#72: Dockey Tarn


One of the great things about staying in youth hostels is that you tend to meet lots of nice people. I’ve been staying in Hawkshead hostel for the past couple of nights and got chatting to a very nice woman from Copenhagen called Mette. She has discovered a love of the Lakes and is spending a few days here walking. I told her about my swimming and she said she had been told by some friends that people never swam in the lakes in the Lake District – well I couldn’t have that! I invited her to come along with Dawn and me today for a walk and a lesson in swimming the lakes…

We met Dawn and her dog Roux in Rydal and set off up the side of Heron Pike. The sun was drifting in and out of the clouds but we soon got pretty warm walking uphill. It was a beautiful walk, we could soon see for miles across the fells and the lakes and we enjoyed taking it all in. Roux ran around us, sniffing at everything and then disappeared for a few minutes. She came back looking happy but smelling terrible – she’d obviously found something very smelly to have a roll around in.


I knew that Dockey Tarn is a little way off the path so when I knew it should be coming up somewhere on our left soon we started looking out. I soon saw a small,  dried up pool bed and thought that must be it, knowing how small Dockey Tarn is and that it can dry up. But then, a little way behind it, I saw another body of water and decided that must be it. Although there was no path marked on the map there was one heading down and I thought with surprise that the tarn must be bigger than I had expected. We walked quite a long way down and just as we reached it I suddenly realised why it was further away and bigger than I had expected. I wasn’t Dockey Tarn at all, it was Alcock Tarn. I’d been right the first time, that dried up circle of rocks was what we were after. There was only one thing for it. We sat down and ate our lunch.


After lunch we set off back the way we’d come, regaining all the height we’d unnecessarily lost. We spotted Dockey Tarn again and bashed across to it. There was not a drop of water to be seen. The recent dry weather has obviously completely dried it out so it is currently just a collection of rocks covered with dried out weed, gently crackling as the sun removed any final remnants of damp. I walked to the middle and sat on a rock while Dawn took a picture of me. She handed me the camera and I took a selfie – sitting down was the closest I could come to ‘underwater’. Then, determined to do the thing properly, I stood up and walked to the other side and then back, all of which must have taken approximately six seconds. Not to be left out, Mette then walked out to the middle and stood there for a moment, making the most of her introduction to tarn swimming.


Refreshed and invigorated after our dry swim we set off uphill again to re-find the path and made our way to the top of Heron Crag. We sat on the summit and gazed around at the wonderful views.


According to the map, there is a path directly off the summit of Heron Crag down towards Grasmere. According to the ground in front of us there was no such path. We wandered down and walked along the line of roughly where we thought the path should be until we spied Alcock Tarn below us and headed over to it for the second time today.


From there we followed the path down to Grasmere and on to White Moss. There was no way we were going to let a lovely day like today go by without the swim we’d all come ready for, so we walked through lovely bluebell woods to Rydal Water. The sun came out just as we were inching our way into the water and stayed out the whole time we were swimming. Roux didn’t know what to make of the whole thing and despite one quick swim out to Dawn to make sure she was ok, she mostly stayed on the bank running up and down and making it clear she thought we were all mad. But despite Roux’s scepticism we all had a wonderful swim – the water was warm and felt lovely on our hot, tired bodies.


Overall a great day and at least we did get a nice swim, despite everything! Thanks Dawn and Mette, I love sharing these days.


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