Welcome to Waterblogged

Welcome to our Blog. The majority of the content is about our outdoor swimming activities; with other comments, thoughts and pictures along the way. See our website http://community.lincolnshire.gov.uk/blueskyswimming/

and our videos on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/Nicola8259


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Full Story

And we’re off....after a light supper of pasta bake with salad and crusty bread, and cherry pie with cream we set off up north for the long trip from the Midlands to the Highlands. Like all good women, we launch into a deep and meaningful conversation about our lives and dreams; by the time we draw our first breath and take a look at the trip meter we’ve already clocked the first 100 miles, ta da!

The journey through the night goes spectacularly well; thanks to Steve for the sensible suggestion and persuading me away from my stupid idea to set off at 4am in order to hit the Glasgow commute rush hour perfectly! Instead, we cross an empty Glasgow at 4am and make our first stop at the friendliest petrol station north of Erskine Bridge. Two lovely Scotsmen obliged us tourists with a quick lesson in rolling our r’s ...as in Loch Morrrrrrarrrrrr

However, we are perturbed to read in The Scottish Sun the shocking story of industrial unrest shaking Scotland ... imagine the horror if the nation’s supply of Tunnocks teacakes were to falter...

So, marching onwards in our supercharged Ford Focus hire car (thanks again to lovely Lisa and delightful Debbie at Northgate Vehicle Hire http://www.northgateonline.co.uk/ for their support and sponsorship) we arrive in Glencoe at 6am and opt for a quick snooze in the car before dawn breaks.

I have an ulterior motive for suggesting the rest up and sneakily pull into a side road off Glencoe. I’m trying to look innocent and unbothered whilst knowing that this is the start of Glen Etive where I hope to get in a breakfast plunge to start the day in style. Sure enough, despite all my moaning about not being able to sleep in a car we’re soon snug under the duvet and snoozing away happily for a good couple of hours. We wake up to breathtaking scenery of the mountains surrounding us and the Etive thundering past us in the valley below. After scoffing the Danish pastry stocks we set off for a bracing dawn walk down the Glen to stretch our muscles and fill our lungs with Highland oxygen.

Sharn & I both get our way – I get a river dip, she drags me off for a good walk....the scenery is stunning and the Glen incredibly peaceful; a perfect start to our adventures.

After this break we’re reenergised to complete the first leg and head off to reach Morar at midday. As we get our first sighting of the loch I’m inspired by the great Rabbie Burns to utter a few lines of my own which quickly become one of the trip catchphrases ....”S**t, it’s ****ing massive!!!”...I can always be relied upon for an eloquent and refined bon mot to suit the occasion.

I get a bit overexcited too when we arrive in the village and see those famous white sands that I’ve dreamed of for so long. After chatting to the only two locals we can find – lovely girls in the petrol station – we head off to the recommended swim spot on the loch.

First close up of the loch is pretty daunting – it IS massive, and there are pretty big waves sweeping across the western end. However, we press on undaunted to the end of the track, distracted but not diverted by the lure of a sign advertising JAM and RUGS. We procrastinate badly with a visit to the Craft Shop (great Loch Morar mugs) and tea brewing rituals but the time comes when there is nothing for it but to face the swim.

The shingle beach is beautiful, the sun shining a little through the clouds, the water is clear and calling to us ... so, not TOO bad and distinctly do-able. Sharn shows her true mettle by joining in the Blue Sky Swimming manifesto and dons her cozzie for first cold water without wetsuit – BRILLIANT! Thanks to the lovely couple who took all the crucial evidence pictures for us.

Water temperature came in at 12c; better than I’d dreaded but still pretty breath taking! We have a really good pootle around in the crystal clear cold waves, feeling amazing and loving the sensation of swimming in such a remote, stunning loch. Usual trouble of course is the getting out part; very reluctant to leave the water, but we have the perfect post swim cuppa and warm up walk to look forward to....

We even stop talking for a while at one point as we feel so peaceful and blissed out by the water, air and peacefulness of the loch. Or is it just that we had run out of energy to even speak?!

