After last week's expedition my sister texted me to say we weren't going to swim anymore.
Instead (she said) we were just going to go to the river, I was going to put on my ridiculous costume of all my warm layers and she would watch. The hilarity she would experience would produce enough endorphins that would mean she didn't need to enter the water.
Funnily enough this week she had changed her mind and we set off with our wellies and usual huge rucksack full of clothes.
We went to Carleton to the pool I'd seen the kingfisher at a few weeks ago. It was lovely. A brilliant bowl shaped pool, with deep water and high banks that kept the wind off. It was cold and clear. Because it has an island at the bottom which splits the river, it had a lovely whirlpool/eddy which meant we could swim in circles with hardly any effort.
We didn't see the kingfisher but we didn't see any sign of life. It was very quiet and therefore very good for changing quickly afterwards and for wandering around, looking strange, in lots of clothes.
The air temp was 8 degrees and so was the water. We are already looking forward to our Boxing Day swim.
Every week I make her get in first, "So I can take the photo!"
People think it is a funny sight to see people swimming in the river in November.
When ever we get onlookers we get some attention.
My sister quite likes to have someone around. It's so that they can rescue us if need be!!
Anyway I think she is thinking of ways to attract more spectators, because she has now made TWO changing robes ( I hasten to add it was her modelling the one last week-not me). She expects us to walk around the beauty spots of the Yorkshire Dales wearing matching blue smocks on top of various other strange layers ( I wore my onesie his week) as we try to warm up, post swim.
There could be reports of sightings of a new religious sect, that enjoys cold water swimming, chasing dogs, wearing wolly hats, with bikinis and long blue smocks. Not necessarily in that order.
I tried to disguise mine with a poncho before we saw members of the public.
The river was really high this week with all the snow ( yes we had snow this week) melt from the hills rushing down. We thought it might not be safe to get in. But we found a little pool at the side which had its own mini swirly current going on and we just stayed at the side.
The food was pot noodles, pumpkin soup and cold pizza. The weather was mild and the company was lovely.
We had to swim on Sunday this week. Another whole day to think about it.
We went to Appletreewick to a wonderful pool I've swum in quite a few times before. A place my husband's family used to go in their camper van for picnics and swimming and rushing down rapids in a rubber dinghy.
In those days the farmer would open the gate, you'd put some money in the honesty box and could park next to the river.
Those days are no longer ( maybe the result of the dreaded H and S and the litigious society we live in?).
The upshot is that it is quieter even in the summer. And on rainy November days it is almost desolate.
We saw only two walkers on the short fifteen minute walk along the dalesway after the swim. They probably looked as strange as us in a different way. This was obviously why they ignored our peculiar over layered appearance and just gave us a cheery "Good afternoon".
Anyway going back to the swim. It was raining so we tried to cover our belongings up under a tree ( my sister asked me about ten times why I hadn't brought the tent). Then we got in.
It was immediately obvious November did mean hardcore. The temperature had dropped. The turtle said 8 degrees which was a drop of about three degrees since last week. We didn't stay in long despite the beauty of the wide pool, deep water, tall trees, interesting rocks and the evocative rain falling into the water.
Then the nightmare that is trying to get out and get your clothes on.
My sister's crazy contribution of the week was a new dryrobe that she had made. She's very creative and clever with a sewing machine. She'd brought the correct material and everything. She said it was a present for me but actually it was just a comedy item designed to make me look as comical as possible while I tried to get changed underneath it.
Then she took it back off me because she was cold.
We staggered back to the car and then had our posh pot noodles before driving home and hoping the euphoria would last for the week ahead.
She's just texted me to say that she's laughed out loud twice during her dog walk just thinking about me getting changed in the homemade dry
Moving forward was rather difficult to do today, during our weekly swim, as the water was flowing very quickly. It must have rained in the night because it was quite warm and lovely while we swam including brief bursts of sunshine.
The whole event was even more farcical than usually because my sister not only brought her three unenthusiastic children again but also brought her new six months old bouncy lurcher puppy.
This creature just roamed around, bouncing while we were in the water. Which was fine, until another young Labrador came to join in and ran off with my asics running shoe. We laughed hysterically in the water for a while leaving the children to try to control the dog. When this proved impossible my sister exited the water in her bikini to try and chase the dog until she got it on the lead.
Because we were at Bolton Abbey a small crowd of onlookers had collected to gawp unashamedly at the spectacle.
