After a very inactive two days at work I was very keen to get a swim in yesterday. However, when I got to Glenridding, with the intention of going up to do Red Tarn, I realised that I’d forgotten my tow float. Red Tarn is high and cold and fairly big. I really didn’t want to risk it without the float. Time for plan B. I pulled out my map and started scouring it for possibilities. And there, not far from Bampton, I saw a smallish blue blob labelled ‘Littlewater Tarn’.
The original plan had been to meet up with some friends who were walking Helvellyn, but insufficient planning and lack of phone signal meant I couldn’t tell them about the new plan so I just set off on my own towards Pooley Bridge. However, once I got nearer the tarn I had a bit of phone signal and managed to get through to Tess. We agreed to meet in Pooley Bridge once she and Aaron had come down from Helvellyn, so I waited in the pub and had a cup of tea.
We decided to all go from Pooley Bridge in one car and drove down smaller and smaller roads until we pulled up at the side of a tiny windy lane not far from the tarn. Tess and I spent an interesting few minutes playing ‘get the swimming gear on in the car whilst retaining at least a small amount of dignity’ while Aaron stood outside in the drizzle and looked the other way.
Once were geared up (looking glamorous as ever) we set off down a track towards Littlewater Farm. The map showed a path leading from the farm to the tarn, but we couldn’t find a trace of it. It was all very quiet in the farmyard, with the wind rattling a shed door and a dead crow hanging in a barn doorway. After a few minutes of searching we decided to knock on the door of the farmhouse but there was no response. All was quiet and still. We decided to go around to the other side of the tarn and see if we could approach it from there via another farm but were met yet again by an eerily silent set of buildings with no reply when we knocked at the door. This was starting to get a bit weird. Where were all the people? Had the zombie apocalypse happened in the time it had taken us to drive from Pooley Bridge and we hadn’t noticed? Standing there in the drizzle in a deserted farm, surrounded only by silent buildings and the mournful baa-ing of sheep, wearing a swimming costume and a raincoat with a towel stuffed up it and carrying a rubber duck it all felt rather surreal.
Luckily the path was much easier to find from this side and we followed it into a field and got our first view of the tarn. We headed down and Tess and I wrapped our towels in our waterproofs and put them in a tree for safe keeping.
Aaron stayed on the bank as chief photographer and grinned contentedly as we squealed and shivered our way into the water. Just as we were about to get in there was a big splash a few feet away. Aaron said it was a fish. Tess said it was the monster that had eaten all the people from the farms. It could have been either.
It started off as a very nice entry point, stony and gently sloping into the water. This only lasted for a few feet however, after which it dropped off suddenly, almost immediately going from knee-deep to out of our depth. We both took a couple of minutes to psych ourselves up to go for and then set off across the tarn.
The water was 16 degrees according to Archibald and it didn’t feel too cold once we’d got used to it. We swam right across to the far side and then turned and swam back. Luckily we managed to avoid any encounters with terrifying monsters from the deep trying to eat us. As we got closer to the bank Aaron threw out the camera and we took a couple of pictures.
We swam back to the bank, the stones which had dropped away so suddenly on the way in suddenly making contact with our knees on the way back. We made a brief effort at drying ourselves and then, clad in variations on the waterproof and towel combo, headed back to the car.
But the story didn’t end there. While looking at Littlewater Tarn on the map we had spotted and tiny blue smudge called Rough Hill Tarn. It was not very far away and right next to the road so we set off in that direction. Aaron was navigating and after a short journey of even smaller roads than before he said ‘There it is, I saw it, there!’. I pulled up and there it was. Rough Hill Tarn. Ah. This again. Not so much as a delightful swim through lovely water as a muddy tramp through a slimy bog. I did tell Tess that she was more than welcome to join me in this one as well but for some reason she declined and took up a job as towel-holder-in-chief instead.
With a resigned sigh I made my way along the edge of the tarn to the far end, suddenly feeling the cold and then splashed my way back through a few inches of water, mud, reeds, weeds and unidentified green slime. I looked for expressions of jealousy on Tess and Aaron’s faces, but they were just laughing and looking very pleased with themselves in their warm, dry clothes.
The underwater selfie posed something of a challenge. There were very few places deep enough for me to put my face into the water and I’d just churned up huge quantities of mud in most of them. Eventually I chose a spot, tried not to look at the green slimy stuff and stuck my face in.
So, two very different tarns and another day which felt very successful. It was really nice to have Tess and Aaron with me, especially as they hadn’t done any with me before so I hope they’ll join me for many more! Maybe not the tiny boggy ones though….