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.

 

 

 

 

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The Legend of Jenny Watt

The Legend of Jenny Watt by Brian Meharg, Bangor Boats

Beautifully illustrated by Janet King

Book Cover 1

Bangor’s first children’s book by North Channel Pilot and amateur historian Brian Meharg has captured the imaginations of children and got them wanting to get outdoors and explore their local area.

Reviews:

Esther aged 8years

Esther Smith 1

“The whole idea of the Jenny Watt… it makes you want to find out more and maybe go to the place where the war was. Maybe if you went digging there you might find something magical. This book has a very good sense of adventure and it was very easy to read. I loved where in the very same spot where Jenny Watt was found there was a puppy. That book was just amazing. I love reading new books and I think this was one of the best books I’ve ever read… I thought it was just gorgeous.”

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Elijah aged 11years

Elijah Smith 1

“I thought this book explained the story very well. It made me think what it was like back then when there were smugglers. Whenever they got on their little boat and started smuggling the story got really intense. I loved it so much I read it all in one sitting. The Jenny Watts cave was so cool it made me want to go there and shout “Jenny where is Con” and she would hopefully reply.“gone”. I would recommend this book to children of all ages.

Ps. When I asked for a great book to read I defiantly got one.”

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Lovely reviews from 2 of my swimmers.

Author Brian Meharg signing my copy at Helens Bay…

Brian Meharg and Mo 1

Printed by Impact Printing, Coleraine & Ballycastle – 2018

ISBN 978-1-906689-84-1

Buying on eBay

Lough Hyne – Co Cork

Lough Hyne, County Cork

©Paul McCambridge 2016 – MAC Visual Media Swimming in Lough Hyne, County Cork.

 

Words by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

Sitting in a fold of hills 5km south of Skibbereen this marine lake is connected to the ocean by a narrow channel known as the Rapids, re-charged twice a day with the in flowing tide, it provides a playground for swimmers and kayakers who allow themselves to be swept along in the fast flowing waters. A little island out crop on the shore facing the grand house is the entry point for most swimmers and here you can wade in down a short slipway into the clear briny waters. Home to the Lough Hyne Lappers, a group of openwater swimmers who boast among their numbers the first man to complete Oceans Seven Stephen Redmond, the lake is not only for these hardly marathon swimmers and you are just as likely to meet grandparents introducing grandchildren to the water.

©Paul McCambridge 2016 – MAC Visual Media Swimming in Lough Hyne, County Cork.

Irelands first Marine Nature Reserve holds within it a wealth of marine life and walkers will enjoy the steep hike up through the woods to the summit of Knockomagh Hill for grandstand views of West Cork, the lough and the Atlantic Ocean.

©MAC Visual Media 2016 – MAC Visual Media Swimming in Lough Hyne, County Cork.

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

Getting there; from Skibbereen in west Cork take the R595 toward Baltimore and after a few kms, take a left turn signed to Lough Hyne, this leads down to parking at the edge of the lake, turn left and drive along the lake shore to the outcrop and slipway, parking and picnic tables here.

Google Maps; https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Lough+Hyne/@51.5008079,-9.3105661,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x4845a4c113be2969:0xeb9178cb198acc8a!8m2!3d51.5024127!4d-9.3030566

Couch To 5km…

 

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Words by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Taking the Couch to 5k running premise into open water swimming was always going to be a challenge but we decided we would attempt it. Our aim; To bring novice swimmers into the outdoors and take the whole group together on a swimming journey. The bonus would be to complete the Irish Long Distance Swimming Associations (ILDSA) 5k event on 5th August. We were not short of enthusiastic Lake-landers who chose to take it on.

After only ten weeks of training, 16 swimmers completed the swim from Culky Jetty to the Lakeland Forum.

Share WEB USE PIC

We started the programme in early June and met our swimmers for the first time at the Share Centre, Lisnaskea. For many this was their first venture into open water and they were somewhat nervous. Lough Erne waterways are not the chlorinated blue of the swimming pool with guide-lines painted along the floor and the deep end clearly marked. Here, there are no walls to stop and rest at and the great expanse of the lough can make one feel rather vulnerable.

