Monday, September 06, 2010

Everything But the Swim

Windermere was stunningly beautiful on Saturday morning: Stephen took this photo before breakfast:

To me, it's difficult to understand how anyone could see that water and not want to swim in it. Yes, it's cold. Yes, it's deep. But to swim in those beautiful surroundings would have been paradise to me.

Our bed and breakfast, New Hall Bank in Bowness, was just next to the lake and was delightful. I'd chosen it because it would have been ideal to catch the boat up the lake to the swim site - that was going to be the only way to get there as cars weren't allowed to get near.

But, as those reading my howls of disappointment on Friday will know, the Great North Swim was postponed - probably cancelled for this year at least, in actual fact - because of toxic blue-green algae in the water.

Two of the organisers had set up a stand at the harbour in Bowness so disgruntled swimmers could come and shout at them. I thought it was very brave of them.

I did go up and ask why the swim was cancelled at such short notice and they explained that the water had been completely clear of the toxic algae until the tests on Thursday. Lack of rain allows the algae to grow quickly.

Various gloomy swimmers came up and said how disappointed they were. Like me, they just wanted to say how fed up they were, and didn't seek to blame anyone.

One chap was rather different and was positively beaming: "Hey, I don't have to do it!" he said. "Look at my happy face!"

Another bloke thought it was a lot of fuss over nothing and ranted at the two organisers for quite some time. "I'll never swim with you lot again!" he said.

Silverback pointed out wryly after we'd left that actually, this was no real threat to the organisers as it would not exactly ruin any future event as there'd still be 8,999 swimmers left.

But I think that Ranting Man was wrong. Can you picture the headlines if the Environment Agency discovered toxic algae and then the swim went ahead and people were very ill or died from the stuff? Organising a mass event like this (9,000 swimmers over the two days) they had no alternative but to cancel.

As you may imagine, there's a huge amount of money involved - the cost of setting up the site - - there was a film crew to film it for television - - the loss to charities of the sponsorship - - and I don't know what will happen to the various Great Swims in future since this summer both the Great Scottish Swim and the Great North Swim were cancelled because of the algae.

I had imagined myself swimming in the lake so often - in the cold, clear, deep water surrounded by the Lake District fells. In the freezing days of last winter, when it was minus 4 Centigrade outside, as I swam in our local pool I would imagine I was swimming in Windermere on a hot, late-summer day - just like it actually was on Saturday, in fact.

Stephen and Silverback did a great job of making sure I had a lovely weekend anyway - and my grateful thanks to both of them for this cannot be over-emphasised - and the Lakes were at their most beautiful in the sunshine. I'll tell you more about it all soon.

4 Comments:

Blogger Marcus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:16 pm  
Blogger Katherine said...

I wish I was up there right now although I'm not someone who loves to swim, unlike you... There's a little hillside in the Lake District is where I always go in my head when I am especially upset or need to relax and can't. One of the most beautiful parts of the world, to me. Thank you for the lovely image!

10:58 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

What is it about the blue-green algae, I wonder, that makes them toxic? And what about other colors of algae? Do they have their own type of toxicity? And are there good, well-behaved, non-toxic algae?

I know you are not a science teacher, but I am full of questions.

The verification word is bepher. I didn't have all these questions bepher you wrote about blue-green algae.

1:57 pm  
Blogger Daphne2 said...

My son-in-law comes from Windermere and what a beautiful place it is. His mother went there on a trip from Manchester in the seventies and loved it so much she decided to stay. Sadly she died a couple of years ago, but Kelly and Ben were married there at Christmas (27th) in all the snow. They got married at http://www.langdalechase.co.uk/ which was featured on the TV show The Lakes. If I could I would post a picture of us all in the snow with the lake and mountains behind.
I'm sure you had a good time but it would have so much better with the swim.

3:58 pm  

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