Archive for the ‘Wild Swimming’ Category

Easter Sun – Harter Fell and Birks Bridge   19 comments

I forgot to mention another day out on our Easter weekend. We decided the weather was good enough for a day out in the Lakes. After our swimming exploits we fancied another dip and walk.

We needed a small but interesting peak with a river swim. Dunnerdale and Harter Fell seemed to fit the bill.

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On a hot sunny Bank Holiday weekend the Lake District can be swarming with people. Dunnerdale is a stunning place but awkward to get to and off the radar so we found it relatively quiet by Lake District standards. Our route up Harter Fell was heading for the obvious outcrop of Maiden Castle in the photo below.

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We stopped off at Birks Bridge, our chosen swimming hole on the way and it looked excellent.

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We were excited for the swim later but first there was a mountain to climb to earn our right to a swim.

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The route up was brutally steep and mercifully quite short.

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We still needed a rest halfway up. It was a pretty hot and hazy day.

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Maiden Castle was fine rocky outcrop with some scrambling opportunities.

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It looks dramatic from most angles but in fact you can pretty much walk to the top around the back.

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From here to the summit is a scramblers delight. There are small rocky outcrops littering the slopes. A playground for budding and semi-retired rock athletes.

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Me and the DBs had enormous fun picking a route and finding some serious short challenges to test our skills.

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The summit itself is even better with several significant outcrops and superb views.

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We ate lunch, drank tea and played around on the rocks.

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Smiles and laughter were in abundance. Scrambling around on perfect warm rock under a blue sky is a pretty damn good feeling.

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I’m still surprised that this is my first ascent of this rocky peak, most likely the best known and largest of Lakelands major fells I’ve never climbed. I’m glad I saved it for such a superb day.

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Despite the fun we were all eager to head down and enjoy a different kind of fun.

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As we headed down the haze seemed to clear a little and the views were increasingly dramatic.

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Our happy group finishing the hike part of the day.

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And into the water!

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This early in the year I expected the water to be bitingly cold and the swim refreshing but short.

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In fact the water was no colder than in the height of last years heatwave and we spent a good hour playing, swimming, jumping and generally messing about.

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The river runs through a narrow and deep gorge with a waterfalls at the upstream section. We had enormous fun squirming our way up the waterfalls, some more ungainly than others!

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We sat on the sunny banks to warm up, thanking our luck to have such glorious hot weather at Easter. I’m pretty sure this is the earliest point in the year I’ve ever been wild swimming. Still seems surreal to have such hot weather 7 days after I shivered in winter cold in the Brecon Beacons.

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We headed home a very happy and contented bunch. Sadly TBH had a very bad case of dizziness that left her in pretty bad way hardly able to move or open her eyes the previous day. Whilst much improved on this day she decided to rest at home in the sunshine. Such a shame she wasn’t able to join us but it was great to her up and about and looking much better for a day in garden when we got home 🙂

An absolutely top notch day of scrambling and swimming in the sunshine.

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Easter Sun – Silverdale (and around) Antics   10 comments

More weather madness as a bitterly cold day in Brecon Beacons was followed a week later by record breaking hot weather at Easter. We’d timed this to perfection with another visit the the Hotel Silverdale and our top notch friends who seem to tolerate our repeated visits with very good grace.

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We packed in a lot over the four days around this rather beautiful and unspoilt corner of Lancashire.

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An early morning walk to the shop to stock up on provisions via the The Cove and The Lots.

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After lunch (or before maybe) a cycling trip to Trowbarrow Quarry.

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I’d rather foolishly committed to a mountain bike ride around the many bumps, jumps and drops in the quarry with the Dangerous Brothers. They’d been reminding me for weeks not to forget to bring my bike seemingly concerned that I would chicken out (which was my plan all along).

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I couldn’t let them down and did indeed have a go at most of the stuff they peer-pressured me into (although I decided not to try any of the jumps on the basis I’m far too heavy!)

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I admit it was enormous fun and other than one wobble on a very steep drop that had me bouncing through tree branches I survived unscathed. As you can see above they even convinced their dad to give it a go!