Day One ends at the slightly strange Morar Hotel – fantastic location, lovely front of house staff, little bit uncomfortable dining room experience and ok food, kind of poky room where you keep tripping over yourself....but, AMAZING views across the bay and those stunning silver sands.

Day Two dawns on a more soggy note, but at this stage we’re upbeat and undaunted by a drop of rain or two. It’s now that we start to realise just how far we have to travel and how long it will take to get to Wastwater. Travel anxiety starts to set in a little but I am ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED (ie bossy and stroppy as hell) that we will get down to the beach and get in for a sea swim. I’ve dreamed of just that for 20 years after first seeing Local Hero – one of my favourite all time films http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u14-eIaFoLg&feature=related

Luckily Sharn is relaxed and easy going (or she is scared by the manic look in my eye?!) and so we head off to “look” at the beach. By now, we’re quite nicely attuned to the concept of water “speaking to us” and sure enough, I can hear the calling loud and clear. So we pull into a caravan park with a derelict cottage in torrential rain in order to get into our cozzies, get soaked in the rain in the walk across the beach, get into 12c sea for a swim, then try to get dry and dressed in the car – Why exactly? The pictures tell their story; this was a fabulous experience, a sensationally beautiful spot, tropically white sands and clear water if not temperatures.

8 hours later, when we’re trying to recover from the horror of Wastwater and camp pods, we’re doubly pleased of making the effort to enjoy this extra swim as it turns out to be by far the high point of the day....

So off we trek, retracing our steps with sadness to leave the bonny bonny banks of Loch Morar and the beauty of God’s own country. On the map, I’m encouraged to think the trip will be scenic and enjoyable, but we’re soon deep into Withnail & I territory – another of my favourite films, but not an inspiration to visit the sodden bleak fells spending miles trailing behind a succession of beat up old tractors - even the sheep look miserable.

So we hit The Lakes around mid afternoon in apocalyptic weather; pretty much dark by 3pm. Sharn comes over all determined (and downright bossy!), stops the car at a particularly unappealing spot and declares that we're doing the swim there and then. I actually feel phsyically sick at this point, a fen girl overcome by mountain claustrophobia and slate induced gloom. The sky is black, the ground is black, the scree slope filling our vision is black, the water is black, the car is black, my mood is black...you get the picture.

Sharn cleverly points out two wetsuited men swimming in the Lake and successfully appeals to my sense of competiton - a chance to show how tough we are in our cozzies, no wetsuits for Blue Sky Swimming girls! So were in, 13 degrees and deeply horrible, no sense of joy coming from this one sadly. Thanks again to the lovely (honeymooning?) couple who obliged the mad idiots by taking photos for us, and sorry for spoiling your peaceful afternoon!

So we're back on to attempting to get dried with wet towels in the rain...why did I think it was a good idea to wear jeans? Hot tea and giant Toblerone (thanks Sue x) lifted the mood a little but the dreaded campsite was figuring strongly in my mind. Sharn could not be persauded to waver from "the adventure" of camping so I grumpily tagged along to find our luxury camping pod.

Camping pods must look very picturesque on a sunny spring day with lambs gambolling ouside but the reality on a torrential dark evening in September was that we were going to sleep in a glorified shed for the night - with no torch, surrounded by mud, with NO WINE!!! What idiot arranged this trip? But hey, campers are a friendly bunch! Within half an hour our lovely Australian pod neighbours Matt & Sarah had furnished us with a torch, and two friendly fishermen had gone off to the shop for wine - now why didn't we think to let them know how to find us again?! Hey ho, turns out you can't beat jasmine tea when you're holed up in a mouldy insect infested shed for the night. I spend the first half of the night texting anyone I can think of to come and rescue me and the second half snoring loudly apparently - sorry Sharn!

Suffice to say, we're both pretty grumpy by the time a very wet dawn gradually emerges on Day 3. We're packed and in the car as quickly as we can manage and heading off away from the unlovely Lakes.

As ever, an opportunity to eat cheers us up no end as we tuck into the best ever poached eggs on toast at the Bridge Cafe somewhere on the road out of the Lakes. Is it wrong to be so happy to be leaving one of our country's most popular tourist areas?

