7 – Swims Challenge!!! – Wicklow 2019

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaUpper Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Upper Glendalough

Words by Maureen McCoy, Photos by Paul McCambridge

The Seven Lakes charity swim challenge started for us on the Friday afternoon. All packed with a bundle of towels, copious swimsuits and a huge parcel of snacks to keep us going for the two days, we headed south. It was a scorcher of a day which held great hopes for the weekend.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaSt Kevin's Way, Wicklow Gap

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media St Kevin’s Way, Wicklow Gap

Seven 1k swims in seven different loughs in the Wicklow Mountains could be made or broken by the fickle Irish weather.

Arriving in the early evening to the proposed first lough high in the Wicklow Gap we found a scenic parking spot to watch the sun go down over St Kevin’s Way. The evening light turned the land from brown to a deep glowing copper and the sky took on a hazy pink hue before the stars took the stage on a clear cool night.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaUpper Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Upper Glendalough

Early in the morning two Dublin Mini coaches pulled up and started spilling out swimmers with cries of “Where’s the lough then?” as they hauled bags from the rear.

Lough Nahanagan, a short drive below us past Danger and Keep Out signs, was perhaps not the wisest nor the most attractive place to venture for a swim! As we poured out of our coaches for this deliberation the barrier gate to the hydro-electricity plant was quickly and quietly drawn shut -security battening down the hatches against a group of rough-shod climate change protesters?

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Upper

©Paul McCambridge

None of us felt inclined to find out first hand how far electricity can arc or test the effects of electricity and water on the human body and so the unanimous decision was to move on to the rather safer option of Upper Glendalough.

Pilling back on board the coaches, I guess to the relief of the plant management, we tootled down the valley to the Glen of Two Lakes, already welcoming its first visitors of the day.

Startling those morning sightseers, we stripped down to our swim gear with the mist clearing and the lough perfectly still, just a hint of haze along the valley.

©Maureen McCoy / MAC Visual MediaGer Carty, Glöndalough

©Maureen McCoy / MAC Visual Media, Glendalough

The plan; to swim out 500m and when the first swimmer hit that distance and turned, we would all return to shore – I’m not sure if those first swimmers heard that instruction as they hurtled off like steam trains down the lake towards the rising sun.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaUpper Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge  Upper Glendalough

Now fully wakened we padded and waddled our way along the boardwalk to the Lower lough for swim 2. Once again treating the well-dressed walkers and tourists with their chic hiking boots to the sight of a motley bunch of swimmers in a plethora of hoodies and dry-robes, towels wrapped around their lower halves and squelching flip flops.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLower Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Lower Glendalough

The deer peeping out through the long grass, however, didn’t seem too perturbed at our fashion parade.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLower Glendalough

©Paul McCambridge Lower Glendalough

Thankfully none of us caught a glimpse of the monster in the lough who used to prey on the congregation way back in St Kevin’s time.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaGlendalough Lower

©Paul McCambridge Glendalough Lower

Next to Vartry Reservoir and, standing on the stony shore as the wind picked up a little, we prepared for a cooler dip. A pleasant surprise when it felt warmer. We were all well into our stride now and headed off down the lake in companionable strokes, bright coloured hats a striking contrast against the grey water. On reaching 500m a circle was formed – feet in the centre, sculling to hold form; little kicks in the centre – “Right leg – up! Left leg -up! Two legs – up!” And…sink, before returning to shore – another 1k done.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaVartry Reservoir

©Paul McCambridge Vartry Reservoir

Side-note; when the water is low here you can see the stone walls underwater, the remains of the village that lay in the valley before it was flooded in 1863.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaVartry Reservoir

©Paul McCambridge  Vartry Reservoir

Back to Roundwood and a picnic lunch; 3 swims down – 4 to go.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Dan

©Paul McCambridge  Lough Dan

Now, Lough Dan and what had been referred to as “A bit of a hike…” took the best part of an hour for us all to get down to the lake – with some grumblings. The water was low and as most started the long trek through the shallows, five of us went rogue and explored the river which flows into the lake. It started promisingly with us managing front crawl to the first bend. But from here on it was shallow, forcing us to scull, dog paddle and use the good old “crocodile crawl” to wend our way to the main lough. Still, we were off-grid and “venturing through the wilds…”