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Its a stunning spot on a clear sunny day and we all enjoyed a laze around as well as some more frantic two wheeled activity. I was actually a little disappointed that we never found time to head up there again.

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We also found time to play with a boomerang in the fields behind the house.

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Much harder than it looks actually.

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Only a couple of attempts came close to coming back to the thrower. Doesn’t matter as we had enormous fun trying.

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We took a walk up to Arnside Knott one morning. A fine small hill (England’s smallest Marilyn in case you were interested)

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A gloriously hot and sunny day that had us searching for the shade to keep cool.

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Superb views across the Kent estuary

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And back via Arnside Tower.

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An afternoon trip to sunbathe and swim at Levens Deer Park.

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The water was startlingly cold but refreshing. I think its the earliest in the year I’ve ever been fresh water swimming.

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The DBs of course were back in their element jumping of the banks (although as an honorary DB I joined in as well)

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The evening on the patio was a festival of BBQ meat (and some Vegan stuff for those that way inclined) and a roaring fire burning the remains of the kids old swings.

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And no trip here is complete without the classic walk around the coast to Arnside and back over Arnside Knott.

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Arnside, packed with visitors, no seats in the cafe so an alfresco and delicious hot pie on the pier was a more than adequate compensation.

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More views from Arnside Knott to finish off a superb weekend in the sunshine with good company, loads of activities and fine selection of food.

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Big thanks to the Silverdale massive for taking care of us and making it into a wonderful mini-holiday.

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Road Trip – Tarn Gorge Swimming   15 comments

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I saved the last post with memories of what for me were the highlights of the trip. We went out and saw some amazing places but the heart of the trip were the rivers and the fun we had in them, jumping, diving, swimming floating and fish spotting.

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A compilation of photos and a video/photo slideshow to share that fun

 

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DB Jr jumps from below the mushroom rock, our favourite spot

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Floating down the river towards said spot

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A late evening of fun and frolics

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DB Sr showing his skills and form.

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TBF enjoys some lazy river floating.

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A few underwater pictures of the local fish on one of my snorkelling expeditions

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And one final shot of the spot where we spent many happy hours

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And that was the end of our trip. We drove home on a wet and windy day, stopping off at a very nice campsite in Normandy before a trouble free tunnel crossing this time and an utterly desperate drive back home (think almost 7 hours to do a journey that should have taken 4!) – never drive anywhere in the UK on a Friday. A truly memorable trip shared with great friends young and old. Here’s hoping we can do it all again in a couple of years time 🙂

Road Trip – Canoeing Down the Dordogne   13 comments

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There is a whole collection of stuff to do in the Dordogne region. Castles, caves, gardens, towns and the usual collection of activity based adventures. One of the best outings is a kayak trip along the Dordogne itself and its big business (as on most of the large French rivers in the south). We’ve done this many times before and was one of the main reasons I suggested the region as a good destination to our happy band.

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We hadn’t really made any plans for the trip but on one of mine and Mark’s morning strolls to the bakery we noted what a glorious clear and sunny day was developing and made an executive decision that we should do the trip that day. We booked in at the hire place over the car park from the bakery and then noted how little time we had to get back to the campsite, get everyone out of bed, breakfasted, lunch packed and be ready to walk back to catch the bus to start. A little fraught but we made it!

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The trip was pretty much the same as the one we have always done from Vitrac, past Domme, La Roque Gageac and Beynac and finishing at Les Milandes. Its a classic trip with loads of interesting views (castles, hilltop towns, cliffs) and numerous great places for a  swim. After an epic amount of faffing about picking boats and agreeing who would go with who we set off. This is Mark and TBH trying to deflate a rubber ring, one finding time to smile other not!

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There were 12 of us in the group but despite the fact that most of us have spent some time in kayaks and canoes the only people who seemed able to control one were me and Mark. The first section (no more than a mile or so) took an age, most went round in circles, backwards leading to bickering and recriminations (all in good humour). We tried to tow TJF behind us but the current was slow and it was really hard work to paddle with such a dead weight behind so we quickly abandoned the idea.