There was also another minor incident when three of us couldn't get the pop up tent ( another bargain purchase to add to the swimming equipment collection) back into the bag when we were trying to pack up. But we managed eventually with the aid of the instructions.
Anyway it was a funny swim. The laughter was as invigorating as the water. It was twelve degrees, a bit too shallow again and far too many spectators at Bolton Abbey but I just wanted to try it and tick it off the list. My sister in law joined us, which was nice and her daughter took embarrassing photos from the bank.
Grass Woods is a place my parents would often take us when we were little. We have lots of lovely black and white photos of us as babies and toddlers, laid on blankets and inspecting plants. It is the scene of the place where, supposedly, I pushed copious daisies up my nose and was sneezing them out for days.
In the summer its tranquil, dappled light shines on rare and secret wild flowers. In the autumn the changing leaves add to the evocative swimming surroundings.
Unfortunately today the atmosphere was far from tranquil as we took five children who whined and whinged, fell out, complained of feeling sick after eating too many blackberries, argued over hot chocolate and generally drove the zen of the moment above the trees.
My dad recommended it as a potential swimming spot but today it was slightly too shallow. And the noodles congealed in the flask.
Not that I would really dare to complain about the opportunity of being there and swimming there. With my lovely sister. Treasured moments.
Yesterday we carried on with the torture treatment. Of course for me part of the fun is planning the location every week, researching, recceeing and looking on maps for the ultimate stretch of deep water.
Fortunately we are blessed where we live to have countless beautiful stretches of river a short drive away. So we went to Grassington Weir which is actually mentioned on the wild swimming website.
It is a great spot as the path bends away from the river at the crucial place and there is a bank down to the water so it felt quite quiet and away from the tourist hordes, who like to stroll along the Dales way. That was until we realised there was a path along the fenced, wooded other side of the river. We realised this when a group of about twenty ramblers trundled past and gawped at us. To be fair they were very friendly and gave us lots of kudos by telling us we were very brave and by generally being very impressed at our hardiness.
We stayed in quite a bit longer this week, swimming up and down, enjoying the sunshine which again came out at just the right moment. I had bought socks this week to go with my gloves so I felt great. But I think the fact we'd stayed in longer made getting out harder.
It didn't help that a man with a Labrador puppy turned up just as we were staggering out the water and didn't seem in a hurry to depart. Even though it was obvious we were trying not to wave various parts of our bodies around as we got changed under our changing equipment ( aka camp fire blanket and woolly poncho).
Anyway after a small chat about how far labradors can swim, we managed to get many layers on and set off back for the car. It did feel very surreal ( it must be all the endorphins that make you feel like that) and took a while back at home to feel back to normal. My sister had a hot bath and a glass of red wine and said she was back to normal in no time. We're going to take noodles or soup in a flask next time.
Anyway it was lovely. Just what was needed after a hard week at work. I'm cross with myself that I didn't take a photo of the lovely river. Instead you will just have to make do with the mad swimming goons.
It is incredibly beautiful and the sun came out just as we got in. My new turtle thermometer said the water was 12 degrees but it seemed warmer than last week. My new gloves helped. My hands were fine and because they weren't as frozen it made getting dressed much easier afterwards.
I really enjoyed it this week. I think I'm getting addicted.
It's that time, when I dress myself in various layers including a heavy headtorch. I drag myself out into the rapidly cooling evening to a lonleish car park.
As I arrive I can't see anyone and it seems very still. My first thought is that no one else has bothered coming and it's going to be a quiet one.
Then over the next ten minutes various people in similar strange attire begin to emerge from cars. They mutter hellos, shiver, jump up and down and sort out headtorches and garmins.
We are psyching ourselves up for the first official headtorch of the winter.
It is a mammoth task of running round in similar circles, up and down hill, over rocky paths and hidden tree roots, through muddy slurry, for a number of uncountable weeks before the sun returns to bathe us once again in light.
It is almost a pagan ritual as we set off. Familiar faces take familiar paths and resume familiar banter making conversations. We stop at the pinnacle, climb up and over stiles, scatter sleepy sheep and discuss the underfoot conditions.
The new moon comes out while the sun sets, clothing the horizon in red.
We moan a little about the start of the winter. About how many weeks we have to get through.
Yet as we run, the ancient ritual of putting one foot in front of another brings peace and perspective. We laugh at old jokes and exchange stories from recent weeks. We wait for each other and agree (mainly) on the route we will travel.
We finish on a down hill and head for the pub. For more chat, food and drinks. Our minds refreshed and our bodies stretched, we all silently realise we might actually enjoy another headtorching winter.