Once in the main lough we joined the group. Coursing through the blackness I could see tiny golden bubbles rising from my hands as I disturbed the silky water – from black, through gold to the surface grey sky above.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaCooper's Creek, Lough Dan

©Paul McCambridge Cooper’s Creek, Lough Dan

With not enough time and unlikely to get access to the Guinness lake, swim number 5 was re-scheduled to be a dip in the rockpool just below the bridge on our return walk. We had now re-named this river Coopers Creek. Clare once again led the way in, clambering over the rocks. Our circle was formed, this time perched on boulders and an attempt made at the syncro routine.

©Maureen McCoy / MAC Visual MediaCoopers Creek, nr Lough Dan

©Maureen McCoy, Coopers Creek, Lough Dan

For a final flourish, we each ducked into the small space behind the tiny fall to look out through the curtain of water streaming into the pool.

 

The first mizzle and rain of the day caught up with us on the steep climb back up to the road. Un-daunted we had only two swims to go – Upper and Lower Loughs Bray.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Upper

©Paul McCambridge Lough Bray Upper

These were the coldest of the day, the skies were grey and the light rain whisped through as we clambered inelegantly over rocks and stumbled our way in to each of these loughs.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Upper

©Paul McCambridge Lough Bray Upper

7 swims completed and still enough time to bathe with Fia’s Lake Soap from her native Sweden in preparation for our reservations at the Merry Ploughboy.

©Maureen McCoy/ MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Lower

©Maureen McCoy Lough Bray Lower

We all smelt quite lovely at dinner!

The 7 Lakes Swim Challenge drew two coachloads of seasoned outdoor swimmers, from Channel swimmers and Ice-milers to Wild swimmers, all ready for an adventurous day out with a great deal of craic raising money for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland;

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual MediaLough Bray Lower

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Lough Bray Lower

If you would like to donate, please click on the link;

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marathonmantoironman

Thank you all for a brilliant day!

Thanks to all the organisers including; Fia, Sarah (Aqualine) who printed the T-shirts, the two Stephens, Kevin and the ever patient drivers Daniel and Liam.

 

 

 

 

Glanmore Lake, County Kerry.

50-kerry-glanmore-lake-beara-peninsula-02a-wm

©Paul McCambridge – MAC Visual Media – 2016 Glanmore Lake, Beara Peninsula, Co Kerry.

Words by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

Slip into tranquil waters around this tree-shaded lake to swim through reflections of the towering Caha Mountains. Weave around the many rock islands in this pristine lake each with trees growing in impossibly little soil. Even climb out and explore the man-made crannog with its small and over-grown stone building.

On a calm day the lake waters act like a mirror, broken only by the occasional trout jumping, spreading ripples out across the surface. Walking into the lake you realise it is alive with tiny insects flitting above the surface, it is these the trout are leaping for and the birds which swoop low over the water returning to the heights of the trees to eat their fill before their next flight. Well-known as a fishing lake, Glanmore is one of the nicest lake swims on the Beara peninsula, set at the base of Lackabane Mountain with the trees reaching up to the sky it could be deep in the Canadian wilderness.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

Getting there; from Kenmare Co Kerry, cross over the Kenmare River and turn right onto R571(this junction has an astounding 20 signs so don’t even try to read them!) Enjoy the scenery as you wind along the river 24km to Lauragh. From Lauragh take the R574 Healy Pass road, past an old pub, an Sibin, turn left following signs for Rosie’s Lake view Restaurant. Climbing further into the mountains as you pass the entrance to Rosie’s the road drops and you get your first view of the lake, pick your spot along the lake shore.