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We were compelled to pull over to re-arrange the teams. Thing is, pulling over for a stop is hardly a chore when the scenery is this magnificent. Obviously whenever you stop in such fine and hot weather you should have a swim.

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This turned out to be wonderful spot beneath the cliffs and the stretch was teeming with fish and brisk current to flaunt you downstream before getting out and doing it again

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We were also hungry so we had a first lunch and stopped for a good hour such was magnificence of the location. One of the best micro-moments of the whole holiday

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Here is a good shot of us swimming and fish spotting. There were some seriously big fish in here

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Suitably refreshed and with teams re-arranged we set off again

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There is pretty much nothing finer than gently floating and paddling down a scenic river under a clear blue sky in hot sunshine

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The kids decided to liven things up by standing in the canoes and changing places. They all looked pretty smug about their ability to do it and the perceived cowardice and lack of skill from the adults. Until they tried once too often and TJS fell in!

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We had another stop beneath some white limestone cliffs for a swim. Very scenic but the water on our side was rather shallow and silty

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We set off again for the next leg

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This takes you past the picture postcard village of La Roque Gageac.

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It looks stunning although we’ve never actually stopped here as it’s always thronged with tourists

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The next stage is a long gentle paddle down to Castelnaud. This was the only stretch that felt busy with several school and youth groups which, in the manner of most French teenagers seemed intent on making as much noise as possible

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Castelnaud appeared and we stopped for another break. Most waded across a braid in the river to get ice creams while me and Mark took a swim up towards the confluence of the Dordogne and our campsite river the Ceou. It was an odd experience as the temperature difference between them is very marked. The Ceou is very cold indeed and makes the Dordogne feel like a heated pool. Where the water was mixing you could have one leg in warm water and one in cold. Very strange and enjoyable dip

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Suitably refreshed we set off the final leg past the very impressive town and castle at Beynac. We saw signs like the one in the image below all along the valley. A bit of research reveals they are looking to blast a bypass round this town through some wonderful countryside. You only have walk, drive or canoe through this area to realise the traffic, certainly by UK standards is not any real problem. Let’s hope the local opposition kills the plan

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The views as you pass by Beynac are the best of this trip in my opinion. It provides a grand finish to a superb trip that I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed

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Good preparation for the next kayak trip on the Tarn the following week

Road Trip – Our Campsite Locale   6 comments

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A collection of photos from some outings by foot from our campsite home in the Dordogne.

Camping appears to be a popular Dutch pastime as every campsite I’ve ever stayed on Europe has had many Dutch people staying. They are without exception the most friendly and approachable people all speaking English to an embarrassing degree. We had Dutch neighbours here, a young family, and the Dad was very a pleasant chap. He informed us there was a path out the back of the campsite that went top to the cliff above where there were plenty of caves and another path to the top with great views.

We took up that challenge and set off an a steep and sweaty climb. The caves and cliffs were superb.

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The first couple caves were small but as we worked across the face there were some impressive specimens

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Here is one of A who I will now refer to as TBB, The Birmingham Bomber, on the basis of her propensity to pronounce selected words in a broad Birmingham accent even though she is a child of Lancashire with parents from the East Midlands and the North East!

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The DBs of course were in their element. They found one small cave and appeared almost by magic from a hole much lower down the cliff than I expected

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The caves have clear signs of habitation, hardly surprising considering their size and the fact that there are many examples of prehistoric cave dwellings in this part of the Dordogne

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It looked like the edge and the cave systems went on for miles but it was hot and it was approaching lunchtime, time for a swim and the consumption of more bread and cake

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Rather than pick up bread from the campsite I took a walk each morning into the village to the bakery. Its something I always do when on holiday in France. The combination of an early morning walk in the clear air and the chance to gaze at (and smell) the wonderful produce is always a pleasure. I find it an interesting difference between the two cultures of the UK and France. In France they have wonderful local bakeries in every village and many more in cities in towns. In the UK we have Greggs! Says much about the UK don’t you think

