I was so sleepy when I woke up this morning (I was up until about 3.45am to watch the supermoon lunar eclipse) that I nearly stayed in and had a rest day. But the sun was shining so brightly outside my window and the thought that we may not get many more sunny days this year was tugging at me… so I got out my maps…
Hannah and I set off over Hartside, windows down and music on and had to stop at the top to take pictures of the view over to the Lakes. I’ve rarely seen it so clear, it was stunning. It’s a pretty long drive over to Little Langdale but it was totally worth it. It was wonderfully warm as we walked down the little path towards the tarn and a resolution started to form in my mind. I had my wetsuit with me but it was so sunny and warm… Little Langdale Tarn isn’t huge by any means but it’s biggish for a tarn. I knew the water would be cold but there’s something about swimming without a wetsuit – it feels different, you’re more a part of the water, more connected to it.
It’s only a short walk to the tarn but as we got close we realised that there’s a fence across the field blocking our way. The only way to get to the tarn was along the beck that runs away from it. So we left out things a little way from the bank behind a hillock, Hannah put on her wetsuit and I stripped to my bikini and we gingerly stepped into the water. The beck runs into a small pool where we got in, so it was pretty deep pretty quickly and I have to confess I was tempted to go back for my wetsuit. But having made the decision to go in without it I didn’t want to turn back now. Once we got out of the pool the beck was shallower, alternating between a firm, gravelly bed and a treacherous silty bed that our feet would suddenly sink into, causing us to unexpectedly find ourselves waist-deep in what had looked like a foot-deep section of water. Hannah was a little surprised by this unstable floor but by now I’m so used to walking through water where the floor falls away unexpectedly that I was just grateful that the smell was minimal! It took us about 15 minutes to get to the tarn even though it wasn’t far, but it was great when we got there. The reeds growing in the beck, although they weren’t very thick, managed to more or less hide the tarn until we were right in it. Although I lived in Great Langdale for a year, this was the first time I’d been right up to this tarn – and it’s very beautiful. The first few minutes were very shallow and we mixed wading and crocodile crawling. There’s a big area of weeds at this end of the tarn, and the water got deeper as we went through them. By the time we were past them I was swimming properly – and oh, it was cold! By this point my lower half was well used to the temperature, but my top half, especially my arms felt the biting pain of the cold, deep water. It was breath-taking, searing cold. But the fact that I’d made the decision to come in without my wetsuit made me plough on and I knew from experience that I would get used to it in time. And, of course, I did. By the time we got to the far side I was well acclimatised and it felt good to get into the shallower, warmer water. We stayed on the far side for a while, Hannah playing with my underwater camera and me enjoying the comparative warmth of the shallows. Even so, I started to feel cold and we set off back across the tarn. As we got to the near side I was really starting to feel the cold and was very aware that my core temperature was dropping. We stopped to get the traditional underwater selfie and then headed back into the beck. It only took us about 5 minutes to get back to the bags, although Hannah took a little longer than me as she found a heavily-laden blackberry bramble at the edge of the stream and stopped for a quick snack. But I really couldn’t stop – I could feel just how cold I had got and knew that I needed to get out of the water and get dry and warm as fast as possible. I had completely lost all dexterity in my fingers and Hannah had to take my wet-boots off for me! It felt so good to get dry and dressed – I had my down jacket with me and was very grateful for it and my woolly hat. The sun had gone in by now and although the day was still warm there wasn’t the blazing sunshine of earlier. We hurried back along the path, thinking of hot drinks in the pub near where we’d parked the car, but got distracted many times along the way by the hundreds of big, ripe blackberries at the side of the track. We gathered lots to be infused into gin at a later date and ate lots more.
We finished the day with tea and hot chocolate in the pub and then a beautiful drive home via Great Langdale and Grasmere, with stunning views once again as we came over Hartside.