Google Maps; https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Glanmore+Lake/@51.7354675,-9.7821405,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x48457a64440894f5:0xb8bbc7f0c503f1b5!8m2!3d51.7355162!4d-9.7737708

‘Wild Swimming in Ireland’ The Book

Our newly published ‘Wild Swimming in Ireland’ book arrived today in the post…due to hit the shelves very soon but available through pre order on Amazon…Just in time for the outdoor swimming season!…
P.S. We’ll keep you posted on the book’s official launch date and venue.
1st Wildswim Book

Camlough Lake Ice Mile Training

Fin Ice swim 28b

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

The last Sunday in November and a crowd of us gathered at Doyle’s bar in the centre of Camlough village. Nervous excitement permeated the air as we each debated our own sanity at even contemplating the journey we were embarking upon.

A queue weaved its way first into the bar to sign waiver forms and register, then back-tracked through the narrow porch and into the snug, where in turn we each rolled up our sleeves to have our blood pressure checked – despite my occasional case of “white-coat syndrome”, I was pronounced fit to swim. Not sure whether to be pleased, a high BP would have been a great excuse! Oh how good we swimmers are at finding excuses!

The briefing then started with Padraig Mallon sharing some of his hard-found wisdom with us, little tricks of the trade to help calm anxiety, finding a mantra that works for oneself – I have a super one for getting up hills when hiking or cycling; “Buns of steel – Thighs of iron!” (Yes, I can dream on but it gets me up the hill every time!)

So far my swimming mantra is more based on; “The stronger I pull the sooner I get there!”  It doesn’t work so well when one’s swimming for time rather than distance though.

Nuala Moore then gave us an entertaining but also slightly sobering talk on what to expect and how to conduct ourselves. The onus is on each and every one of us to be responsible for ourselves and our own safety. Yes, there is a team of willing volunteers but let’s keep their job as easy as possible.

Fin Ice swim 06b Fin Ice swim 08b Fin Ice swim 16b Fin Ice swim 10b

Down to the lake-side and as we gathered on the slipway a team of kayakers headed out to escort us round the 250m loop. As is my usual want, I hung around – I can faff with the best of them but once I started, I felt not too bad although my cheeks were cold and I was glad I’d remembered ear-plugs. I hate that one little drop of cold water that always seems to seep in no matter how far I pull the cap down over my ears.

Fin Ice swim 17b

Fin Ice swim 19b Fin Ice swim 20b

As we gathered to start I saw Donna hugging her Chill swim float, “Have you a hot-water bottle in there?” (Shh! That might be an idea for next time!) The first challenge was to complete 750m before the first whistle was blown and the 20 minute swim group left the water. Continuing to kick I tried to maintain heat, remembering as Nuala said, “If you stop kicking, your little bum muscles will tense up and you won’t be able to kick,” made me smile. By 30 minutes my smile was wearing off, I could feel my hands beginning to tense and the baby finger on my right hand was creeping out. I clenched and opened my hands to try to pull it back into line but the stubborn baby seemed bent on getting out of there – leaving the rest behind if need be!

Fin Ice swim 03b

The next turn around the marker and the call was “3 minutes left. Don’t swim too far.” Hooray! I can thole another few minutes. When the three whistle blasts sounded our time up, I dashed for the shore. I raced to my feet and as I thought a well-deserved pat on the back when Padraig quietly said “Well done. Now get back in and swim out to that rib and back.” You are MEAN Padraig Mallon!

Fin Ice swim 05b

Dried and dressed in several layers it was a pleasure to gather around the braziers burning merrily on the lake shore as we congratulated each-other.

Fin Ice swim 31b

Thanks to CLWF, mean Padraig, Ger and nice Nuala for setting up this program and I look forward to our next session.

Fin Ice swim 11b

Creggan Country Park – Derry / Londonderry City / Stroke City

Derry - Donegal 01a

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Up on a hill overlooking Derry City lies Creggan Country park, the site of an old reservoir which is now used for water-sports and fishing. As I crested the hill I got my first glimpse of an interesting building, slate walls and a green roof lifted my hopes that this could be an oasis in the midst of residential housing.