Most mornings I went on my own but a couple of times with Mark. He’s a handy chap to walk through fields, woods and lanes as he’s a marvel at spotting wildlife, insects and flowers (I just tend to wander in a daze at this early hour). On this morning there was a low mist clearing to a deep clear blue sky

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On other days the views were not quite so dramatic but equally enchanting

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We also took a walk to the local castle but alas I forgot both my camera and phone so no photos (it was too hot take photos anyway!). Later the afternoon we took a wander down to the bridge on the way to the village

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The kids wanted to try put a rather serious looking jump out of a tree into deep water. Some locals had nailed some planks into the tree to aid the climb but it looked seriously dodgy.

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A few of us (me included) made various attempts to climb the tree but all – part from E – thought better of it. After much coaxing she braved the jump

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Everyone else contented themselves by jumping from the bridge. Here’s Mark and his attempt. I’m sure he will thank me for sharing this photo with the world

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Here’s a quick compilation of burst photos of both jumps

 

On our last morning me and Mark again walked to the village together for the bread

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On most mornings, hot air balloons had flown over the campsite. I’d heard the roar of the burners but never got up quite early enough to see them. This morning we got some great views. Not sure if this one had been launched from behind the castle or had inadvertently drifted there. Whatever, it was very, very close!

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They made a wonderful photographic subject with the caste and the clear blue sky

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While writing this post it occurred to me that we stayed a week and never really seemed to do much other than a couple of days out. What that tells me is we successfully re-created the spirit of our trips to North Wales that kicked off this holiday. When it’s just my family we get restless pretty quickly and are always off out in the car doing stuff or finding different places to visit. On this trip we settled into a very happy rhythm of leisurely days, long meals, games, swimming and relaxing. It was reminiscent of our stays at Towyn Farm and that is a very good thing. The company was wonderful and laughter was the recurring theme. We spent many hours just chatting, joking, and winding everyone up with gentle banter all takena and given in good spirit. Sitting at home this evening and reminded by a similar comment from Mark on his blog, I really miss those days and the friends I shared them with.

Road Trip – Camping in the Dordogne   10 comments

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It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the Llyn Peninsula is a long way from anywhere. Its a long way to the English Channel that’s for sure. After saying our goodbyes to the Yorkshire Massive we (and the Silverdale Posse) headed off on our two part journey to France. Towing a trailer on the UK motorways is a stressful experience as you’re limited to 60mph and get stuck in with the lorries. 8 hours in the company of HGVs through endless roadworks and packed service areas is not a happy experience.

Luckily the end of the journey was brightened by the rather nice Black Horse Farm campsite near Folkestone. Lovely pitch, nice facilities and a decent chippy just down the road. The Camper passed another test with a very swift pitch for the one night stay. We had a pleasant albeit brief stopover.

And then Eurotunnel took over. Apparently the “unprecedented” hot weather and school holidays (who’d have thought that could happen in July!) had overloaded their Air Conditioning Systems.  For our “convenience” they decided that it was better to queue for 3 hours in an overloaded car park than sit on a stuffy train for 40 minutes. We were lucky – the delays were up to 6 hours by the end of the day. End result we were 3 hours late setting of in France and weren’t scheduled to arrive at the campsite until after midnight. Thanks Eurotunnel!

Luckily French Roads are always pretty much empty and the long drive was easy and trouble free with a couple of decent picnic area stops to keep everyone happy. Even luckier, our friend J (of the pink Crocs) arrived at the campsite well before us and sorted out our pitch and access to the site. She and E also stayed up till 1am to welcome us and provide a friendly face after a long drive. I will be forever grateful to them both 🙂

After that long drive it was hoped that my choice of campsite was a good one. It was!

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Camping Maisonneuve was a superb spot. Set back a mile or so from the Dordogne itself it was spacious, friendly with a family atmosphere and views of the local limestone cliffs and castle at Castelnaud. Best of all there was a small river running through the site, the Ceou, with perfect deep water hole complete with small falls and a jumping and diving platform. The weather was very hot while we there so whenever we felt a little overheated we took a dip in its clear cold waters

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The DBs spent hours in here just jumping and diving and I think they found their spiritual home. I quite enjoyed it as well!

