Lots of stresses and strains have been going on behind the scenes recently, and wild swimming has been one of the few distractions.
Last week David and I had a day off mid week and so we planned a swim adventure. The tarn in question was Hayeswater, Hartsop, which had been a reservoir up until 2005. The dam was removed in 2014 and the tarn was returned to it’s natural state.
We parked at a free car park in Hartsop, but donated to the village school as a thank you. We followed the left hand stony path which ran steeply along Hayeswater Gill, before crossing a bridge and continuing the path on the right hand side. Further up we then crossed another bridge to the left hand side of the tarn. The walk took about one hour. At a shingle beach we made camp and I accessed the mild 16°C water which had an abundance of minnows darting about the shallows. The swim was peaceful and remote and we didn’t see any other people until I had climbed out of the water. David got Buzz up and managed to capture some wonderful scenery. It was indeed balm for a stressed out mind.
Have you walked in this area of Patterdale? What were your observations?
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Vertebrae Publishing regarding publicising a new swimming book that was being published. I thought about it and decided to agree. They sent me a copy of Calum Maclean‘s book, 1001 Outdoor Swimming Tips.
After a week or so of planning, David and I headed towards North Wales to Llyn Cwmorthin a slate quarry we had previously visited in 2016. I had already sketched a rough plan of the video, we just needed lots of footage. The day was a mix of sunny spells and gusts. It remained dry and we got some great footage of the old quarry buildings and of the 14°C swim. The location was very busy with walkers and tours of the mines below. The swim wasn’t very secluded and there was a mean current that made swimming difficult. I was in the water for around 15 minutes and was tired after I got out.
Cwmorthin Slate Quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog (slate capital of the world), was established in the early 1800’s, and was in operation until the late 1990’s, changing ownership on several occasions. Visiting today it’s like stepping back in time. A walk around the old ruins of terraced houses and chapels, feels like walking alongside ghosts. Indeed, during the late Victorian era, poor working conditions gave rise to the name locally as The Slaughterhouse due to 20+ deaths during a 20 year period. Once Cwmorthin was connected to Oakeley Quarry it became part of the largest slate mine in the world. 90,000+ tons of slate left the quarry between 1861 and 1876. The area today is marked with the signs of slate industry, huge scree mountains of broken slate dominates the land.
June was and will always be all about The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, an annual challenge, asking participants to do something nature based each day for 30 days. Though I may not have blogged every day this year (I’ve been feeling too jaded for that – and there’s lots going on behind the scenes here too), I managed to post daily on Instagram. Here’s a small recap of some of the wild things that I’ve been doing this June.
I’ve Visited Brockholes and Lunt Meadows, Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Reserves, wild swam in Brothers Water, the Lake District. Spotted Wild flowers while on a walk to work. Gave a bumblebee sugar water for energy, watched lovely sunsets. Enjoyed a trip to the beach and discovered apples growing on my apple tree.
Have you spotted any wildlife where you live? What have been your highlights?
For the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, David and I managed to take a day out to the Lake District. I decided to revisit Brothers Water, the last time I was there was in 2017, and I was rather tired during my swim there after a mammoth five hour hike earlier that day. So, this time I planned on a more leisurely visit.
We managed to dodge the bank holiday crowds but not for long. We arrived at Cow Bridge car park at 9am and already the area was filling up with cars and people. We luckily got a parking space and took a slow meandering walk along the shore of Brothers Water while listening to birds singing in the nearby woods. We only saw a handful of people during our walk. Luckily we didn’t have many spectators when I headed into the water either.
We spent about 2 hours at Brothers Water. The temperature was 12 degrees and I swam for about 20 minutes, while David took Buzz (drone) into the air for an extended fly. There were a few fish about but not many. We made camp on a small spit of land further up from my 2017 swim location and it was a far superior experience. Water access was a suggestion I found in Suzanna Cruickshank’s Swimming Wild in the Lake District.
Have you visited this small lake? Let me know your thoughts.
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?