It was not warm in Derwentwater: not yet ‘Baltic’, but well into ‘quite nippy’. It was past sunset and Emma stood in the inky waters in bare feet on uncomfortable slippy rocks; she also had a dodgy shoulder and she was not in fact – not yet – a cold water swimmer.
She had got this far, she was already half wet and all cold. Getting out at this point was going to look like defeat, but she was going to need some persuasion.
So she gave herself a stern talking to. Strong words were delivered and after some minutes of entertaining expletives, she did as she told herself.
She got in.
…and she loved it. Briefly.
And two days later she did it again, with noticeably less swearing.
Emma’s first swim in Derwentwater – digital drawing by Nancy Farmer
It was not winter, but a cold reluctant spring and feisty April weather (I have been slow to draw this one). We splooshed about in a 6 degree Crummock Water whipped up to resemble the sea, all questions of ‘do we actually want to get in there’ vanishing with the chilly water’s embrace.
Later, changing in the drizzle from cozzies into only marginally drier clothes, a dog-walker arrived at the gravely beach. As the small dog leapt about in the water yipping with delight and silliness, it’s owner sighed and told us “she goes in, even in the winter”, as if there was no explaining the antics of some creatures.
“So do we”, we declared happily.
Swimming with Jackie in Crummock Water, Cumbria, April 2018
The first leaves began to fall, it seems like only yesterday. It was a few weeks ago in fact when I drew this one but it somehow got forgotten. I swam in Ullswater with Francine, Derwent water with Jackie. This is the drawing that was inspired by both those swims, though the scene is my memory of the Ullswater swim: there was no denying the leaves really had begun to fall, so had the temperature. We had brought warm clothes, but there was no real hurry to get into them: still time for faffing, still capable of holding a conversation and stringing words into sentences. But winter is coming…
The leaves had begun to fall, and so had the temperature.
A quick impromptu dip, in – ahem – just my bra and pants. Getting into the habit of putting a cossie and goggles in my rucksack might be sensible, but I have got this getting into rocky lakes thing down to a fine art now. With the really rocky ones it’s a sort of hands-feet-bottom shuffle. Classy.
Amidst intermittent torrential showers Mother and I braved Ullswater’s choppy waters. Last time I was here, the water was a bracing 7 degrees, this time it was nearly 16. But Mother (age 71 and eleven twelfths), is not an outdoor swimmer and still showed the lake what she was made of. I am probably a bad influence…
On Saturday we swam the five and a quarter mile length of Coniston, me and about 700 others. The drizzle was brightened by a procession of pink and orange tow-floats.
My second time at this fantastic event, but my first without a wetsuit, and despite the rain I had a fair view, randomly choosing to swim the majority of it breaststroke having trained front crawl all summer.
It kept me warm. A girl can change her mind.
So for the record: 3 hours 14 minutes, 20 minutes slower than last year, but most of that is the lack of a wetsuit. Wetsuits go faster, but they’re not as much fun, not when one has a cossie with ‘some like it cold’ printed on the bum.
This is near the start, on the way towards Peel Island, or Wildcat Island for fans of Swallows and Amazons.
I’ve walked to the top of Helvellyn an uncounted number of times over the last 30… 35… years, but I’ve never swum in Red Tarn, although I’ve often wanted to. I am usually with people who tell me this would be ridiculous, or it is freezing, or I do not fancy walking home in soaking wet pants, or I have taken other ways up to the peak which have afforded a bird’s-eye-view, but do not take me actually past this tarn, one of the highest in England, Google tells me.
This time I came prepared, not only with costume but shoes to swim in (so as to avoid this sort of scene). But it is one thing to want to leap into the clear, cold, deep and gloomy-blue waters of the tarn; and quite another thing to actually be there, staring into her inky depths.
I did one loop of the edge and it was a glorious cool kilometre or so, but I wouldn’t cross the middle, not on my own. I never did discover why she is called Red…