#71: Elterwater

This morning I woke up to a grey sky and the ground wet from a night of drizzle. But the weather forecast promised that it would brighten up so I put my faith in that and late in the morning I set off for Elterwater. I’d arranged to meet Mike in the car park and we set off down the riverside path, chattering away. We were trying to work out when we’d last seen each other and it might’ve been when we did Bowscale Tarn together in September 2016 – so we had a lot to catch up on! The walk was wonderful, past fields of springy little lambs and then into the woods, the sunlight dappling through the trees onto a carpet of bluebells and flowering wild garlic.

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When we came to the far end of the lake where it meets the path we sat in the sun talking for a long time, hearing each others’ news and enjoying the view over the lake. We could see a swan nesting on the far bank so I made a mental note to keep well out of its way.

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Eventually I could put it off no more – time to get into the water. The sun was moving in and out from behind the clouds and I wanted to wait for a sunny moment but of course by this time it was behind a very big cloud so I plucked up my courage and started to inch my way into the water. It was much colder than yesterday and it took me a very long time to get in. As well as the cold, I had to contend with awkward, slippy rocks – big enough to trap your toes between but small enough to be painful on the feet, the worst size! I spent a very long time stood  hip-deep in the water trying to persuade myself to start swimming.

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The water had stayed pretty shallow for a long way out but when I did finally start swimming I encountered another problem – the lake bed suddenly rose to a thick silt bed with only about a foot of water above it. The silt was far too thick to walk on – I tried to stand on it at one point and sank in up to my hips – but desperately hard to swim over in such shallow water. I couldn’t crocodile crawl because I had my camera in my hand and although it’s waterproof and ‘tough’ I still didn’t fancy repeatedly burying it in thick silt. So I just had to do a rather ungainly breast stroke, my feet constantly splashing out of the water and weeds slithering over my skin. Eventually it dropped away and I could swim freely which was a huge relief. I swam towards a gap leading to another section of the lake but the water started to get shallow again and it was a bit close to the swan’s nest so I just did a circle instead.

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As got to about the 180 degree mark on my circle the water suddenly became a lot colder. I’ve felt differences in temperature in the water before but I don’t remember ever experiencing one so sudden and so extreme. I can only assume that this was because of a current where the river is running through the lake – whatever the explanation it certainly made me feel chilly! As I got back towards the shore I quickly dunked under the water to take my underwater selfie before I hit the silt shelf again and finished the swim with another ungainly thrash through ridiculously shallow water.

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I slid as far over the rocks as I could on my belly, not wanting to walk over more of them than was necessary. As I clambered out Mike said ‘That was good timing’ and pointed behind me – the swan had left its nest and followed me across the lake! It had apparently been slowly gaining on me but luckily I got the shore before it caught up with me. I’m not sure if it really was trying to chase me away from its nest (which I really did stay a very long way from) but I was glad to be out of the water before it got close! It came right out onto the shore and fluffed its feathers for a while, hissing at a nearby dog before sliding back into the water and floating serenely away.

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It turns out the path along the side of Elterwater is a pretty busy place on a sunny day and as the only place you can get right next to the lake my starting and finishing point was a popular spot. While Mike took some photos of the swan I fought the familiar battle with wet swimming things and cold hands, my towel draped precariously around me while two couples chatted happily to me about swans and swims.

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I finally managed to get on all my dry clothes and shivered my way back through the woods, past the adorable lambs and back to the car, still chattering away to Mike. We drove in convoy down to Chester’s and sat in the sunshine eating and drinking and revelling in being in the Lakes!


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