Taking the Duck for a Swim…

Words and photos by Maureen McCoy (so apologies they’re not Paul’s standard!)

Helen’s Bay was a treat this morning, okay it was low tide, there was a load of sea grass on the near side to get through and we had to walk a fair bit out until it was deep enough to swim but there was a healthy contingent of swimmers, one of whom had the cutest companion.

DSCF1224a

As she walked along the beach cradling this ball of fluff in her arm, I had to find out her story…

“Goose” is a baby Eider duck, possibly around three weeks old and has adopted Clare and her family to live and swim with.

On a kayak trip to Trasnagh Island, Strangford just over three weeks ago, Clare’s 14 year old son met with a morbid sight;

“he found a nest of dead birds, feathers strewn around and no adults to be seen, when he went back to his kayak this tiny duckling was on the seat. He lifted it out but it kept climbing back in again, so he brought it home.”

They think the duckling was only a day or so old. So they’ve looked after her, played with her and Clare regularly takes her swimming.

As Clare and her friends waded in for their swim Goose bobbed along happily swimming beside and between them. Looking for all the world as if she was thinking;

“Yes, I’m cute and yes, the conversation is all about me and yes, I’m fine with that!”

DSCF1225a

After her swim she’s very happy to snuggle into the crook of an arm and sleep, secure in the knowledge that she’s safe with her adoptive parent.

At home Goose has no worries about her place in the family, she pecks the dog and cats paws to keep them in check and even made strides towards the family goat – Clare managed to scoop her up in time saying that might be a bit more than she could handle – yet!

(Mind you, if she lives up to her name, she could be a worthy adversary – I remember my Grandma kept geese when we were small & they chased us mercilessly!)

Kerry+Geese

A real character Goose is quite happy to be introduced to new people; preening for her photo…

 

 

 

“She also loves a ping pong ball…” Clare told me, “We roll it and she chases it to bring it back!”

Not worried that Goose will just wander away, Clare says;

“She’ll stay with us as long as she wants – she’s a wild duck after all.”

 

DSCF1230a

 

Lovely to meet you Clare & Goose – Happy Swimming!

Lockdown Blues

After two months at home, thank the Stars and the Moon

We’re easing the lock-down and can move about soon.

Oh, I’ve missed my swimming in the Sea and the Lake

and my hands are all calloused from wielding a rake!

For years the garden had a perfunctory skiff;

A quick dash with the mower to tidy a bit,

A few Veggies planted then fend for themselves

But now, like so many, I’ve had time to delve.

My ramshackle greenhouse near bursts at the seams

With cavalcades of Courgette and Micro Greens.

The Tomatoes are stretching their limbs to the sky

While Carrots and Parsnips drain the water-butt dry.

And I’m learning the birds in the Garden that feed;

Chaffinch and Goldfinch, I keep them in seed.

I’ve now decorated the rooms in my home

Refresh and declutter – too long alone!

Lockdown Blues Image3MCC

And with all the exercise, I’ve realised I Like,

Walking and Yoga and going out on the Bike.

But I STILL miss my Swimming, so, while sipping Sloe Gin,

I came up with an idea, to bring the Outside… IN…

With too much time, and left-over paint I fear –

I happened to come up with this SPLENDID IDEA!

Bored with my Bathroom and no plumber to help

I decided to do a makeover, myself!

“What a Great Idea!” It seemed in my head,

“I can’t go to the Lake – it can come to ME instead!”

So, here is the consequence of binge-watching shows

On home décor and Art; “We’re ALL artists you know…”

I blame GRAYSON PERRY, so please heed my warning

Lest you should wake up to THIS every morning;

Lockdown Blues Image4MCC

My bathroom now has, at least for a while,

This Waterside visitor, who DOES make me smile;

He may not be Perfect, he may not be Grand,

But he was My piece of Lakeside, whilst Swimming was banned!

