Things often go wrong in life, plans fall through, people let you down, you let people down, events get cancelled.
My reaction to such events varies greatly. Sometimes I get angry, disappointed, frustrated, sad, pissed off. Sometimes I roll over and go ‘meh’, it didn’t matter. Other times, but not often enough, I seize the opportunity and spin it on its head to still get something good from it.
Those ‘make it better’ scenarios often simply can’t happen, things aren’t already in place to find a better alternative or I’m just too pissed off to see the light side of the situation. But this time it worked and I made the most of a bad lot.
On Thursday evening my only swim event for the year got cancelled. The amazing, wild, adventurous Outdoor Swimming Society’s Hurly Burly. A 10km river swim up the beautiful Mawddach estuary in Barmouth, North Wales, assisted, propelled, hurtled along by the strong spring tides we get around the UK in autumn. It’s wild and choppy and beautiful. Not a race or competition but a bringing together of like-minded folk all up for an adventure. I did it in its inaugural year, 2017, and promised I’d go back and do it again. That event was the start of this blog In preparation for The Hurly Burly The Hurly Burly’s done
I watched the live start feed in 2018 with regret that I wasn’t there. So as soon as event entries opened for 2019 I was in.
Having ended up volunteering at the finish line last time The Short One decided she wanted a piece of the action too. It was going to be another Short and Tall adventure 🙂
We were fairly well prepared, both relatively happy we could swim the distance, cope with the cold and swim fast enough to finish before the tide turned and we’d need to hitch a lift from the amazing safety team on this event.
It was going to be an early start. The swim was due to start at 6:30am to hit the peak of the incoming tide. That meant we needed to be there the night before. In stepped The Celtvan. On loan again from my brother in-law.
And so, on Thursday evening the Celtvan was largely packed. I was ready, psyched, preparing for the three hour drive I’d have to do on Friday night after a four hour shift in the pool.
But then the news came through. The forecast for Barmouth on the Saturday morning had been consistently dire all week. Gale force winds and torrential rain for an event due to start in low light as the sun rose were predicted and now seemed pretty certain. A nightmare in terms of visibility for even the best of safety crews. Consistent downpours all week meant the river was already in spate with large amounts of debris washing down, guaranteed to cause serious injury to any swimmer caught in its path. The event team very sensibly decided to make the call and cancel the swim.
A really tough decision for any event director to make. No-one wants to let their participants down. The Outdoor Swimming Society in particular specialise in adventurous swims that many organisations wouldn’t touch. But they know their stuff, they’re experienced swimmers and event managers and know how to keep everyone safe in what some would see as potentially high risk environments. They’re used to a bit of weather but conditions this time round were just too extreme. Absolutely the right decision to make.
But where did that leave us? Out of pocket to the tune of ~£100, months of training wasted, excitement and the build-up dashed. Unlike some we haven’t lost out that much. It was only a three hour drive away for us, some were travelling much further and making a long weekend of it. Others were shelling out for accommodation that they no-longer needed and had been organised months in advance.
However, we still had the Celtvan packed and ready to go, we had a twenty four hour pass out agreed with the husbands. It seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.
A quick look at the forecast and re-assessment of our plans and The Short One still met me straight from work and we still drove off in the Celtvan at 7pm on Friday night. Not bound for North Wales but the Lake District instead. We’d still have our Short and Tall adventure after all.
A damp drive in the dark and two circumnavigations of Esthwaite water later and we were set up for the night. Warm in the Celtvan and looking forward to a slightly more leisurely get up than had previously been planned. I’m not going to lie, neither of us were looking forward to getting up at 4am for the Hurly Burly 😉
A gloriously wet, swooshy, laughter filled, food eating day ensued on Saturday. The Lakes had had similarly high levels of rain the previous week, many of the rivers I used to kayak down in my younger days looked veritably terrifying. A river swim I had planned to do got ditched when I saw how wild it was.
But there’s plenty of water in the Lakes, if one thing isn’t do-able there’s always something just round the corner that is. So came the River Rothay, navigating down bouncy waves and a gentle widening swoosh out into Lake Windermere, the welcome feel of the warmer lake water on our hands as we passed from river to lake. Not one to do if you don’t understand the risks of fast flowing water but I’d paddled that river before, a very gentle beast with few obstacles and I recce’d each corner before we swooshed. The cold damp Sunday’s of my university paddling career really showing their worth.
A hefty audience of swans and puzzled tourists awaited as we hauled ourselves out of the water by the tourist boats at Waterhead. After a welcome hunk of brownie, a civilised change in the Celtvan and a waterside fry-up our next dip for the day beckoned.
High above Rydal Water behind the beautiful Rydal Hall lies Buckstones Jum, the lip of a hanging valley formed thousands of years ago during the last ice age. Also the starting point of a stunning series of waterfalls that stretch for a mile down to Rydal Hall and form the headwaters of the River Rothay we’d swooshed down a couple of hours earlier.
Not only was it a beautiful walk through old growth woodland past gushing water but the lower parts of the woodland host a small sculpture path. Dotted with woolly, natured inspired wonders designed to merge with the landscape and mimic its form. A great find.
Buckstones Jum itself forms a beautiful pool with a spout pouring through a crack in the glacier polished lip of rock. It was a little too forceful to get in the spout proper but gave a delightfully refreshing whoosh and natural Jacuzzi as we circulated around the pool. In summer it’s a popular spot but we had it all to ourselves.
I dipped in a few more pools on the way back down, merrily dipping in and out of some of the safer pools and waterfalls. Most were just too ferocious to consider on Saturday but in lower water would make for a great little waterfall scramble.
With our pass nearly running out we managed one final dip at the top end of Coniston Water. Our third set of swimwear for the day, our grins and satisfaction increasing with each change.
What a fabulous twenty four hours. Swimming, dipping, giggling, chatting, eating, beautiful scenery, accompanied by someone who understands my love of water and tolerates my need to drink in beautiful landscapes.
What could have been a depressing day lamenting the loss of an event turned into an even better day of adventure with one of my best friends. It doesn’t always happen, sometimes the nature gods (and relevant childcare) just don’t align well enough to enable this kind of thing but this weekend it did and for that I’m incredibly grateful. One very happy Tall One signing off 🙂