Woohoo, I can swim again! If you saw my last post (or if you’ve heard me moaning for the last 3 months) you’ll know that so far this year I’ve been unable to swim because of a minor operation on my foot. But a few days ago I was given the all clear and yesterday I finally had the opportunity to get back into a tarn.
I wanted to go to the South Lakes, as I would be driving on to Derby when I’d finished, so I got out my maps and had a scout around. There are a few in the area I was looking at but in the end I decided to go for Boretree Tarn. Big enough for a proper swim, but small enough and low enough that it would probably be warmish (easing myself back in gently!) and not too far from the road.
I initially parked at Town End, not far from Newby Bridge, but it turned out that the path marked on the map from there is private, as pointed out to me by a rather posh man on a quad bike. He suggested I approach from High Dam or on another path further to the South. I got back in the car and drove round to the south and started up a very steep path through the woods. It was cloudy but very warm and muggy and I felt very hot and sticky as I climbed. When the path came out of the trees I found myself in thick bracken. It was so thick in places that the path was barely visible.
And there was another issue. On the map, the path simply ended a little way from the tarn. In reality it carried on, but the bracken was thick, the ground was uneven and there were trees dotted about – I couldn’t see any distance at all, and I had no idea where the path was going. It didn’t really seem to be going in the direction I thought it should be if I wanted to end up at the tarn. And then, hooray! Water! I could see the end of a tarn appearing ahead of me! And then… oh. Not hooray after all. This was more of a puddle than a tarn. Nowhere near big enough to be Boretree Tarn, but big enough to have taken over a section of path, which made me glad I was in sandals and not too bothered about getting wet.
After this, the path was definitely going in the wrong direction. I stopped and took stock. I had two choices. Keep going blindly along the path, which could be going anywhere or cut off through the bracken in the direction of the tarn. Neither was particularly appealing, but in the end I decided to cut off through the bracken. It was very high and I was very conscious that I could be covering myself with ticks, but I ploughed through as quickly as I could and hoped for the best. I came out on a high point covered with heather and bleaberry bushes. The trouble was, I still couldn’t see much at all. I tramped around for a bit in the direction I thought was right and scared myself with thoughts of snakes, ticks, angry badgers etc etc. At one point I startled a grouse and jumped about a foot in the air. After a while I started to feel disheartened. I was hot and tired, it was getting late, all was silent apart from the buzzing of flies and there was no sign of the tarn. I decided to go to a point just ahead of me and if I couldn’t see the tarn from there I would just give up and go back and try again another day. I scrambled to the point I’d nominated… and there it was. Water, shining through the trees. At last! My mood changed immediately and I happily headed down to the water’s edge. The shore was stoney and I sat for a few minutes just looking at the tarn.
Then, very excited about getting back into the water, I stripped to my swimming costume, blew up my tow float, tied my goggles to it in case I wanted them later, attached the little float to my camera, tied Archibald onto the tow float, took a moment to consider that I seem to be taking more and more stuff into the water with me and started to walk into the tarn.
But wait! I hear you cry… hang on a minute! Archibald? Who’s Archibald? Well, dear reader, I’ve been thinking for while that it would be good to know the temperature of the water I’m swimming in, but I haven’t been able to find a suitable thermometer. But recently someone mentioned baby bath thermometers to me, so I went online and… Archibald.
Archibald has a thermometer in his tummy and a digital temperature readout on his back. I hope he will be with me for all my swims from now on.
The water was lovely and warm, warmer than I’d expected (22 degrees according to Archibald) and I soon got in and started swimming. It felt so good to be doing it again. All the stress and irritation at not being able to find the tarn, the hot sticky feeling from walking uphill, everything was washed away in the first few seconds and I felt calm and happy and peaceful.
I swam over to the far side of the tarn and then back in a sort of circle. It felt great getting my head in the water, so nice that it was so warm. I stayed in for about 20 minutes, relishing the feeling of swimming in such a beautiful place once again.
When I got out I quickly got dressed again, but it was so warm that I didn’t need to put on a jumper – hooray for summer! I sat on the shore for a few more minutes and then started to head back.
I had a better idea of where I was going now and set off through some rather marshy ground towards where I thought the path was. I had, once again, to bash my way through lots of bracken and it was a great feeling to suddenly realise, as I came out into the heathery ground ‘Hey, I recognise this bit!’. The high point was beautiful, lots of flowering heather and bleaberry bushes (yum yum) and a great view across to the distant fells to the north west.
Finally I saw a wooden pole with the top painted white sticking up a little way off. The path! Unfortunately I had to go through head-high bracken to get to it, but I hurried through and made it back to the path.
Back through the pond encroaching on the path, over the mud which I’d sunk my foot into on the way up, through the ever-present bracken, down the steep woodland path and back to the car. A day of ups and downs (literally and metaphorically) but it felt so good to be swimming again and I was really glad I’d done it.
But… that’s not quite the end of the story. I got back in the car and headed off towards Derby. There were roadworks on the M6 and the traffic was stationary at some points. I was sat in a long queue and glanced down at my leg… and saw a tick. It was crawling along my trousers, so not too bad and I managed to get it out of the window onto the motorway, but that set me thinking. I looked down again. There was a tick in my leg, just above my knee. Damn. And a black smudge that wouldn’t move on my foot. I couldn’t do much about it sat in the car, but as soon as I got to Derby I borrowed my mum’s tick remover and set to work. I actually lost count of the number of ticks I removed from my legs and feet but I think it was 8 or 9. It took hours to find them and get them all out. In the diagrams on ‘how to remove ticks’ the ticks are always quite big and it looks really easy to get them out. But these were tiny, some of them less than 1mm across and very, very stubborn. Lesson of the day? Don’t bash your way through loads of bracken in short, loose trousers. It’s a really bad idea.