A crowd was milling at the entrance and I joined them to introduce myself to Mervyn, one of the Northern Velocity coaches. With changing rooms and showers above the gated lake this is not a wild swimming area, but it does provide a safe training zone for those wishing to venture into the open water. The water quickly becomes deep and each of the wet-suited swimmers scanned their micro-chipped armbands as they made their way in to swim the 1km loop, with the swimmers content to swim at their own pace a couple of kayaks paddled out as safety craft.

The advantage of Creggan is that it is compact and swimmers are always visible from the slipway, marker buoys form a loop that never sees the swimmer too far from the shoreline. Beside the concrete jetty new swimmers can slip into deep water yet be coached from the side before venturing out into the main body of the lake for their first lap. This is the opportunity, for some the first time, to experience the lack of visibility in lake swimming. The shock of colder water – (some swimmers will never again say an indoor pool is cold!) and the feeling of exposure in a much larger expanse of water than previously experienced.

Derry 1

Ranks of inflatables and kayaks moored up create a separate area for these test swims and the large zorbing balls and great green and white climbing pyramid show this site is well used by young and old.

If you want a play session for yourself and the kids, check out the Country Parks activity program and if you want a safe, well-marked training area they can give all the times when swimmers are welcome.

Creggan is a NOWCA listed lake – (National Open Water Coaching Association)

Carrickreagh Jetty Fermanagh

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Carrickreagh Jetty sits close to Ely Lodge Forest and, surrounded by trees makes a picturesque start to a swim. An early morning dip before the touring boats began to come in was the order of the day. I dived in to the dark water, surprisingly warm, and rose into sun glinting off the surface.  Tiny fish, silver flashes as they streaked away from me, suddenly to stop and hang in the water, nose down tail up, as if dying, only to sprint away again when I approached. Entranced, I watched as groups of three to five “spricks” would do this repeatedly. Then below I spied some slightly larger fish – perhaps this was a game of hunting and survival I was witness to. How many levels of bigger fish would I encounter? Glad of my choice to wear a bright swimsuit, still I kept my toes high in the water, just in case.

The fish parted as I swam from the jetty, following the depth markers I kept to the edge of the main channel, exploring safely away from any boat traffic, but in the early morning there was no interruption to my swim. I returned through the still quiet morning to climb the ladder and dry in the strengthening sun. 

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zDJSgtJazNy8.kePSogxRZGsw

CURSED LAKE – Slieve Gullion,

Image

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

To dip in the legendary waters of a volcano crater, famed for a curse on the giant, Finn McCool, was too good an opportunity to pass by, so on a warm, sunny day we drove to Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Armagh. A track led us up the mountain and during the 45 minute walk to the summit we passed a stone shelter and read of ancient tombs and the legend of the lake itself.

Arriving at the trig point, to our left lay the small Lough, the sun was shining and with the Lough reflecting the blue sky, it looked like a scene from a Dali painting.

A grey haired man suddenly appeared from the other side of the hill, taking his daily walk, saw that we intended to swim and warned us of the curse…

…when the great, Finn McCool came to the Lough, he saw a beautiful woman there who enticed him into the waters, he bathed but, having entered the water as the strong giant of legend, he emerged reduced to a weak old man with all his hair turned to white!  The beautiful woman was a Witch who had cursed the Lough stealing the great Giants’ strength and power.

 

It took him years of searching but finally Finn found a good Witch who was able to restore his youth, strength and vitality, but his hair remained forever white.

Despite this warning we ventured in, and found, quite unnervingly, our skin took on a blood-red hue in the peaty water, this must keep the story of the Curse alive!

We lay on the water and sculled our way towards the centre, but the Lough is very shallow and floored with peaty silt, easily disturbed and quickly turning the water black, so not good for swimming, although a quick dip on a hot day is refreshing, you will spend more time wiping the silt from your body after!

Perhaps just to sit on a rock and cool ones feet, is enough.

Still, to dip in the blood-red waters of a volcano crater in Ireland was an experience!

Philips Street Atlas, Co Armagh, pg 140, E5

 

Slieve Gullion Forest park, Armagh, drive along the forest road and park at the side of the track. The walk took around 45 mins from the start of the track to the trig point.

 

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zDJSgtJazNy8.k7CY5rJeUTiE