Monday, 16 May 2011

Another Welsh mountain tarn - 8/46

Llyn Morynion - Mayday!

And so to the last day in North Wales, the brief was... a fairly decent walk, within half hour of the house, a mixture of terrain/view and obviously near to or ending up near water. After pondering for a while and lots of checking of maps we decided on a yomp in the Rhinogs.

The walk started with a fairly level tramp through some stunning pine woodland, following a sign for waterfalls - I was getting excited by the thought of a swim under a natural waterfall! After about half an hour we found the falls - wow, they were huge, there was no way I was going anywhere near them - actually it was a trickle over a boulder, apparently it's payback for all the warm dry weather we've recently enjoyed. Anyhow we carried on to a three-way path junction, this was my chance to show just how good my navigation skills were - after all, I kept saying, I micro-nav when doing mountain marathons, this is a piece of pish. So we carried on down a track overlooking the whole valley, we came to some ruins that weren't on the map so I made a note to get in touch with Ordnance Survey to let them know of their omission, then realised we'd gone the wrong way... bloody maps! We turned tail and retraced the past half mile (!) before heading up the correct path, which took us out of the woodland into a huge mountain amphitheatre. We xould now see both Rhinogs in all their glory, and the sun was even trying to break through the clouds.

We climbed, and climbed then climbed some more before coming to another path junction, we then decided to go 'off-road' up and over a moorland saddle towards where the lake should be. It was tough going as the heather was thick and the marsh was, well, marshy. We made it down to the Llyn and by now had quite a sweat on, so we thought we'd make the most of our internal heat and go for it straight away.

I was first in and as ever it was bloody freezing, again no chance of a distance swim. Then Morgan showed how to enter the water with style, as the photo above can testify. We splashed around in the water for maybe 20 minutes, swimming down the length rather than attempting a crossing - I was to afraid of the cold getting to me :(

The water was deep, dark and murky. When you looked down while treading water you couldn't see deeper than your waist! It was quite unnerving actually, not knowing what was down there - pike, crocs, sharks or monsters!

So after messing about we got out, dried off and had lunch. Morgan and I chatted about the merits of doing these swims, saying how the diving in seemed easier the more we did. Even though this tarn was as cold as the first one we did, we felt more able to actually swim and chat while in it.

So that was North Wales, I have no idea when my next swim will be, nor where - one thing I do know is that I need to do as many as possible during the coming months, I REALLY don't want to have lots to do by October.

Cheers for reading - Tony.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Two in one day!!! 30 April 2011

This is me - not Daniel Craig :-)

Morgan, Sasha and me

Getting in

Harlech beach - 6/46

Another stunning day in North Wales, what on earth is going on here? I've never ever known it to be sunny for so long in part of the country!

Well, we had breakfast and decided on a beach day, great for me as I wanted more salty swimming. We found our way to Harlech Beach where the wind was using the sand to grit-blast your legs! We walked onto the beach and headed straight to the waterside that was a good 500m from the dunes. We got changed in front of a group of hippies, complete with them balloon pants that only western 'travellers' buy in india and cans of Carling! Here's a quiz question for you, as devised by Morgan... what are the names of the only remaining English lager producers? We could only come up with Carling and Kestrel (Super).

I digress, Morgan and I decided on a straight dash for the water that we fully expected to be chilly, imagine our surprise when we found we'd got it right, it was chilly... and some! We splashed around for a while then tried to swim with difficulty due to the temperature. We got out after about 15 mins during which time Sasha joined us for a quick splash, as we walked back to the group I saw Sharad walking towards us in just his swimmers, obviously we splashed him, then I joined him for a re-dip. We got out and stood chatting for a while, when Morgan gave that knowing nod - another dash and we were in again! However that was to be the last dip, we dried off in about a minute due to the wind, then decided to leave the hippies to have their 'moment'.

Portmadog - 7/46
We decided on a trip over the bay to Portmadog, what a place this is... a rare mix of the blue-rinse brigade, local and holidaying chavs, hippies, beer-heads and posh peeps. An amazing place to people watch, although I wouldn't watch too closely or you'll end up with a shiner (either version!). We enjoyed fish and chips on the high street - well, I had chips and gravy obviously, washed down with a can if cider - cheers Morgs.

We ambled past the harbour towards the beaches, over the headlands into stunning bays and scrambled around on rocks. We enjoyed amazing views of the Lleyn Peninsula. Again the wind was using the sand to strip layers of skin away from our legs so we decided on a brief pause against some rocks - another can of cider... cheers Morgs! It was at this point I decided on another dip.

No one knew I was going is as I made a quick dash towards the water (consequently there are no pictures). The water was just as cold this time, there's a recurrent theme developing here, but I managed to stay in a while and struggle against a very strong incoming tide. It took me about 10 minutes to swim about 100m and another minute to swim the same 100m back, I'm just grateful the tide was incoming and not outgoing!

So there we have it - two swims in a day, not bad when you consider it's still only April.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Llyn Stwlan - 5/46


Graceful as ever!

