#68: Skeggles Water

Today started off very similarly to yesterday – driving rain and heavy grey skies with the addition of a healthy wind. But the forecast said that it would brighten up in the afternoon, so we put our faith in that and drove up Longsleddale all the way to Sadgill at the end. It’s a long and winding road up the valley but the views all around are beautiful. We stopped by a church and used the public toilets – the only toilet I have ever used which has its own visitors book.

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We parked at Sadgill and set off over the bridge and up the track towards the tarn. By now the rain had stopped and we had every hope that the clouds would lift and be blown away by the wind. And sure enough, soon after we started walking the sky began to clear and the sun just about managed to poke through in a few places, lighting up bright patches of the fells around us. The views down the valley as we climbed were stunning and we were struck again by the colours on the fellsides.

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The higher we climbed, the higher rose the cloud and the more the sun started to break through. We ended up on a sort of undulating plateau covered in long grass, blowing gently in the wind. It felt very unusual for the Lakes, where I’m more used to short corse grass or bracken and heather.

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After a while we spotted the tarn, peeping out from behind a rise in the ground. We went through a gate and made our way down a field towards the water. Although there was a track marked on the map we missed it and had to battle our way through marshy, reedy ground until eventually we spotted the track a little way off and managed to get across to it, after which the walk became much easier.

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Skeggles Water is a beautiful little tarn, sitting quietly in the midst of the rippling grassland. Most of the edge closest to us looked pretty reedy, always a sign of sludgey marsheyness so we went around to the side where it looked a bit more rocky.

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The sun did come out properly while we were getting changed which was lovely but it slid behind a cloud again just as we were about to get into the water and the wind was definitely making itself known. Where we had chosen to get into the water there were big, slippery stones at the edge which made getting in slowly and gracefully very hard work. Deb went straight for it but I had to do my usual acclimatisation ritual of standing waist deep in the water wondering why I was doing this.

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But, of course, once I started swimming it felt fantastic. The water was 13 degrees C and did feel very cold, but as always I did get used to it once I was swimming. Deb swam with me for a little way and then turned back and I swam on alone.

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It really was so beautiful there. As I swam I watched a patch of sun slowly creep across the fellside towards the tarn but it never quite reached the water. As I neared the far side a group of ducks flew up from the water and started circling the tarn. I went far enough that I could stand at the far side and then turned around and headed back. Just as I turned around the sun broke through the clouds, just for a minute and warmed my back. It was so quiet, so peaceful, out there in the middle of the tarn on my own, a group of ponies on the skyline and a few ducks circling overhead with a rustling of wings.

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I’d set off with the wind in my face, so now I’d turned around I had it at my back. This meant that the waves were overtaking me from behind which had the strange effect of making it feel like I wasn’t moving at all despite swimming fairly hard. I had to look at the promontory to my right to gauge the fact that I was moving at all.

As I got close to the shore once again Deb threw the camera out to me so that I could take my underwater selfie. I took a few more moments to take in the wonderful surroundings before clambering out over the slimy rocks and scrambling back into my  dry clothes.

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We knew where the track was now, so the walk back up the field was much easier than the walk down. As we walked back across the grasslands and Longsleddale came back into view the sun finally won the battle with the clouds and shone down on the stunning landscape. The clouds were well above the summits by now and we could see right the way to the end of the valley where it rises into the fells.

Back at the car Deb got out a flask of fruity tea and two mugs and we sat on a bench looking along the river and enjoyed a well deserved cup of tea.

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Deb’s story: I didn’t know there were wild ponies here, so when we saw them on the horizon, just as we were getting into the water, it was a lovely surprise, adding to the romantic beauty of it all. The water was so dark and cold but it was wonderful to swim in it. You have to overcome the paradox that although it is painful to get into the water it makes you feel like a new person once you get used to it. Having to walk to and from the swim in the most beautiful landscape also makes you feel great. Thank you for the experience Forest, I wish I could do this every day.


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