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Here is a little compilation of video and burst shots of me, the DBs and TBF having fun in the water

 

The site had a complex of classic old golden stone buildings and great views to the cliffs above

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It also had a nice restaurant where enjoyed a very nice meal on our first proper evening there. Nice team photo of all the gang

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They also had a very nice pool area but we never used it, preferring the fresh cold water of river pool

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Our meeting place was generally under Marks huge group shelter. We ate together under there most nights and there was much fun and laughter

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TBF was happy I promise

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Our little home and camper. Thank heaven we asked for a shaded pitch. Its would have been unbearable in the heat of the sun

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We went swimming in the pool every day often many times. Some really happy memories of swimming, jumping and watching everyone else have fun.

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Every campsite should have a cold fresh water stream running through it

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As with the Towyn trip, Kubb was a regular feature. This game with the added difficulty of playing in near darkness

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When the weather is hot and dry there is nothing to beat the simple pleasures of a warm evening playing games on a campsite

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I can’t imagine visiting the Dordogne and staying anywhere else

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The row of pitches we called home for a week

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And a last lingering look at the pool, its clear cold waters and its waterfall with TBF enjoying a swim

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More Dordogne fun to come

Wild Swimming in the Nedd Fechan Valley   20 comments

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Before I get round to telling you about summer hols let me take you back to the earlier part of the summer. You remember, endless days of hot sunshine, blue skies, warnings of hosepipe bans, England doing well at the World Cup. The hot summer gave us a chance to really explore my Wild Swimming guide as a means of outdoor exercise (too hot to hike).

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My last post detailed some of the local spots in the Wye Valley but the premier location in South Wales are the valleys of the Mellte and Nedd Fechan. Each has a series of gorges, cascades, waterfalls and deep pools tailor-made for swimming. In the hot weather the cold (in fact VERY cold) water was a welcome relief from the hot sun and the tree-lined gorge meant perfect conditions for river based fun

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We took two trips. The first one was an all too brief visit before a picnic and heading home for an England game

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We parked up at small and hard to reach car park at Post Melin Each and wandered downstream to the first waterfall Scwd Ddwli. Its a beautiful cascade falling into a deep pool but not ideal for swimming. It’s stony to get in and there are no jumps but it wins on location

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All but TJS took a swim and even in the hot weather it seems pretty quiet. I’d assumed that everyone in South Wales would have discovered this spot but it’s very hard to get to and that seemed to keep swimmers away. Most people we saw were walkers

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It was nice to swim in cold clear water and then sit in hot sunshine to warm up – rare in the UK

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Me and TJS took a wander downstream to the next set of pools at the Horseshoe Falls.

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These were much better for swimming. Deep and clear with much easier ways in and loads of ledges for jumps. I took a couple of jumps and a quick swim before heading back.

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We had a rather fine picnic in the grassy meadows by the car park before heading home and vowed to return for revisit to the Horseshoe Falls

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That return visit was a week later as the endless hot weather continued. We were back at the Horseshoe Falls which not only has great swimming and jumping but a series of flat clean rocks for sunbathing

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We spent the whole day here, in and out of the water and another luxury picnic

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I was particularly happy scrambling about on the rocks and in the trees looking for ever higher jump spots

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Pretty much perfectly designed for wild swimming

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Up stream was an equally fine waterfall but no pool for swimming

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Me and TBF left the other Funster in the sun while we took a stroll downstream

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We reached the slender and almost dry Lady Falls (Sgwd Gwladus). This is closer to the main road and was very busy (including the usual clutch of people who don’t seem to able to go anywhere without a loud thumping music!)

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We returned to the tranquility of our own spot

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More swims and another look at the upstream waterfall and little video of what its like to stand under it!

 

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I suspect we have a long wait until we get weather set perfect for this sort of day but even a walk along these valleys and their dozens of waterfalls and cascades is a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping we can revisit again once more this year if we get a final spell of good weather

 

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