 

Having spent our first few sessions in the relative security of the Share Centre bay, we then went to a “wild” swim spot at Ely Lodge Forest, near Carrickreagh Jetty. As Paul and I set out the markers for the swim course, the group chatted nervously among themselves and geared up for an abrupt jump in from the jetty into these new, unknown waters. Gritting their teeth and determining they would “go for it” on this swim. We then called them together for their pre-swim briefing; “Instead of entering at the jetty, we’ll walk in here and ease our way through the reeds.” This slow and gentle transition from land to water marked an increased understanding for many.

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Outdoor swimming is not about times and distances, it is about exploring and enjoying, it can become an adventure in a morning, an afternoon or evening. It is about being connected and immersed, time and distance covered are secondary to the senses and sensations. This, particularly for one of the less confident swimmers, was a turning point. To stop comparing and berating oneself for being slow or cataloguing distances, instead to marvel in one’s own progression and achievement. To really experience what we are doing, at the time of doing.

 

Carrying this new-found knowledge and confidence and with a long swim under their belts, the challenges were then ramped up with a circumnavigation of Devenish Island.

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On the 29th July, only nine weeks into training, the group undertook their most exposed swim yet. Accompanied by Darragh, Conleth and Kealan in kayaks, thirteen swimmers, Paul and I entered at Trory Jetty for the approximate 3.8k swim around the island.

 

The swim across to re-group at Devenish Jetty gave us opportunity to iron out any niggles. Goggles were fixed, photos taken and then we set off. The shallow waters around Friar’s Leap brought the challenge of swimming through heavily weeded sections. Then the stretch along the far side past Devenish West Jetty, began to feel like it would never end. Where was the top of this island?

As we finally rounded the top of Devenish swans watched us from the cover of the tall reeds and a large Heron passed overhead. Through those same reeds, we could just make out the shore and not much farther, Trory Jetty, our finish point. Relief was visible as we turned into the sheltered lee of the island, the toughest swim to date.

 

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One week later, the sun was out, nerves were increasing and the ILDSA event was about to get underway. The ILDSA Championship Swim in Lough Erne is in its 26th year, 17k being the main event then some years ago a 25k swim was added. Now, to attract more swimmers, the shorter distances of 10 and 5k have been added. As we waited at Culky Jetty to start, our eyes were peeled for the lead swimmer to come through, then we would be popped in the water to begin our swim to the Lakeland Forum.

Sunshine beamed down on us as we waited with high spirits. Ciara Doran led the 17k, with cheers and clapping the swimmers were spurred on and now keen to get started themselves. This was it, all training done; “I’ll see you at the finish!”

 

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Line up, countdown and off. Chaperoned by our kayakers and kayaks and paddleboarders from Erne Paddlers, they were underway.

 

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All sixteen Couch to 5k swimmers completed the distance in faster times than estimated. Most wore wetsuits, however two swam “skins” – meaning a normal swim suit.

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Inspired by the 25k and 17k Championship swimmers, who must only wear swim suits, many of the couch to 5k are planning to remove their wetsuits for the next time!

Paul and I would like to thank John Boyle of Waterways Ireland who sponsored this pilot event. Our kayakers, Darragh, Conleth and Kealan McCambridge who gave great encouragement to the swimmers throughout the programme.

Robert Livingstone of the Share Centre and his staff for use of the excellent facilities at Share. Erne Paddlers and the ILDSA event organisers for allowing us to join the 5k event and swim in wetsuits.

(Wetsuit times were recorded separately from “skins” swimmers.)

Finally, well done to all the Couch to 5k participants. Of the 20 who attended the course, 3 decided a shorter distance would be more within their capabilities (one of whom swam Devenish) and one swimmer was on holiday – I am expecting a report that he competed a suitable long swim while there!

So pleased to have set you on this journey!

