As we were staying in Coniston for an extra week we decided to try and turn ourselves into wild swimmers. Here how we got on…
One dip just in this beautiful water wasn’t enough, so realising that there was a water entry point a 5/10 minute walk from the cottage we were staying in, we put our wetsuits back on, refastened our tow floats and walked casually along the road in our flip flops. Our hope of doing this bizarre walk unnoticed fell flat on its face within seconds when a shout of “Amanda, Katie” was heard… Josie was staying in cottage by us and was starting her journey back to London. We said our goodbyes and off we ventured.
After Katie said goodbye to our flip flops (not sure who she expected to steal them) we waded into the water. Now hands up it was me (Manda) who thought this was a good entry point but there were several moments that I questioned this during and after.
More on this shortly..
Second point: #swangate
Upon entering the water there were 2 swans with signets making their way over to us. I was calm at this point as we were about to swim off in the other direction but THEN one decided to come after us. Faced with flashes of Outdoor Swimming Society posts describing broken arms after swan attacks, I screeched something in Katie’s direction and then proceeded to head down sprint away. After what seemed like a lifetime I stopped and glanced back to see the swan not moving but I am sure it was giving me evils and Katie had not swum away with any sense of urgency and was a good 50m behind.
We had a lovely 2 km swim in the rain and mist. Cautiously we made our way back to our entry point. Katie hoped that her flip flops were still there, I was more concerned that we didn’t have round 2 with the swans.
Now going back to first point. To get into the water we had to wade and swim through some weeds. This didn’t seem like an issue until the next morning we woke up with “swimmer’s itch” – millions of (well not literally) tiny bites all over our bodies . A week and a half later we are still suffering from the blighters.
After a chat with the owner of the Swim the Lakes shop in Ambleside, we had some good insider knowledge of the best approach to taking a dip in Buttermere. After over an hour’s drive, the last bit winding through the hills, we eventually arrived in at the Fish Inn in Buttermere, which is the best place to enter the lake for swimming purposes. We changed in the car park and then wandered down to the lake in our wetsuits with tow floats in hand.
The lake was as beautiful as promised. Our aim was to swim to the other side of the lake and back. The challenge was that we only had about an hour as Miles needed feeding again soon. After about half an hours swimming we still looked like we were miles from the other side and decided to turn back. Looking at the Garmin map afterwards it looks like we had made is about three quarters of the way over.
Buttermere was much colder than Coniston had been particularly in the middle as it is fed by a waterfall. On the way back my hands were so cold I had to swim fists. I don’t think either of us are destined to be channel swimmers!
We arrived back to quite a bit of interest from the locals. Apparently a group of ladies were quite concerned that we were swimming given we seemed to need flotation devices. We reassured them that we were competent swimmers and the tow floats were mainly for visibility!
Grasmere / Rydal Beck (Manda)
Fuelled by our wild swimming success, we decided to go for one last dip before heading back to London. The choice was between Coniston again, a waterfall near Rydal or Grasmere. I (Manda) researched in Facebook, wild swim and various other places and decided that now we were proper Wild Swimmers a small hike to a waterfall would be no problem for us. Rydal Beck we are coming for you.
Katie drove as far as she could up the hill that lead to the waterfall and then we proceeded to walk up. We had Google Maps so what could go wrong.. We reached a point where we were meant to turn off left and there was a path, however, it was covered in fern. I’m sure it was manageable but we decided to head back. Our wild swimming days were days were over!
Instead we headed to Grasmere and thanks to lakeswim 2016 Facebook page we knew where to park and where to start swimming from. Due to the time we had lost gallivanting around trying to find a waterfall we didn’t have much time to swim in Grasmere but the little time we did spend in there was bliss. We kept turning on our backs and floating around so we could admire the beautiful scenery. This is one we will defo be heading back to in the future.
Swimming in Lake District resources:
These are what we used in deciding where and how to swim:
Lake district national park swimming page: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/thingstodo/water/swimming
Explains what waters/lake you can and cannot swim in and additionally, which one have less boat traffic etc.
Swim the lakes: http://www.swimthelakes.co.uk/
The chap who runs this gave us excellent advice re where to enter the water at Buttermere. They have a brilliant shop in ambleside that caters to all your swimming needs. We are looking at doing one of their trips in 2017.
Swim secure: http://www.swimsecure.co.uk/
Tow floats for purchase. Note: you can also buy these from swim the lakes (see above)
Wild swim map: http://wildswim.com/
Search for swims and dip spots on this map.
Lakeswim 2016 facebook group: find on facebook
Lots of chat and resources (including excellent files that show entry points, where to park etc) on the waters.