Words and photos by

Maureen McCoy 19th May 2020

‘The Towel Run’ – Sandycove Island Swim 2019

 

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

Words Maureen McCoy, Photography Paul McCambridge

 

Ned, as is his usual want to goad me whenever he sees me, for not having swum Sandycove Island. This July at the Lough Erne 17k he “upped the anti” by brandishing a large white towel with a list of names adorning it – English Channel Swimmers who’ve done a lap of Sandycove…

“You have to do your lap to get your name on this.”

 

So here I am, almost two months later, signed on the dotted line for the Sandycove Island Swim, along with 200 plus other swimmers – the draw of the towel proved too strong!

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

The forecast was not promising for the day with rain and wind due to drive in in the afternoon, around the time the race was scheduled to start.

Arriving in Kinsale with half an hour to spare for registration I collected my cap and time-chip from the organisers stationed at Hamlets and then caught up with some of the swimmers from the 7 Lakes challenge the previous weekend.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

4pm and the rain was lashing down! Umbrellas up as sodden swimmers gathered at the bottom of the road. Two Myrtleville Turtles vainly tried to stay warm zipped together into one dry-robe…

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

During the briefing Ned announced that the course would be brought inside the island – with the wind making it “quite lumpy” and a fog rolling in it would be unsuitable for many swimmers to do ‘The Lap’.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

My fears of a mad crash of swimmers all vying for space were alleviated when it was clear that we’d set off in waves of 30 – fastest swimmers first. “So if your number is 185, you will be waiting around for ten minutes or so. Stay as warm as you can…Ha!”

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

4.30pm and numbers 1 – 30 were called to line up and ticked off the list as they ran onto the slipway. The horn sounded and they were off as the next 30 lined up. The starts were quick, smooth and well executed.

The course; out towards the island, rounding the first large yellow buoy and then along the lee of the island, turn at the farthest buoy and return to the unmissable bright orange FINISH line.

280919 - Sandycove Swim '19 08

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Island Swim

After standing about in the pelting rain the sea was welcomingly warm, a short tussle on the way to the first buoy and then, after the turn, the field opened up and I could relax into my stroke across the bay.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / Sandycove Island Swim

On rounding the far buoy my latent competitive urges piqued as I was flanked by two swimmers – one “skins” and the other wetsuit. I tried not to drop too far behind as the three of us raced our way in.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim, Mo

©Paul McCambridge / Sandycove Island Swim.

The rain was still pelting down as we hit the time check and climbed up the slipway, no hanging about – we each grabbed our gear and ran back to cars or vans for shelter.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge /  Sandycove Island Swim

Waiting for the traffic to clear we watched as the last of the organisers and boat crew were leaving and one lone swimmer came past on her bicycle. Through the pouring rain, water streaming down the road under her wheels, her black dry-robe flapping in the wind like something out of Harry Potter, she disappeared over the brow of the hill.

It was at that moment I realised – I still hadn’t done a lap of the island – I wouldn’t get my towel!

Link to results… Cork Masters Results

Neddie Irwin… 1st swimmer home

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim

©Paul McCambridge / Neddie Irwin –  Sandycove Island Swim

That evening the celebrations took us from Hamlets to dinner at Cru restaurant and then onto a local bar with live music and dancing!

Waking on Sunday morning to bright sunshine streaming through the windows, I was glad to see a complete turn-around of the weather having arranged to meet Ned for my lap of the island.

As we walked down the beach the tide was fast on its way out and Ned asked; “Have you ever swum around the island?”

“Yes.” I replied, “But you didn’t believe me and said it had to be witnessed!”

“Sounds like something I’d say.” he laughed.

“We need to go now though – soon there won’t be any water to swim!” Adding, “Whatever you do don’t walk on the rocks – your feet will be cut to pieces”

As we paddled in it seemed this would be more walk than swim and soon we were using a mix of crawl, sculling and good old crocodile crawling.

At one stage Ned managed to get completely stuck in the shallows – 6foot 6 of legs and arms “turtled” as he rolled about trying to find some water! As I giggled at the sight, I promptly ran aground myself and had to wiggle my own way across trying to avoid scrapes!

Finally outside the island we made it to deep water and a lively swim to the far corner. Here the breaking waves allowed us to surf in before returning to the slipway – my official lap done!

