Ladies of the Lakes (5) – Blea Tarn

We decided we’d fit in one more swim before the water got too cold. As four of the lakes can’t be swum in for various reasons, I had checked out various tarns and former reservoirs (it’s amazing how many of the lakes in the Lake District are in fact man-made, or man-fiddled-with) and we now have a list of 22 or 23 – which is by no means all of them, but you have to stop somewhere.

Anne had, very early on, mentioned wanting to swim in Blea Tarn, which is apparently shown in the opening credits of Country File. As this was likely to be our last swim of the year I suggested that it perhaps was time to do Blea Tarn. Perhaps I should also mention that this is the Blea Tarn near Langdale, not the other one. Penny was also free so on a sunny September Saturday we set off early (8 a.m. or thereabouts). I had vaguely suggested a sunrise swim, but that would have been a bit too early and also very cold.

There’s a National Trust car park just across the road from the Tarn and even at 10-ish (it takes a while to get there from Carlisle) it was already almost full. We squeezed in, got our various bags including the now-compulsory-picnic out of the boot, and walked over to the Tarn to find a good place to get changed and get in, ooo-ing and aah-ing at the beauty of the place, the water calmly reflecting the peaks around it.

In fact we should have walked a bit further round than we did as we found later that there was a rocky bit: where we had chosen had some rocks but also a bit of gritty sand and some rather wet grass. Despite a sky that was that clear, vibrant blue you get sometimes at the height of summer, we were all glad of our wetsuits, gloves and neoprene shoes as the water was not especially warm. Without too much shivering we got in though and swam first towards one side, turning round when it got a bit weedy, and then right across the diameter of the lake to a rocky bit of shore on the other side.

We seemed to have started a trend as other people also started getting in and swimming, some with no wetsuits on. Having done our obligatory 30 minutes or more, we got out. Anne and I debated whether to try swimming without wetsuits: as we headed back into the water I decided it was too cold and turned round and got out again, but Anne plunged fully in and swam boldly out towards the middle of the lake. As she turned round to swim back she shouted that it was fantastic – and when she got out announced that the top two centimetres had warmed up. As Jo said, we take up a bit more than two centimetres though.

As we sat and ate our picnic and drank coffee/tea/hot water, more people were turning up – it’s obviously a popular spot – and as soon as we drove away from the car park someone took our space. I guess it has a bit of celebrity status as it’s a TV star.

It was a bit muddier and weedier than the bigger lakes, though not much – in fact prior to ‘officially’ doing this challenge Anne and I had swum in two very weedy, muddy bits of Derwentwater and this was nothing like that, nor certain places I swam years ago as a triathlete where you were lucky if you could see your hand in front of your face. It was clear that it was going to score pretty highly on our scoresheet. As we drove home we debated whether we might get another lake in without feeling too desperately cold…

When I got home my younger son said that he’d come with me next time if he could go fishing. I have no idea what he is likely to catch – if anything – as all I have seen so far is some tiny fish. But if he likes the idea of sitting at the side of a lake and waiting for a fish to bite while his mother splashes about in the water, I’d rather he did that than stayed at home in front of the xbox. I just need to research what he might catch, and how, as I have no idea about fishing – I’ve done it about once, at night, in the Mediterranean, where I caught an eel. Which really was long.

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