#41 & #42: Coniston Water & Wharton Tarn

Another rainy, grey day today. I had arranged to meet Dawn on the shore of Coniston and set off from Eskdale, back over Hardknott and Wrynose with rather less impressive views than on Friday night! We’d arranged to meet in a layby that Dawn had suggested so I didn’t know exactly where it was and was hoping it would be obvious once I got there. I’d passed a couple of laybys and was wondering if it was one of them when I saw Dawn drive past me in the opposite direction. So, deciding it must be one I’d already gone past I turned around at the first opportunity and headed back up the road the way I’d come… only to see Dawn drive past me for a second time, now headed in the opposite direction. I turned around again, wondering how long this could go on for but luckily this time Dawn had stopped and we managed to meet. We looked out over the flat, grey surface of the lake and tried to be enthusiastic. To be fair, it was amazingly quiet. The lake was completely still, with not a breath of wind and when a family momentarily stopped on the far bank I could hear them talking even from such a long way away. We talked about the possibility of going in without wetsuits and even went down to the water to see how warm it was. It did seem pretty warm at the edge, but we decided that it might be rather colder where the water was more than an inch deep and went back to the cars to put on our wetsuits. By the time we were ready to get in, the mist had come down low over the water and it all felt slightly eerie. Coniston is 0.3 miles across where we swam and the swim over was pretty easy and it was quite nice swimming in such calm water with the gentle patter of the rain hitting the water around us. We swam over to a little beach at Low Peel Near and had a few minutes rest before setting off back to where we’d started. The swim back seemed harder for some reason – there may have been a bit of a current and the wind, which had picked up a little was in our faces. As we came back across the mist had lifted a little and we could see more of the fells around us. It was a good swim but somehow it all felt very subdued, a reflection of the weather I think. All so quiet, surrounded by mist. But there was something nice about the tranquillity and it was interesting to swim in an atmosphere different to anything I’ve swum in before.

In the afternoon I decided to stay close by and just do something little. The rain had really set in by now and hammered down all afternoon so I chose a tarn near to a road. Not far from Coniston, Wharton Tarn is in an undulating field just over the road from a Forestry Commission car park. Once again, I stripped to my bikini in the car and headed out covered only by my raincoat with my wetshoes on my feet and my towel shoved up the front of my jacket. It was only a couple of minutes walk to the tarn but once again I had to approach it by making my way across a marsh. Good job I’d put my wet shoes on. When I got to the edge of the water I took off my jacket, wrapped it round my towel and tried to balance it on a shrub to stop it falling into the marsh. As I stepped into the water I realised that the bed of the tarn, here at the edge seemed to be a sort of floating platform hovering a foot or so below the surface. As I stepped onto it my feet didn’t sink into the mud as they have done so many times before but the whole floor seemed to sink a few inches with every step I took. In one place there was a hole in this platform – about a foot across and looking very dark and ominous. I stayed away from it, trying not to think of tarn monsters. It was probably just a hole. Probably not the lair of some dark and dangerous creature, lurking ready to bite off the feet of anyone stupid enough to step into it’s tarn. Probably just a hole. Probably. I swam across the tarn and back again, enjoying the lilies that grew all around the edge and feeling better, as I always do, for the swim. Rain is miserable, but it becomes irrelevant when you’re in the water anyway – just a nice sound and pretty patterns on the water. Once I was out I quickly dried myself off and then wrapped the towel around myself and put my waterproof over the top – yet another glamorous look!

Only one more day of swimming now, tomorrow I head home and then I’m away for a few weeks. I just have to hope it stops raining for a while!

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