Mirror Man?