Llyn Stwlan, Near Moelwyn Mawr, N Wales - with Morgan 29 April 2011
Morgan, Sasha, Fidelma and I decided to go on a jaunt into the Moelwyn Mountains, nothing too strenuous but enough of a leg stretch to know you'd gone uphill. We initially walked along a disused railway (adjacent to the famous Ffestiniog railway) aiming for the Tanygrisiau Reservoir. Morgan and I had designs on a swim in the reservoir but when we got there found it nearly empty! Obviously the result of the recent dry spell - IN NORTH WALES!!!

We then decided to walk North West uphill to the Llyn Stwlan reservoir - and boy was it uphill, a real calf burner. We reached the water via a scramble over the approach rocks that guarded the valley, and the view was amazing (pictures to follow). There nestled this large body of fresh water in a typical welsh mountain cwm.

We aimed for a spit of land that stretched into the water and we thought would make an ideal spot for lunch and a good launch platform for our swim.

Morgan and I stripped off and changed into our swimmers just as the sun decided to disappear behind a thick black cloud. However, that wasn't going to stop us going in... we spotted a rocky promontory that would prove to be perfect, as I was mustering up the courage to go for it Morgan sped past me and dived straight in! He looked stunned and aimed for the bank to get out again - this didn't bode well. I was next, in I went with what I thought was a good dive, oh-oh-oh it was cold, probably a new low in terms of my swimming temperatures! I managed to swim about 100m in total before the need to get out proved too great. However, when I got out I decided I needed to dive in again, and again, only the last time without swimming cap and goggles.

It was a wonderful swim, with a well earned can of cider when we got out.

When we got back to the cottage we chopped wood, drank cider, paddled in the river and built a fire... "This is what real men do, drink cider and make fire!" (Morgan)

Afon Teigl - 4/46

Afon Teigl with Fidelma - 28 April 2011
Fidelma and I are having a weekend staying with friends at a stunning cottage overlooking the river Teigl near Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales - this would prove an ideal time to bag a couple of swims!

We arrived before anyone else so decided to go for a walk, not too far, maybe half a mile up the river that the cottage sits on - the cottage used to be a mill. It was amazing, after spending five hours in the car, to be able to walk in open and quiet countryside with just Shetland Ponies for company.

After about half an hour we came upon a group of kids on an outward bound week from a school in Coventry, the group leader mentioned a plunge pool about 250m away - we just had to investigate!

We walked upstream and found the pool, it was stunning! Probably about 12' deep and with steep sides that were ideal for jumping or diving off! After procratinating for all of a nano second I decided I had to go in - so I stripped to my shreddies and dived in from about 6' up... it was f-f-f-freezing! I swam round the buttress to see Fidelma getting undressed, she wasn't walking away without getting wet! In she went - twice. I did a couple more jumps and dives, tried climbing a steep bank out of the water and generally messed about in the pool for about 15 minutes.

Another tick in my 46, and probably the coldest so far!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

River Cam clips

River Cam pictures

The river Cam - 3/46

The river Cam, Cambridge (with Josh) 26 April 2011

As you can see this was my maiden river outing for 46in12, and a lovely swim it was too.

I managed to pressure, I mean persuade Josh to join me in my third swim of 46. He was up-for-it yesterday but for some reason seemed less inclined when I arrived at his Halls this morning - might have been something to do with the temperature being 10° less than yesterday! I assured him that this was air temperature and had no bearing on the water temprature - he didn't seem too convinced, however he still appeared with towel and swimmers... good lad.

We made our way to the river via the Cambridge city centre ring-road - going round it twice! This is a city that is totally devoted to cycles and public transport - there are bollards that rise in the middle of the road if you dare to enter within 300m of the city centre, and more cycle lanes than you can shake a bike pump at! Even most of the street signs are the blue cyclist ones - hence my double trip around the beautiful city of Cambridge.

Anyways, we found the spot, a lovely wide river with dropped banks for easy access, there was also plenty of evidence of previous swimmers - not surprising given the recent heat wave. We ambled along the river bank for a couple of hundred yards and happened upon a fallen tree with the majority of its trunk lying invitingly half in the river - perfect diving spot!

We got changed into our trunks and dipped a toe in the water, bloody hell it felt chilly. After much procrastination and worry about sunken poles sticking vertically under the water right where I was about to dive, I made the plunge - literally! Yep, it was real spanner water... it tightens your nuts :)

I managed to mess around near the tree for about 5 minutes, trying to persuade Josh that it wasn't that bad, before I saw a punt come around the river bend about 100m away - my cue to get out and dive in again, all Tom Daly like.

Josh finally plucked up the courage and went for it, he dived in with a quite stunning swallow dive - then jumped out almost as quick as he'd gone in... that was it for him, way too cool.

I swam for about 200m upstream and back before getting out - managing to chat to kayakers and punters on the way. When I got out I realised just how cold it was as my toes were actually blue. Brrrr

Well, that was my first river, I only hope the rest of them are just as good, but slightly warmer.

