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Saturday, 24 January 2015

New Ice miler!!!!!

Wild about swimming is so proud to announce that Kate Sunley has been confirmed by the International Ice Swimming Association as an ICE MILER!!!!!

HUGE Congratulations to you Kate, the worlds first female disabled icemiler!!!! Thanks to all the crew and helpers on the day  xx

Kate with the world first and only male disabled swimmer Jonty Warneken....two world firsts for Wild about swimming and the International Ice Swimming Association!!!!

Countryfile video

At last the long awaited (only because i couldn't figure out how to load it!!!!) video of me on Countryfile with TV presenter Julia Bradbury.

Watch from about 5:04....happy view folks :)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Ice breaking!!!

Ice Breaking!!!

The temperatures have changed again....and today at the lake a nice layer of ice covered most of it.....did it put us off.....NO!!!!

The feet and hands went instantly numb but that didn't put us off playing with the ice. One intrepid swimmer  John, even coming up from underneath to raise a fist in honour of winter swimming. 

For all of you that love the summer swimming...the ice swimming is amazing too...come and have a go!!!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

First swims of the year (2015) Sanna Bay!

First swims of the year (2015) Sanna Bay!

What better way to start the new year than with a dip...well i think so at least. And what better place to dip than Sanna Bay, on the peninsular of Ardnurmurchan.

The first dip, sundown on January the 1st, my birthday!!!! The water a tad choppy but with just enough light left to see where we had left our Dryrobes, we entered its cool depths. The water still held onto its brilliant emerald shade, visibility .....good!!

A storm had been forecast and it was just what we needed to help us clear our somewhat foggy heads from the Hogmanay festivities played out in true traditional style with 'first footing' by the gentlemen, many in kilts and giving gifts of coal to the ladies. A great night filled with champagne and laughter but now to see in the start of the year in the best way that we know how.

My good friend and professional  photographer Hamza Yassin of was there to snap our swim, unfortunately for him and i suspect rather frustratingly we had left it late in the  day to start our swim and the light was not good. He managed to get several pics that showed the amazing colour of the water though and us playing in it ....tomorrow would be a different swim!

The next day, just as the weather had been forecast, was a mixture of sun and cloud, the wind was up to gale force but did that deter us...not a hope. Not sure how long we would be in the three of us donned our faithful Huub wetsuits ( wrapped ourselves up in the Dryrobe and headed back to Sanna Bay. 

Alighting the cars, it was a struggle to keep the robes around us and we ended up doing a superman impression most of the time (of course we could have zipped them up but.....well we were women on a get in the water!!! But first to try to store our outer garments so that they did not end up on the other side of the bay or even in the water. 

Just trying to put goggles, hats and gloves on became a battle of wind versus skin stripping sand. But eventually we got there, robes bundled up together in the hope they would stay in place!

The waves of the previous day forgotten as we turned and faced the raging waters we were about to enter, the tide was out making the walk to the waters edge even longer. Talking at a louder volume to be heard above the pounding we were all grinning, this was going to be fun!

No idea of the water temperature before you ask, it was chilly on the toes and fingers but other than that fine..the wetsuits helped!!

The water really was trying to suck us in! The force of the water literally sucking the sand from under our feet and then as the ground turned solid beneath us the water rose in front of us. Thundering with increasing speed towards the shore and relentless in its path. We were merely players while she let us in but mother nature at any time could have decided we were unwelcome, picked us up with her watery embrace and spat us out back on shore.

But time and time again we turned our backs on her, daring her to do just that....before she swept us off of our feet forcing us backwards only to have us turn round and run back towards her inky depths!

Yesterdays waters had a wonderfully clear green colour to it, today's was frothy and bouncy. Her ferocity had a bite to it that was not to be messed with. 

As much a we wanted to get out beyond the big breakers we literally couldn't mother nature deciding to keep us safe would not let us get out past shoulder height before throwing us back to land, in honesty it would have been dangerous to have got past the big waves, even those that we were playing with (head height) were pushing us not only backwards but also towards the rocks, many a time we had to return to the centre of the bay to maintain our position on the beach. 

The sun occasionally came out to greet us, water shining off of our wetsuits, our grins huge, we werer loving it. There was even time to play in the shallow water....not quite sure what Loraine MacDonald was doing here while  Alison and i were chatting...i am sure there was a large wave only a second or two before and now nothing but bubbles and froth!

 Not once did she relent as we ran in and out of the waves, waves too high that we could not even jump over them, diving under them brought us up in inches of water and spitting fact i think we all found sand in places we did not know existed when we showered!

All the time we were playing Hamza was clicking away with his camera, the sunlight coming through just as he wanted it too. Un-be-known to us, we had an audience, a large group where stood watching us, we could not hear what they were saying....probably the normal things that open water swimmers it  cold, how long have you been in, is it  rough in there....and so on!!! We did not mind though we were like children (albeit grown up ones!!) doing what we love and boy were we loving it. 