@MAC Visual Media - Paul McCambridge

Testimonials

Thanks so much to Maureen, Paul and the 3 lads for all their help and encouragement. The course was inspirational and transformative, a master class. – B M

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… thank you Mo, Paul and all the lads for Kayak support. What a top class course and an unforgettable event yesterday. Truly inspirational and looking forward to Long Distance swimming with you guys for the future. – E C

erwin

Totally appreciate all the time, effort and commitment that went into getting us further in our swimming than I ever thought possible. Such inspirational, encouraging people. Proud to know you. – M E

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Thanks so much guys. – J B

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A year ago, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting I could do a 5k swim. I just needed a bit of a push! …it was inspiring to see the longer distance swimmers and consider what the next challenge might be.  Thanks again for all your hard work organising the course and for all your encouragement and overall positivity. – T F

@MAC Visual Media - Paul McCambridge

Thanks Maureen and Paul, great event and few weeks training –  T B

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Thanks again Maureen, Paul and kayak support over the weeks. Really enjoyed the whole experience. – P L

@MAC Visual Media - Paul McCambridge

Moville Lighthouse Swim – Co Donegal

Moville Lighthouse Swim (Dolphins included) – Co Donegal

 

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Written by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

The sun was shining on lough Foyle as a small crowd gathered at the harbour. Keen long distance swimmers and some completely new to open water were there to brave the sea on the 3rd annual Moville Lighthouse swim – 1.2km out from the harbour, around the lighthouse sitting pretty on its stilts and back to the slipway.

As the 38 swimmers, mostly “skins” (normal swimming togs) with just a few in wet-suits, walked down the slipway to ready themselves for the start of the race, an audience of family and friends cheered them on. Kayaks sat a little way off waiting to guide the swimmers and out near the main channel rescue boats hovered. As the field began to spread a huge container ship sounded its horn as it slipped on down the Foyle.

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190714-Moville swim 168b

190714-Moville swim 164b

The organiser Peadar’s comment before the swim, “Those of you not racing for a fast time, when you get to the lighthouse just take a moment…look back at the scenery” was ringing in my ears as we watched the swimmers finishing and a pod of Dolphins appeared, jumping and riding the wakes of the safety boats.

A spectacular show followed and I was jealous of the lucky devils out there in boats and kayaks with those magnificent creatures showing off around them.

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My apologies now to the swimmers, you did great but the Dolphins stole the show!

Certainly this event will continue to grow in numbers, it’s a beautiful swim, well organised and I am keen to sign up for next year, especially if there is a chance that the dolphins might return and I will be taking a camera with me!

 

Swimmer and spectator quotes

   “Moville Lighthouse Swim completed today. Can’t believe a few months
ago I started swimming. If you had said to me I would have done a
triathlon and an open water event, I would have laughed out loud. To top
off the swim today I was literally swimming with dolphins. Happy Happy
Happy.”

 “Congratulations , another superb event . We are getting bigger and
better each year , the dolphins were a master touch!”

   “…a great swim today.  I had the added bonus of swimming with the
dolphins for part of it. I look forward to next years’ swim.”
 

“Mammy, when will I be old enough to swim around the Lighthouse like them?”  – Comment by 5 year old boy to parent

19th July 2014

 

Ballymorran Bay – Strangford Lough

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photos by Paul McCambridge

Jon and Sarah, silhouetted against the gleaming water, little splashes from their hands becoming sparkling diamonds in the air as we swam in the low November sun.

We were taking advantage of the dwindling sunny days and with the winter fast approaching, to swim out across the bay toward Darragh Island.  The plunge was taken and the brutal chill awakened every sense in my body as we settled our breathing and then began to swim through knife-like cold, clear water. Jon and Sarah took great delight in introducing me to this secret spot their family have come to for years. They told me how there is now a community of wild goats on Darragh and that as you swim closer to the island there is a deep crevasse where one can feel the temperature drop suddenly as one swims into the deeper water.

Returning to the pier I had the urge to dive, as I climbed out, the water covered my feet and I stood amidst the bright yellows and greens of the lichen covered rocks on the 10ft pier wall. I prepared myself for the ice-cream-headache shock when I dived – it didn’t come! Perhaps two caps was insulation enough or brain freeze had already set in, but I simply felt further exhilarated. Sarah joined me, stepping out of her wetsuit to take the plunge in ‘skins!’ Bravely she jumped in with a cry; “You’d better have taken a photo of this!”

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The water felt fresh and clean and the jellies gone for the winter. The family must have had a blissful summer coming to this quiet spot in the hot weather to picnic and play.

As we helped each other into our warm clothes I extolled the virtues of fleece joggers and pyjamas, and thermal socks, easy to slip into with numb toes and sticky, half dried Skin.

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

CURSED LAKE – Slieve Gullion,

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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