Pictures (and hopefully a video clip) to follow in another post.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Camber Sands - 2/46

Easter Sunday 24 April 2011
Given that the weather was so bloody hot, and we'd been grafting in the garden all day Friday and Saturday we decided on an Easter Sunday treat, a day out at the sea-side! After giving due consideration to various options we decided that Camber Sands would tick the most boxes. We've been there many times previously and always enjoyed it.

Our journey down was accompanied by Lynda Snell, Kenton Archer, Jolene Perks (without her ciggies), Joe Grundy and many other Ambridge residents - yep, it was Archers omnibus all the way down to East Sussex' finest beach.

I've never seen CS's as busy as this occasion, we've always managed to get a parking spot next to the beach! However I reckon it's had a sudden rise in popularity as the car park that normally costs a couple of quid was now £9 for 4 hours - that's right, £9 FOR FOUR HOURS! Anyhoo, we weren't gonna let that stop us, we parked on the road for free.

When we got on the beach we had another shock - the tide was out, and mean o-u-t! We had to walk a couple of hundred yards to get to the water. We walked through the wash away from the crowds - I've never seen so many tattoo's, and I'm from Cleethorpes! Even the kids had transfer tattoo's as tramp stamps and shoulder blade tats! Great to see/hear a very cosmopolitain crowd though... English, Polish, French, Italian, Indian and many more I didn't recognise.

We settled down ontop of the dunes far from the maddening crowd, ate our butties (cheese and homemade coleslaw since you ask), the temperature was in the high 20's so I decided it was time for my dip.

The water was lovely, not too cold that you couldn't swim, but cold enough to make you catch your breath initially. It was an incoming tide so I was able to swim quite far out in a diagonal line before getting nervous, however the return swim was brilliant - half the effort (due to swimming with the tide) and I even caught a couple of warm currents! I stayed in for about 20 minutes and swam about 300/350 metres - which wasn't too bad in just my swimmers!

Monday, 18 April 2011

A couple of pics - just for you Tim!

Looking East (left) towards Marazion (and St Michael's Mount)...

Looking west (right) towards Penzance...

And we're off! 1/46

Just got back to my hotel after doing my first swim of 46-in-12!

Got the train to Penzance (for work), arrived at 3:15pm, by 4:00pm I was in the sea.

Decided to walk to a beach which took about 20 minutes, I walked along the shore on a raised path (dodging little piles left by scruffy dog owners!) and was waterside all the way. Decided to sit on a rock for a while to gather my thoughts and think about the fact that this was the first of 46 swims, wondered where the next 45 would take me. Decided to aim to swim with friends wherever possible - so if you're a swimmer/paddler/wader and would like some company, give me a shout. I can't afford to make special trips, but if we can combine it with other events then that would be great.

After taking a couple of snaps of the venue - St Michael's Mount to my left and Penzance town to my right - I took the plunge... It wasn't as cold as I'd expected, however I wished I'd put my cap on instead of thinking I'd look a pillock. I swam about 150m in total which isn't bad for a first sea swim of the year.

Dried out on the rocks and returned to my hotel for a warm shower.

I might get another chance for a near but different location tomorrow morning, we'll see.

Cheers, Tony

Sunday, 17 April 2011

What's it all about?

Well, I've been swimming for about three years now after Cheeky Pete gave me some top tips and I read Total Immersion. Prior to that I could swim one length of a 25 meter pool at a time, now I can swim for at least a kilometer!

In 2009 I did a triathlon with Tim, this helped keep me in the water, especially with a wet-suit. Most of my training involved wet-suited swimming in Brixton Lido, supplemented with a few lengths of Peckham Pulse indoor pool.

I've always enjoyed open water swimming, this has included: A New Years Day sea dash in South Wales (wet-suit free) with Josh; Many swims in Grimsby docks (the last being Alexander Dock in 2009); Probably hundreds of beach swims all over Britain, Europe and the world; rivers, canals, lakes, waterfall pools and even messy bogs that should have been streams!

Over the past couple of weeks I've returned to Brixton Lido for 7am swims with Tim and Chris (Sicantsan) and loved the feeling of swimming in cold water (A little over 13° C), also for my birthday last week Tim bought me a copy of Waterlog by Roger Deakin - the combination of these two recent factors lead me to think of doing more open water swimming.

Given that I was 46 years old last week, I thought I'd aim to do 46 open water (outdoor) swims before I'm 47 - hence 46-swims-12-months!

I'll log venues, dates, times and swimming partners and the only rule I have is that I cannot count the same place twice. I can include the same towns and cities, for instance in a seaside town I can swim in the harbour/port/dock and the beach and any local lakes and rivers. I canalso include the same body of water, for instance I may choose multiple points on the Thames.

I hope you enjoy this blog, if you would like to swim with me please see my forecast that I shall try to update as-and-when I have dates.

Thanks, Tony