280919 - Sandycove Swim '19 02

©Paul McCambridge / Ned at Sandycove with bloodied knees – thanks for the guided swim and lunch!

Back at Ned’s we enjoyed the craic and a tasty lunch of steak and mushrooms all served up on Syrian bread and washed down with creamy hot chocolate – lovely, thank you Ned.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media 28th Sept 2019, Sandycove Swim,

Thanks also to all the hard working and drenched organisers and volunteers for a super event.

Links to Sandycove Swimmers + Cork Masters

7 – Swims Challenge!!! – Wicklow Hills

Featured

©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.

 

 

 

 

Couch to 5k – 2019

 

Couch to 5k 31

Couch to 5k Swim Programme 2019,

in association with Waterways Ireland

 

Written by Maureen McCoy

Photos by Paul McCambridge @ MAC Visual Media

Couch to 5k 11

The Couch to 5km Swim Programme is now in its third year and this season we started in mid-May for a 10 week programme of coaching and fitness training to develop swimmers skills, technique and endurance in preparation for a final distance event. The aim; to compete in the 5k at ILDSA’s Lough Erne Swim Event held on 27th July.

Couch to 5k 14

Couch to 5k 21

The early start caused a little trepidation as for many it was their first venture into open water this year – and for some the first time ever! But the mild spring weather meant the water was bearable at the beginning and soon warmed to pleasant temperatures.

Couch to 5k 28

Alongside a new group of outdoor swimming enthusiasts, 2019 saw the return of several swimmers from previous years; three of which were aiming for 10k as their final challenge distance!

After our first sessions at the Share Discovery Village we moved to explore several other venues on the Erne System and on our final swim of the programme we resurrected Year 1’s challenge; the circumnavigation of the scenic Devenish Island.

Couch to 5k 32

Blessed with a scorcher of a day the crowd of swimmers, escorted by kayakers, set off from Trory Jetty to round the island – quite a surprise to the passengers waiting for the ferry! Making their way past the rushes where a swan family peered out at the brightly coloured hats of these humans swimming by. The swimmers turned, following the island shoreline towards the tower of Devenish. As they crossed Friar’s Leap a returned to the lee of the island a new set of ferry passengers were greeted with the novel sight of a group of swim caps and tow-floats bobbing through the water towards them.

Couch to 5k 30

Three of the Ct5k swimmers opted for the slightly easier and shorter swim from Trory Jetty to Devenish jetty and back, a round trip of 1 mile. With a brief photo-stop ignoring the island no parking sign and then escorted by Damselflies on the return journey.

 

Couch to 5k 33

Christine happily swimming back from Devenish Jetty, Dragonflies/Damselflies hitching a lift… https://www.hep6.com/dragonfly-damselfly-symbolism-facts-meaning-totem-spirit-power-animal/

For some of the Ct5k this Devenish swim was the prefect way to conclude the programme. For others it gave them the confidence and belief in their ability to go for the 5k ILDSA event.

Couch to 5k 01

From the Ct5k programme, 3 swimmers completed the Ted Keenan mile, 12 completed the 5k and 2 completed the 10k – both winning their categories.

Couch to 5k Cake 1a

 

Pastry Masterpiece made by Johnnie Walker… Devenish Tower standing proud with swimmers ploughing around the island, the varied colours of hat showing the different distances they chose to complete and the finish line at the Lakeland Forum – the conclusion of 2019’s Couch to 5k Swim Programme!

Couch to 5k 20

 

Coaches Maureen McCoy, Kealan and Paul McCambridge from SWIMFREE Outdoor Swimming Association would like to thank WATERWAYS IRELAND as our title sponsor for all their support, the SHARE Discovery Village for providing a wonderful space to focus on technique and skills and the ILDSA for inviting Couch to 5k Swimmers.

Couch to 5k Swimmers Results;

 

Couch to 5k 17

 

 

Female Skins                                                                        Male Skins

1st        Caroline Ogle                                                           1st        Ray Smith

2nd       Joanne O’Neill

3rd        Bronagh Corrigan

 

Couch to 5k 19

@Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media – 27th July 2019 Lough Erne 5k + 10k Swim. Couch to 5k participants.

Female Wetsuit                                                       Male Wetsuit

1st        Anna Todd                                         1st        Gareth Brady

2nd       Donna McElhill

3rd        Jenny Elliott-York

 

Couch to 5k 18

Bonus results for Ct5k Swimmers;

Couch to 5k 22

ILDSA 10k       1st Male Wetsuit Swimmer             Lee York

1st Male Skins Swimmer                 Tim Fagan

ILDSA 5k         2nd Male Wetsuit Swimmer                        Gareth Brady

 

Well done all!

Couch to 5k 02

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https://wildswim.wordpress.com/

https://www.waterwaysireland.org/

https://sharevillage.org/

http://www.ildsa.info/index.php

 

100th Liffey Swim & Jack B Yeats

220719PMC - 100th Liffey Swim 01 Black Gold Web

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Words by Maureen McCoy

Dublin City and its swimmers are justly proud of this iconic event now about to celebrate its 100th birthday. With Jack B Yeats 1923 painting “The Liffey Swim” the inspiration for a re-enactment photograph in which Yeats had won an Olympic medal in 1924. A crowd of swimmers and spectators assembled at Custom House Quay dressed in period regalia. Some boarded the vintage tram carriage (one of Irelands last remaining) overlooking the water, while others lined the foreground, craning over the wall to wave and cheer the swimmers below.

220719 - Liffey Swim 8a web

Six past Liffey Swim winners had the honour of this pre-event dip, including Siobhán Hoare-O’Driscoll, Ladies winner in 1991. They waved up to us on our high perch as we cheered, holding onto our hats lest they be blown into the river!

220719 - Liffey Swim 6a Web

Bert O’Brien 2 Times Winner of the Liffey Swim

The Dublin skyline and port has changed significantly since Yeats day as has the swim. For many years it was the men’s domain but in more recent years women have been coming to the fore.

220719 - Liffey Swim 7a Web

This year, on the 100th Liffey swim, the organisers expect more than 500 participants, all of whom have had to swim six of Leinster Open Sea Swimming qualifying events to be eligible for a place.

220719 - Liffey Swim 4a Web

The swim itself is on 3rd August and swimmers will start at Rory O’Moore Bridge for the 2,200m swim, passing under 11 of the City’s key bridges to finish at Custom House Quay;

  • Rory O’Moore Bridge
  • James Joyce Bridge
  • Liam Mellow
  • Bridge Father
  • Mathew Bridge
  • O’Donvan Rossa Bridge
  • Grattan Bridge
  • Millenium Bridge
  • Liffey Bridge (Halfpenny Bridge)
  • O’Connell Bridge
  • Butt Bridge
  • Rosie Hackett Bridge
  • Loop Line Bridge

 

A commemorative stamp depicting Yeats painting and celebrating the centenary will be available from 1st August from An Post.

220719PMC - 100th Liffey Swim Stamp 1

For a more comprehensive history of the swim and info on their Sea Swim events check out Leinster Open Sea Swimming

Dunkers & Dippers

 

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.comWords by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Cold water swimmers each have their differing reasons for hitting the water on a regular basis, some wish to prepare for challenges such as the Ice Swimming distances or an event where the ability to deal with the cold for a long period is paramount. Others are aiming to reap the benefits purported to be induced; it is said it can boost the immune system, help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Whatever our reasons, it certainly gives one a zing and zest for life and the camaraderie found in swimming groups is infectious.

We are now well into April and the recent good weather heralds the coming of spring. Lengthening daylight and the promise of warm summer to come has set many swimmers thoughts to returning outdoors. However, plenty of hardy souls have been enjoying the invigorating sensations of dipping and dunking all through the cold, short days of winter.

As lifetime advocates of year-round swimming ourselves, we took the opportunity to meet up with several of these newly formed groups…

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Ballyhornan Bay Swimmers

Approximately half-way between Strangford town and Ardglass, along the Killard Road, lies Ballyhornan Bay and its close neighbour, Benderg.

A soggy morning in mid-February was the time we chose to visit the swim group that formed here over the winter. Running a little late, I arrived to see one other straggler just ahead of me making her way to the waters’ edge. I hastily stripped down to my cossie, crammed my cap on my head and fished goggles from the depth of my bag, fearing the others would leave the water just as I arrived.

No need to worry as I waded in calling out the one name in the group I knew; “Roisin?” one wetsuit clad lady said “She’s over there…” pointing to a tow-float anchored not far out where a little party of swimmers were doing repeated laps between this and a second rescue buoy.

When I joined them they were on lap 6. In the lee of Guns Island we did several more laps, swimming a mix of Breaststroke and Front Crawl, with a bit of chatting in between.

Finally, we were drawn to try out some body surfing in the small rollers breaking in the shallows, with a lot of squealing and trying not to lose our goggles in the foam we managed to return intact.

As we left the water the rain got heavier, it wasn’t the weather for hanging around, so everyone quickly retreated towards home with calls of; “See you next week!” and “…really enjoyed that!” leaving the beach with a happy buzz.

Thanks for the warm welcome ladies and I hope to see you again soon!

FB Link – Ballyhornan Sea Swimming Group

Ballyhornan – Lecale way inlet 

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©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers

On the shores of Lough Neagh, behind the Discovery Centre a short slipway offers entry to a sheltered section of the lough and it’s here at the weekends that Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers meet.

Rows of cars parked close to the water, spilt out swimmers in various stages of undress. Some with woolly hats, others already in their swim caps, all the same pale blue with a very amiable-looking Monster depicted on the side. The Dunkers have arrived.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

A quick pre-dip brief by founder member Chris Judge included a warm welcome to us guests, it’s been quite a while since I swam with Chris at Newcastle harbour on a grey day. Nice to catch up again and it was great to see so many faces in the group.

After briefing, the Dunkers flooded down the slipway, some singing and some squealing as they waded in. A sea of bright coloured tow floats jostled with the blue Monster hats and the singing continued.

 Catching up with Francie McAlinden (Winner Global Swim Series 2018) who amongst other things is planning a charity swim for his grandson, 14th September – Swim for Oran – raising funds for the Heart Beat Trust RVH, I’m all signed up!

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Several members of Lisburn Triathlon club were tempted to explore winter dunking and swimming and then were very quickly drawn irreversibly to “the cold side…” These guys have ditched the wetsuits and set themselves some challenging swims over the next 2 years.

The wearing of bright coloured togs is optional but has become the trade mark of one “Paddy Pineapple” – Paddy Montgomery – Lisburn Triathlon Club, Ice Km and keen promoter of “Budgie Smugglers” togs… perhaps it makes one at least think a little warmer when dressed in tropical prints…

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Darren Cusick – Lisburn Triathlon Club, Ironman and Ice Km, has really taken to cold water swimming. Comfortable in the chilly water, it begs the question has he found an, as yet unresearched advantage? Subcutaneous ink-sulation???

Andrew Vaughan – Lisburn Triathlon Club, quietly takes it all in his lengthy stride…

Cathy Devlin, a founding member of the Monster Dunkers, greeted me with a big hug, having now ditched the wetsuit – a change from that long ago night swim at Janet’s Rock.

It was nice to catch up with old friends and see so many new faces getting into the water. Thanks for the swim caps Chris!

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

FB Link – Lough Neagh Monster Dunkers

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©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Jordanstown Lough Swimmers

Meeting up at the car park on the Lough Shore at Jordanstown, just beside the small café, it wasn’t long before we spied a small group of swimmers; warm coats and kit bags slung over their shoulders… we were in the right place.

The water looked grey and a little murky with the wind lifting a chop and creating waves which churned up the sand below, still, most of todays dip would be head up. More swimmers gathered, and we introduced ourselves to each other before Jonny lead us along the path that winds across Loughshore Park. At the far side we passed under some trees and were brought close to the water’s edge. Here the path met a high wall which we skirted around and continued along the seaward side to a gate and slipway.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Nestled between the wall and the gate is the perfect changing area. As we prepared for our dip the air began to crackle with excitement, a few first timers were a little nervous but support was plentiful.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

No two swims are ever the same, weather changes, conditions are different, how we feel on that day… these factors and more will make a difference…that’s what makes it so addictive.

The waves washed seaweed around our ankles as we made our way into the lough chatting and encouraging each other.

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

Bobbing about in the waves we looked toward Belfast, the giant yellow torsos of Samson and Goliath (cranes in the docks) standing out against the grey sky – the iconic view of Belfast. Still chatting happily as we climbed our way out across the mat of seaweed, everyone seeming to revel in the post swim buzz, discussing the merits of various coats, jackets and changing robes. The conversation continued as we walked back to our cars and the café.

Thank you, Jonny and JLS for inviting us to join you – great swim and see you again soon!

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

FB Link – Jordanstown Lough Swimmers

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Everyone; keep swimming, keep safe and keep enjoying…

©Paul McCambridge - www.wildswim.wordpress.com

 

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Trá an Doilin – Co Galway

Trá an Doilin – Carraroe Co Galway

Tra an Doilin 2

 

Words by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

At the mouth of Galway bay, between Casla Bay and Greatman’s Bay lies one of the most extraordinary beaches in Ireland; Tra an Doilin, or the Coral Beach. Made not of sand but of millions of pieces of what looks like coral in myriad colours. Scoop a handful of this coralline algae known as maerl and it gleams with the mother of pearl of minute shells, miniscule pieces of coral amongst tiny branches of delicate underwater plants, the colours ranging from purple, orange, yellow, fading out to pure bleached white.

Tra an Doilin 1

Swim in the clear water of any of the series of tiny coves between the rocky outcrops while the countless colours beneath catch the light – a must see on the west coast. Tread carefully as you explore the rocks pools and coves because maerl, while beautiful, is sharp on bare feet.

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

Getting there; from Galway city take the R336 cast road west past Connemara airport. At Casla, turn left onto the R343 and follow the signs for Carraroe. Drive through the village and look for the sign for Tra an Doilin which brings you to the car park and beach.

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

TORY ISLAND AND THE KING OF TORY – RÍ THORAÍ

 

 

 

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By Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge

 

 

Tory Island lies 9 miles off the coast North-west Donegal. 3 miles long and 0.6 of a mile wide, it is a rugged and exposed outpost of Irish island life. The small population of 154, at the time we visit, had recently been swollen by 3 new babies, Patsy Dan, the King of Tory, proudly tells us. His vision and hope that the island will begin to regenerate seeing a flicker of life with these happy tidings.

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In his Gaelic island lilt, Patsy Dan takes his duty as the King of Tory very seriously. All visitors are made welcome. Patsy, as far as his health will let him, comes down to the harbour to welcome the ferry each time it arrives. A striking figure, although not a large man, Patsy conjures an almost Pirate King image to me. A large gold ring in his ear, sailing cap on his head and sharply dressed in a dark double-breast pea coat with a gold “O” pin on his lapel he cuts a dapper stride. His silver car parked close by with the personalised plate; King of Tory.

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Patsy Dan Rogers, the King of Tory, passed away Friday, 19th October 2018, after a long-term illness aged 74.

Having only met him last year over a few days on the island, I was struck by his welcoming manner. On learning we were there to explore the islands interesting swimming spots and the music and art that the island is famous for. He immediately insisted that we pitch our tent close beside the Dixon Gallery where he, Anton and other local artists exhibit their work, to shelter from the stormy weather due to hit that evening.

 

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Patsy Dan described himself as a primitive artist and his paintings in the gallery hang alongside those of other family members. Although not born on the Island Patsy Dan was a great ambassador for the way of life there and it seems to me that they chose well on electing him King. The island has had a history of electing artists as their King. Born in Dublin he was adopted and came to the island around the age of four. A gifted musician and a natural storyteller he regaled us with stories both historical and recent of the island. Patsy Dan was also a great friend of the English artist Derek Hill who kept returning to Tory for close to 50 years. He described how Derek would spend days in his little studio/ ‘shack’ on the exposed northwest cliffs. He pressed the key into my hand and said “Go up and spend some time there when the weather clears, follow the track up from the road, just leave me the key back before you leave Tory!”