It was an amazing swim in Sanna bay, Ardnurmurchans jewel in the sand and as we discovered as wonderful in a winter storm as in the summer rays!!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015



A  recent trip to Ardnurmurchan revealed its scenery and wild life at its best, both resplendent with winter coat and glowing all manner of reds, golds, browns and greens in the winter sunshine. 

Having played happily rock hopping and taking happy snaps of the bouncy sea until the water attempted to circle around the rocks i was stood on, a hasty retreat back to sand ....which was rapidly depleting in the incoming tide. Not quite sure what anyone would have made of my ungainly return to land...had i had my wetsuit on it would have been a different matter but fully clothed ....well i can't say that i was not temped!!!!

With water cutting off one adventure and the lighthouse ( only a mile away it was off to play on the rocks there. At certain times of the year i can be seen sat on the rocks with a flask of tea and a pair of bino's (after my deer feeding trip i really do need to get a pair of leica ones....!) watching for basking sharks, minke whales and dolphins as well as the abundance of waterfowl that inhabit the area. 

It was a fabulously blowy day, a great time to see the waves pounding against the steep rocks, frothy foam inviting you to play but hiding the treacherous sharpness that lies beneath the water. Having visited the lighthouse during the tail end of hurricane Bertha, with dark skies and alot of rain it would be fab to see it with the sun shining too. 

Turning right from Portuick towards the light house three deer, stag, hind and baby bounded easily over one fence crossed the road and over the next before disappearing into the landscape as if painted over! The winding road leaves passengers in cars to wow at the magnificence of the landscape.

Then suddenly an unusual colour catches my eye....a pale almost white deer, laid in the grass, nearby two others of differing colours and markings one clearly very young. Would they stay long enough for me to take pictures? Yes they did!!!! A black sheep with large rounded horns coming for a look too, they were wary but not unduly bothered by my presence.

Pictures taken, it was off to the lighthouse to clamber over the rock face to get as close to the water as possible. The water this time a wonderful emerald green, the waves no smaller than my last visit. Lots of pictures later, a good soaking from a hail storm and the spray of the water and grinning it was back into the car with freezing fingers and with the intention of heading back to the lodge where i was staying. 

Where the trio of deer now were a small batch of deer, standing with those wonderful inquisitive but gentle brown eyes, the reason why they showed no fear was soon to be clear. A man walking up the road carrying a bucket of feed, he saw me taking photo's  and kindly invited me in with  him to get a closer view and also to be able to take pictures without the wire fence in the way. 

Entering slowly, the animals approaching, more interested in food than me, which allowed me to become snap happy. The little one staying close to its friends. I discovered its heart breaking tale - its an orphan!

Mum had passed on to that great deer house in the sky, and it was discovered that the cause of death was the amount of plastic found in her stomach. Mankind it seems, has put this poor hind to a premature death...and would it have taken a lot to have prevented it...not really. Its simple, if you bring it with you, you can take it home or find the nearest bin to put it in!!!! Simples as they say!!

It is lucky that the others have taken this little one under their wing or she may not be here for us to admire, and i hope that she survives the winter so when i return in warmer weathers she is there to hopefully take more pictures off.....and all it took was for you to take.....not a life but your rubbish home with you!
Its not that hard really, to keep the countryside tidy we have to tidy up after ourselves....the deer cant do it for us...the result is too tragic!!!! Its a privilege to drive, walk and swim and  to be able to see these wonderful animals roaming around....a small act means that we will all be able to enjoy it too....take it home folks!!!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sanna swim....taster pic!!!!

More to come folks....but heres a taster pic.....taken of me at Sanna Bay by Hamza Yassin Photography!

Friday, 2 January 2015



Returning to a part of the country that I love and adore Adnurchman is close to my heart, it’s my chosen holiday destination. With little or no mobile or internet connection I can put work and normal day to day life aside and wander uninterrupted throughout its wondrous lands….normally in hunt of swim spots…well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it. 
Today a lucky chance to get up close and personal with the wildlife on the peninsula. A trip out with WILD HIGHLAND TOURS, our guides Niall Rowantree and accompanied by Hamza Yassin to capture the day on camera for us. 
Many years ago I took a tour around the peninsular and it would be interesting to update my knowledge and discover the other side of life, the working side. The peninsular is home to around 1300 deer, some can be seen as you drive around but never do you get to come so close that you can smell them… that  would change, not only did I get to get within a couple of feet but also had the privilege of feeding them.
Meeting up at Adnurmurchan’s estate office, a rather dapper looking Niall in his tweeds at the wheel ready to whisk us off to parts of the land not readily open to the general public and a rare treat to discover the workings of estate office’s animal management.
It appears that wildlife is a huge attraction, with more and more wanting to come and visit and as I have done fall in love with the area, the animals not the only draw, the history of the land, its inhabitants and battles are numerous and is fascinating in itself. Niall is a true fountain of knowledge in this area and  throughout the day gave witty accounts of the goings on of times long ago, the history of the making of Adnumurchan, the changes in the land, the geology and on top of this the animal husbandry. A one day tour …. Could happily have listened for a week and I don’t think that Niall would have exhausted his knowledge and information store.

Nimbly boarding the 4x4 vehicle, we were soon on the road…..deer hunting….well not quite hunting although that is an option for those who may be interested..But looking for hungry deer to feed. The winter months after the rutting season sees the deer given food every few days, a carefully researched menu with added minerals and proteins - barley draff, a by-product from the newly created distillery (nothing is wasted on the island). Niall is clearly not just a man in tweed, it was fascinating to discover the intricacies of animal management on such a scale. The following considerations are held into account, the land – what fauna and flora are available to the deer, this is monitored throughout the year and feed adjusted accordingly. Similar to a salt lick that you would give to a horse the deer are given a mixture of minerals and vitamin’s (which they devour) to help maintain a healthy herd. Again, where the animals are situated will result in different buckets produced for them….but it goes deeper than that. Like I said…there has been extensive research done, bloodlines are monitored and bone, tissue and blood samples are taken and should it be required the food batches can literally be personalised right down to the dietary requirements of the last deer in the area. 
Given that deer are not just a creature renowned for its majestic looks, they are also a dietary requirement of mankind and have been since time began, we are its biggest predator. Hunting for meat and culling is historical and the methods used in modern day it appears to me are far kinder than that of bygone years. Bloodlines are kept as pure as possible and the experienced Niall was able to pinpoint animals and showed us how to distinguish which came from which bloodline….in amongst the herd are several are several introduced many years ago from Rominter in what was then Germany but is now Poland, my eye which initially only saw deer now started to be able to distinguish the variations of colour and size, the darkest being the native purebred to the highlands, the introduction of German stags brought about a lighter coloured and larger creature, no less majestic but once you start to distinguish the variation,  colours jump out at you. Niall has worked on the estate for over 20 years and as the herds came literally running down for feeding, they do use a rather unique way to draw the attention of the deer! The hills which only 20 minutes before seemed bereft of animals suddenly came to life, stags literally running down the hillside without seemingly a care for the possibility of broken ankles from the numerous changes in the landscape and undergrowth. Over the crest of the nearest hill the first glimpse of antlers….lots of them and they are stunning! These magnificent creatures truly do stand majestic the backdrop of the hills behind them rich in winter colours of browns, golds and reds, it is easy to see how well they blend in. 
The creatures come to a halt …..And they are closer than I have ever seen them in the wild. I am sure that you have all caught a glimpse of deer on your travels, a fleeting glimpse before they turn hightail and vanish blending into the scenery with astonishing speed. These were close, brought to a halt by our presence…where was their food they were wondering? Niall and Hamza lugged the heavy barrels and distributed the feeds evenly in the high troughs. 

The deer stood waiting patiently for us to move aside, it was an ideal opportunity for Niall to show us the family tree of those stood in front of us, majestic grandfather stood side by side his father and son. Others were father and son, familial tree, ancestry and history has graced us with its presence. Further back on the lowland of the hills, females had converged, not daring to come closer, many showing signs of pregnancy indicating that this year rutting season had been successful. Demand for deer from supermarkets, butchers, private buyers and those engaging in hunting far outstrips supply, and although higher yields would be marvellous careful consideration is given to land management and the impact of higher numbers. 
The first feed done, the animals cautious in their approach, strangers watching them meant they were nervous and although they came close they refused to come closer no matter how hungry they were, one four year old with twelve points and attitude to match danced round us, displaying his beauty and pausing for pictures. 
Back in the vehicle and round the corner, Niall giving us details of the forestry management programme that had been going on for a number of years, a funnel of trees that would eventually link up but was already securing passage for woodcock and a variety of other wildlife, the second feed was equally as breath taking, the deer summoned using the same method, and again from nowhere they bounded down the hillside, antlers shining in the golden sunshine, nostrils flaring as they drank in the scent of their visitors, these again came closer, clearly food the priority rather than posing for pictures. Loch Mudle stood glass like to the side….for an open water swimmer like me this was starting to prove a temptation, for all the years I have come here I have never manage a dip…but now I had permissions to do so….!!!!! The snow on the hills offset the amazing colours of the trees, greens, browns and reds reflecting on the mirror like surface where not a ripple appeared. 
The last location took us to Glen Borrowdale, on the way the sea offered herons who on this chilly day did look a tad cold, again the water was flat and calm, giving us a glimpse of the elusive otter who was as much at home in the water as I am, my own binoculars not powerful enough to see the otters whiskers I borrowed Niall’s pair, a wonderful set of Leica that meant, literally I could see every minute detail of the otter, every droplet of water that was on his fur….wow!!! I need, want, must have a pair!!!!.  We sat in the warmth of the vehicle watching him frolic on the water, his age given away by the way he caught fish and returned to a rock to eat rather than eating on the go as adults tend to do.

Entering Glen Borrowdale the landscape changed again, trees covered in lichen abounded testament to the clean air around. The calling system in place again, and this time a variety of creatures came running. The estate does not just house red deer they also accommodate Roe and Pere David (Milu) and fallow deer. It was all but the latter that came to see us, these were clearly not bothered by our presence, they came within a few feet of us to eat the barley with is soaked with products to enhance the diet….I could give you more details….BUT…you really do have to go on the tour to be impregnated with the sights and sounds and smells that surround you….yes I do recommend a trip!!!! Ravens circling overhead clearly used to the shoot season where the contents of stomachs were left for them to have as snacks, winter months only sees them eating the fallen through illness or age. The Pere David where the first to arrive, this year’s calves not shy in their approach, their bodies appearing to be a strange mix of many other animals, but as strange as they are they are beautiful and graceful, their large brown eyes as gentle as their mouths as they chomped away quite happily beside us. 
The larger red deer, some youngsters locking horns in play, that in later year’s would turn more serious tussles as they vie for female attention, still at this age the sound of their horns clashing and locking reverberated through our ribs. Slower but as if to say….I have left the best until last the older stags approached, the odd bellow announcing their presence, and wow, the antlers where huge, necks thicker than my waist and shoulder and thighs solid with muscle. The animal management clearly successful as the breeds intermingled and shared the food put out for them.  

Here we could take our time, cast our  eyes over the muscles which occasionally twitched and tensed, fight or flight a mode that could be switched on at a moment’s notice. Niall and Hamza where clearly at home in this environment, happy to let the deer come as close as they dared and yes they did dare to come close again food the  priority over visitors although their beautiful eyes never really left us, they were close enough for us to hear them chewing the food. No sudden movements we were told and so we did as requested, deer strolling around us inquisitive, the urge to reach out and stroke them had to be held in check, there were not pets, they work the land and in turn become food for ourselves and other carrion in the areas, sea eagles, buzzards and white tailed eagles, a full life cycle that is as natural as breathing with the beasts living life to the fullest, where they can roam freely and enjoy the splendour of their surroundings, breed and have the occasional interaction with mankind. Those picked for culling are selected carefully to ensure the stock maintenance is successful and those that are ill and aging are given a proper send off, not left to pass or suffer in pain.  Many come for shooting such is the magnificence of the breed on the estate, as time has decreed what was a blood sport is now taken and included as part of the management of the herd. 

Time befitting methods have changed from a chase with mass numbers and hounds to now a silent stalk, the deer unaware of his fate, one shot and the animal takes his last breath, there is no fear in his eyes as he passes, his selection decided many months before, he has lived a great life and be allowed to pass with dignity. Whilst I appreciate that the hunt is not for everyone and that opinions are divided, the estate does cater for all, be a part of the herd management is several ways, come and see the old, the aging and the young, help feed them during their first years on this planet or assist in the passing. I have done both, and both times have been left in awe of the experience. The staff working the estate will not permit you to abuse, hurt or scare the animals, they genuinely care for their stock and take pride in not only their work, what they work with but also the landscape and scenery that surrounds them. 

To say that this company Wild Highland Tours has been running for 3 years they are firmly established and gave us a terrific  afternoon and a once in a lifetime experience, Fay Rowntree and her husband Niall have set up the complete wildlife experience, Hamza is the added bonus that your experience is captured professionally which compliments your own pictures. The knowledge imparted is second to none and come as a running commentary. Our three hour tour turned into more like five hours and you can pretty much expect the same, you go where the animals are and as long as they are happy in your company you remain with them. Those that then want to join you i.e the eagles and otters etc, turn the day even more magical. Fancy a night trip….yes they do that too…and that’s the one that I will next be booking as well as another day trip to capture the elusive white stag……he does exist I have seen the picture but yet to see the beast….next time.

As always you know me if I have a fantastic time I like to share it so you can all have a go to….i have told you the tip of my experiences that day…..come on book a trip…the peninsular offers so much to the walker, swimmer, cycler etc and a trip out with these guys will not leave you disappointed, individual tailored packages that will leave you breathless……!

Niall uses Leica Sport Optic Geovid (10x42HD-B) when working. Hamza uses Cannon’s latest flagship EOS-1D X with all their lens…well you know what you lads and ladies are like….i know you like to know……and what do i say…i want, need must have these now!!!!!!