Posted on 7th March 2019
You’re index finger hovers over the enter button and an urge of excitement wells as you lower and hear the click.
You’ve entered the #WOW swim, you’re committed, mind and body. This is where the journey starts. For many swimmers this will be a bucket list challenge, a swim which has been on the radar for some time, possibly years. Everything is now in the right place to commit to the training and prepare for this iconic distance swim.
Some swimmers will be aiming to complete this challenge for the first time, others maybe returning to complete the adventure again and some might even be returning to better their past unsuccessful efforts. Others could well be using this as a qualifying swim for the Channel. Whatever your beginnings you will all be traveling in the same waters and experiencing similar challenges, the T2 Team look forward to sharing this with you, your friends and families.
Before we start to think of training plans and preparation for the swim it is nice to look at the geographical area and the history of swimming Windermere.
Known for its beauty and tranquillity The Lakes remains a popular tourist destination, people are drawn to it, the water and the hills. It’s a well known play ground for outdoor adventurists. Famous names spring to mind, my favourite, author and conservationist, Beatrix Potter. Britain’s most famous poet, William Wordsworth and guide book and illustrator walker Alfred Wainwright. These all draw tourists from afar to the area. In 2017 it was recognised as a World Heritage Site protecting it for future generations.
21 bodies of water can be found on the map but only one is truly named a Lake, Bassenthwaite Lake. All the others such as Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Buttermere are meres, tarns and waters.
Windermere village isn’t by Windermere. Confused? It is in fact Bowness-On-Winderemere that sits on the lakeside with Windermere village being about one and a half miles away. This was because the railway line ended at Birthaite named after a nearby farm and the village grew around the railway station which many opposed running directly to the lakeside. The name Birthaite was eventually changed to Windermere to reflect the name of the water much to the disgust of Bowness locals.
Windermere is iconic, no argument there, Britain’s longest natural body of water, long and narrow measures officially 11.23 miles. Swimmers tend to recognise the distance as being 10.5 miles measuring from Lakeside, just under the arch at FellFoot to Waterhead. The distance you swim will depend largely on your ability to spot and swim straight and of course the accuracy of your paddler guide. Our mapping has measured the route as 11 miles. The width of the water varies up to 0.93 miles, with the maximum depth being 66.7 meters.
The Water would have been formed thousands of years ago during the last major ice age. The huge glacier carved the softer rock out leaving basins which were in turn filled with melt water from the Troutbeck glacier and the Fairfield Horseshoe glacier. The Water has two very distinct basins a north and south. Split at the narrowest point, where the chains of the car ferry can be heard rattling underwater.
The Water is fed by many tributaries along its shores, the main being to the north, River Rothay and River Brathay, you’ll see these at the finish by Brathay Hall. Flowing out at the south via River Leven past the Swan Hotel. Having so many tributaries the Water can fluctuate in temperature throughout the length, the year temperatures range from 4oC to 16oC . Temperatures for the September swim are estimated to be around 16oC. The Low Wood Hotel situated on the shore of Windermere is a good point of reference when looking at water temperatures.
After particular heavy rain fall the current at Fellfoot can be quite strong, good fun if your experienced in the endless pool swimming technique!
The water quality is “excellent” and last year four individual areas along the lake, Lakeside YMCA, Millerground, Rayrigg Meadow and FellFoot were awarded the status by the Environmental Agency. The South Lakes District Council conducts checks though out the year mainly in the summer months and we will keep you posted on these. Blue green algae has been common along the shores, usually in isolated places in the months from June to November. #WOW works closely with South Lakes Rivers Trust to help prevent the spread of non-native invasive species and we ask that you pay particular attention to your kit when making the journey to the water. Check – Clean – Dry
The water does have a few islands, the largest being Belle Isle, a privately owned island which you’ll pass at the half way mark. Other islands you’ll use as reference points, such as Blake Holme and Silver Holme at which point you’ll be crossing the lake to stay out of the ferries way.
History of swimming Windermere
The first swimmer known to have swam the length was Joseph Foster in September 1911. Since then numerous people have taken on the challenge.
From 1964 to 1990 the British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA) held an event taking place every four years, named Windermere International. The programs linked on their site make fascinating reading, swimmers from all over the globe attending, age ranging from 17 years to 43. And the distance stating a whopping 16 ½ miles.
Many swimmers could be recognised for their achievements, but I feel compelled to mention the “King of the Channel”, Michael Read MBE. In the summer of 1973 he was the first person to swim the length of the water 3 times and then continued for a 4th!!! In his life time he swam the length of the water a total of 39 times. Something to think about whilst your completing your effort.
Swimmers have come in groups, taken part in record breaking relays and some have completed the distance swimming butterfly. #WOW began small in 2013 with 36 friends swimming for charity, profits being split between Cancer Care and Wasdale Mountain Rescue. Joe Beaumount was the push behind the swim and event organisers MyTriEvents helped with the logistics. The swim took the traditional route starting at FellFoot and finished at Waterhead. The 100% success rate was a credit to those swimmers in that first year. The following years have seen a rise in participants and a change of finish venue to make the swim safer avoiding the ferries and other water traffic. For 2019 we have continued support from Brathay Hall, Windermere Canoe and Kayak and the National Trust.
Happy swimming everyone
For now chlorine is my perfume but it won’t be long until those warmer waters come!