180817 - Tory Island 1st edit 18aAfter a wet and windy night, the day was settled as we cycled out towards the light house then turned right up the rough path to the shack. Between the natural rock and sparse grass were great slabs of concrete, most with heavy and rusted metal hoops embedded in them. I guess a hangover from the old telegraph station.

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Inside the shack is still as Derek had left it, a small table in the narrow entrance hall with a slate top, perhaps this is where Derek would place his camping stove to boil water as he worked. The one-roomed building has windows on 3 sides and a second table sits in front of the largest, looking inland. In the corner a cabinet houses a few collectables – an old soap flake package, Oxo tins, a kettle, tea pot and even his paint palette on a slate. Derek might have only just stepped out the door a moment ago.

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Looking across this craggy coastline with its cliffs and inlets, the rocks flayed with lines as though the sea, wind or both had whipped them repeatedly creating scars. I can see the draw for an artist to return year on year. How the light must change on the rock, sometimes grey, sometimes brown and even pink in the evening light.  The Atlantic, even on a calm day beats against the shore, whirlpools and sea-spray surging around the base of the cliffs and, as you follow the shoreline into one of numerous inlets the water is calm, the outer rocks taking the brunt of the ocean waves.

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A wooden bench painted bright red and tethered down to large rocks, a makeshift solution after the original bolts had sheared off, provides a perfect seat to watch the changing elements. Just below a curved metal barrier hangs over the edge of the inlet and from this a steep and narrow stone staircase leads down to the water. The sun lights up the sea-weed under the surface as it sways gently in the crystal clear sea – who could resist?

 

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This northern shore of Tory Island has the high cliffs, taking all the battery of the sea and not far from Derek’s shack is a small walled graveyard called ‘The Foreign or Commonwealth Graveyard’. Still tended by the islanders this is the resting place of British sailors who’s ship the HMS Wasp sank here in 1884, with only 6 survivors from their 56 crew. Their mission was to vacate the island as their landlord owed over ten thousand pounds to the British government and HMS Wasp was going to collect rent and rates or remove the residents off the Island. As word filtered to Tory that the ship had left Westport, Co Mayo, two islanders carried the ‘Cursing Stone’ to the extremities of the island, praying that it would put upon the ship a curse from the heavens. The Gun Boat sank 23rd September 1884.

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The island has had many years of battling to maintain its permanent residents, a fight Patsy Dan continued to struggle with as he tried to convince the government and others to invest in the islands infrastructure and improve access for tourism.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

A place for bird watchers, artists and poets, walking or off-road biking along this cliff top brings one past a series of inlets and inspiring rock formations. Approximately halfway along the island is a very narrow and extremely steep inlet that has two little gems for swimmers. The very steep grassy sides mean you must zig-zag your way carefully down to the waterside rocks. From here it’s a fairly easy climb down into the water, a large dark cavern gapes in the opposite wall. Swimming out of the sunlight into the darkness my heart beats faster, that nervousness of the unknown. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the dim light and I cannot stop myself from imagining all sorts of great sea creatures lurking in the shadows – quickly coming back into the safety of the light I spy a large rock near where I got in and I see a narrow gap behind. I slip through this gap into a tall circular chamber; an almost enclosed little pool.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

Tory has many swim spots to discover; on the east of the island at Port an Duin, right at the end of the road, two beaches frame the narrow land bridge leading out to Balor’s Fort and The Lovers’ Flagstone. Lying back to back, depending on which direction the wind is from, one or other of these can often be sheltered enough to swim.

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Worth the trip and despite its small landmass, Tory has a lot to offer for a visit, music, art, swimming and bird watching.

©Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media Tory Island. Picture by Paul McCambridge

Thank you Patsy Dan, King of Tory for making us welcome.

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