Hours and several inches of rain later we arrive at the end of the rainbow - lovely Llandudno. Our legs are ready for a stretch, our lungs are ready for some seaside ozone, it seems to be clearing a little...so we pack the bag and head off into the next rainstorm for a walk around the Great Orme. First contact with Welsh locals is fisherman chap cycling past with a great big fish hanging off his handlebars - "are there any good swim spots along this coast?" I casually enquire. Turns out yes there is - a slippery rocky descent down the cliffs to a tempting looking plunge and swim spot. I'm VERY keen but Sharn adopts the sensible approach and dissuades me ... she IS determined to get me hiking up a hill!

Refreshed and refuelled with Chocolate Brownie (Sharn), Cherry & Amaretto ice cream (me) we set off on last leg of the day to Snowdonia. As our route takes us past one possible access route to our third target lake we decide to "have a look".

The map shows a road leading close to Llyn Cowlyd from Trefriw but if we knew how steep and hairpinny it was I doubt we would have attempted it. Anyhow we set off in blissful ignorance and in 1st gear up the track, Sharn assumes the skills of a top rally driver and somehow manages to haul the car up the hill. I contribute by digging my fingernails into my door handle and opening the livestock gates - very risky activity for a woman who is liable to fall inside a cattle grid (still got the scars from that one!)

Eventually, the track peters out, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The pipeline leading from the reservoir makes an ominous landmark for us to follow along the sheep track. It's still pouring with rain at this point and most of our clothes are already soggy and gently mouldering in the car. We head off towards the scary dam gradually filling our field of vision as we get closer to the hidden lake. Then it's just a short climb past all the warning signs to the lake shore and relief that the water is actually calling ... a little. Well, we here now, and very unmotivated to repeat the trip again tomorrow so it's strip off in the rain and leg it into the water. Sadly, my feet are so pathetic and my balance so poor I have to put wellies back on to get down to the water. Now there's a glam sight - skinny dipping with wellies - tres Lincolnshire! Once in, it's a great swim - big smiles on our faces and an amazing sense of achievement. Temperature comes in at 14 degrees according to my very scientific £2.50 fridge thermometer.

It's a pretty long walk back to the car in damp jeans but we set a good pace, encouraged by the lure of the Pen y Gwryd Hotel for the night. Arriving at 7pm, I'm instantly in love with the place - all open fires, cosy rooms, hot baths and total lack of pretension. The staff are instantly likeable, friendly and incredibly helpful - the sense of wellbeing was growing by the minute. Lovely George rustles us a up a truly fab meal, exactly what we need with a couple of glasses of wine - yum!

One of my main reasons for choosing this excellent hotel was the promise of the natural swimming pond - it certainly didn't disappoint! George was a true star, turning on the poolside sauna and making me a cup of coffee while I nipped out into the rain (oh yes!) for a pre brekkie dip. The pool is truly AMAZING, and gave me one of my biggest highlights of the trip - a cold clear pool fed by a mountain stream - I was in heaven, couldn't drag myself out, jumped back in for second go...I would recommend this as reason alone for staying at this jewel of a hotel http://www.pyg.co.uk/

So, the 3 Pools conquered, we contemplate a spare day in Snowdonia. Sharn's attempts to persuade me to climb Snowdon had persistently fallen on stony ground and even she had to admit defeat when the rain closed in again. So, what do all good women do in these circumstances? Of course, Shop! Trip to Betws-y-Coed for us to treat ourselves to jewellery and to complete the 3 regional cake box - Scottish Snowballs, Kendal Mint Cake, Bara Brith.

After this interlude, we finally got around to setting off for a last day little walk. Started at 2pm, looked a breeze, had a lovely picnic and swim at Llyn Crafnant, got horribly lost on peat bog mountain top, half an hour from scrambling mountain rescue, finally made it back by 7pm just as light was fading and knees seizing up...but, as Hammy Hamster would say in Tales of the Riverbank, that's another story.....

No comments: