An unusual and exciting or daring experience.
What do you do when you are presented with an opportunity to have an adventure? Do you take it or do you come up with a zillion reasons why you shouldn’t?
I’d like to think that I was the former.
I have been lucky enough over the years to be able to ‘seize the day’ and do things like jump on that plane to go and swim from Alcatraz, cycle from one end of the country to the other, explore Hawaii armed with just 5 dollars and a heap of optimism and lots more.
Lately, my ‘seizing of days’ are confined to weekends. I have a 9-5 job which I love but steals my time and lots of my energy. Family life and other responsibilities hold my wings back just that little bit more which make adventuring less spur of the moment.
Then, all of sudden, I was presented with a window. A few days that were technically free from the constraints listed above and necessitated a trip to the north of God’s country (Wales of course) with some flexibility as to the date of return ( a gap the size of 4 whole days).
A few days before my opportune ‘maybe adventure’ window I had purchased Bert. Bert was my starter campervan project and Bert in his current form meant that I had the opportunity to at least sleep off the floor, in relative comfort.
Bert and I set off for North Wales just a few hours after I waved the youngest off on her swimming training camp. I was off to volunteer at an open water swimming event and I had made tentative onward plans with a friend who was exploring the lake district.
When you live in South Wales, the lake district is somewhere that takes serious planning and rarely do I ever have a lake district size hole in my calendar. I live two hours drive from Pembrokeshire and three hours drive from Cornwall so the lakes and their 6-7 hour drive, lack appeal. A stop off in North Wales breaks that journey somewhat.
Volunteer stint complete in beautiful Bala, I headed off to find Bridget, my intrepid friend, who had already been in the lakes for over a week. I programmed the Sat Nav and set off singing at the top of my range to some classic 80’s numbers. What a time to be alive.
Fast forward 4 hours and my dizzy optimism about finding Bridget ‘somewhere in the lakes’ had fizzled out and I had pulled over to the side of the road whimpering in fear as my darling Bert’s Sat Nav had been on economy route setting and had joyfully taken me, a far from confident van driver, over Newlands Pass towards Buttermere. For the lakes novices, google it….it’s ruddy terrifying!
I feebly tried to phone Bridget to come and get me, only to find there wasn’t a phone signal to be had and I just had to well and truly summon a hefty dose of ‘woman up’.
One hour and lots of swearing later I arrived in Buttermere to find a cheery Bridget steering me in the comforting direction of the nearest pub. I had a large gin (medicinal) and we gleefully plotted our swim escapades like a pair of sixth formers from Mallory Towers.
Bridget is part of my swim tribe. Brought together by work, we have found a friendship to treasure and our mutual love of the outdoors has transformed into a mutual love of wild swimming. Bridget had been dipping and walking around the lakes and I listened intently to her tales of her exploring.
The following day we headed to Buttermere. A lake situated by a village that visiting Americans would call ‘quaint’. There, we had a swim that was up there as one of my favourite. Dramatic hills, moody skies, inky crystal clear water that wrapped us up in it’s delightful charms.
Swim done, we headed over the valley and over Honister pass this time (Less death defying than Newlands pass) and it wasn’t long before we pulled into the next campsite, parked our vans and poured over a map to find the next swim. Well Bridget did the pouring and I looked on approvingly (as I can’t map read for toffee).
An hour later we headed off to find Langstrath Beck. A beautiful place that offered a scenic walk and a dip in mineral water at the end. A dip that brought giggles and waterfall photo opportunities that every adventurer should experience. Two middle aged women became the teenagers they still are in their heads in the crystal clear waters.
Bridget and her map got us there although at one point I felt like an extra from Absolutely Fabulous as I lost sight of Bridget and realised that if I didn’t find her I would be practically marooned in this wonderful, craggy, glorious unforgiving countryside….note to self, brush up on map reading!
The following day loomed and we were to head off in different directions. Bridget to revisit Coniston lake, the scene of childhood holidays and me to the Peak District to hook up with gorgeous folk from the Social Media Swimming community. My love of aqua photography has lead to connections with people that I would never have met in my usual circles. Adventurous, generous people who showcase their swims through sharing their pictures which helped me plot the next stage of the adventure.
This mini adventure was partially inspired by one of them, Lindsay Cole, an adventurer who is currently on a UK swimming odyssey, swimming and cycling her way around making connections with like minded folk along the way. Her mantra ‘say yes more’ resonates….we all absolutely should.
The destination for the next phase of this adventure was inspired by another. A lovely lady called Joanna who showcased her local countryside and her love of the outdoors and life on a working farm through her glorious pictures. We connected via the photos and when I’d said I might be swinging by her neck of the woods she found a gap in her busy life to show me a couple of beautiful swim spots. It is that generosity, that warmth that makes me fall in love with the swimming community even more. How nice it is to share places that you love with like minded folk?
Joanna, and her partner Nick, showed me Monsal Head waterfall and we plunged into the beautiful waters together along with Grace, one of their friends, all of us agreeing that it was indeed a bit cold for this time of year and we headed from there to swim number two.
Swim number two was at the rather grand setting of Chatsworth House. A stately home that was nestled in picturesque grounds that were resplendent in the summer sunshine. We met Hetty and Danny, part of Jo, Nick and Grace’s swim tribe and we all wandered over to the River Derwent that weaved through the beautiful gardens of the house to find a spot that we could get in and swim.
The sun sparkled on the river and we cooed at the tiniest of startled ducklings that shot across our swim path. It was the type of swim that should be used to advertise wild swimming…..a heady assault on all of the senses that can only bring joy to all involved.
Post swim refreshments brought good strong coffee and the softest of scones accompanied by the easy company of kind folk who welcomed me into their swim tribe that day.
It wasn’t long before goodbyes were said and we all headed back to our day to day lives and my micro adventure was nearly over. I headed onto my homeward journey having learned a few things:
Never trust the economy setting on a Sat Nav.
Always trust a map wielding Bridget.
Some folk are phenomenally kind.
And last but not least…..say yes more….you never know what you might discover.