Wild swimming and the Grey Mares tail … Loch Skeen

Grey Mares Tail …

Loch Skeen is a loch in Dumfries and Galloway in the south of Scotland. It is located about 10 miles to the north-east of Moffat and feeds the 60-metre (200 ft) high Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall.  Glacial sculpting at its best !!

Bongo and I had talked about swimming it a few times and today was the day no matter what. Indeed there were a few “whats” trying to put us off 😀 but we braved the torrential rain and winds to climb up to the loch that feed the Grey Mares tail and swim it. I love it up there, infact its where all those years ago I took my mountain craft and navigation book and learnt to find my way around in the hills, so many good memories over the years from that area and  here was a chance to make more <3    So off we went, the gruesome twosome go forth !  I like Bongo a lot, hes up for anything and we share very similar views on life and existentialism in general …. yes we talk some shite when were together 😀  makes sense though .. to us 😀

a  The Loch Skeen monster

We arrived at the loch after a long wet walk up in high winds but the temperatures were high and hopefully the water not as cold as my first recce’ .  I dipped my fingers in and it was balmy, well Scottish balmy (no ice) 😀 …. We changed into our suits and in we went , the waves were huge but coming in bursts between calm stretches. The weather was the same and it was crazy to watch the winds blow torrential rain clouds overhead then calm sunny spells .. the water danced like hungry piranha approaching , consuming us then going calm … Surrealism at its most surreal.

Bongo doing his fonzy impersonation .. hey hey its the Bong

We fought our way up to the far end sheltered by the looming hills either side and turned … we flew home with the wind and waves behind us … what a day !!!   what a swim , what an adventure !!!!

We quickly changed and headed for the car , it wasn’t so warm now … We hurried down the hill path , stomachs growling as if knowing a giant Gordon burger awaited !

Note: Learn your craft , understand water , reservoirs and your own limits … Everyone knows how to swim but now you must learn to wild swim 🙂  Stay safe

 

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Diving the MT Haven…… largest ship wreck in the Sea!

MT Haven, formerly Amoco Milford Haven, was a VLCC (very large crude carrier), leased to Troodos Shipping. In 1991, while loaded with 144,000 tonnes (1 million barrels) of crude oil, the ship exploded, caught fire and sank off the coast of GenoaItaly, killing six Cypriot crew and flooding the Mediterranean with up to 50,000 tonnes of crude oil.It broke in two and sank after burning for three days, and for the next 12 years the Mediterranean coast of Italy and France was polluted, especially around Genoa and southern France. It is the largest shipwreck on the ocean floor….

Tragic and a huge eco disaster …

Our plan was to head to Italy and dive it ….. I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastic Italian diver named Luca Zanzotto while diving in Scapa Flow. He was a real cool guy and turned out that he ran his own dive centre on the coast of Italy near Portofino, Il Grande BLu .  We had  gotten along very well , and he invited us all out to his centre to dive with him  and meet the MT Haven in person 😀  So, as you do ,  Karon and I headed to Portofino with big wrecks on our mind.

Myself and the legend of Portofino diving .. Luca Zanzotti

Luca welcomed us with open arms, he is a big handsome friendly fellow with a calming disposition, huge smile and dive skills to rival Jacqes Cousteau 😀 . We were sure to have an amazing time !

His dive centre the Il Grande Blu was amazing !! Built into the  side of a coastal wall and equipped with everything a diver could want , from rec scuba to hard core trimix re-breather diving its got it all. And a workshop built into a cliff !!  I loved it !!

the cave of dreams

Soon it was time to dive and with a check dive under our belts we were soon in the boat headed out to sea … The Mohawk Deer at 50m 40-50m was superb and beautiful viz made the first day .  The following day was astounding ! Soon a visit to the UJ2216 KT wreck blew my mind !! WOW the diving in Portofino is unreal !! 🙂

UJ2216  SUBMARINE CHASER

After 3 days of progressively harder and deeper wreck diving we set off for the main event the “MT Haven” a long fast Rhib trip along the beautiful Italian coast line away. The journey there was astounding , such a beautiful coast , staggeringly so !!  However our eyes were on the prize and soon we were kitting up readying for the Haven.

Dropping on to the Havens funnel … still a long way to go!

sure was a big funnel 😀

We dropped over the Rhib , checked and sank headed for an ominous black shape below. At around 35m we hit the funnel and using this as a guide descended to the first deck and beyond until close to 55m. We had to be careful here and to follow our plan, keeping it tight. Karon is a fantastic diver and looked relaxed and in control as we had time to take in the sheer enormity of it all before ascending via the staircase, keep it interesting.

down down down…

follow the staircase

Exploring as we went up , soon we were in the control room and the upper decks.

The Control room

Our dive plan was to short !!  I could have spent all day down there , it was the most amazing wreck I have ever been lucky to have dived. All too soon were heading back up the funnel and buoy lines to begin our decompression.

see you again soon MT HAven

Our friend Max chilling

On our way back we stopped by the Christ of the Abyss sunken statue for a free dive , this was sunk here years ago and is a real eye opener !  I shook his hand quickly to say hello

Christ of the Abyss

What can I say about Portofino !!  not enough 🙂  its a beautiful place with world class diving. Il Grande blu will be a regular on my yearly calendar and I hope to bring my daughter along to learn to dive here …. for the rest I will let my photos do the talking.

Apres dive Chillin….

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Ride to the Sun …

Ride to the Sun ..

Follow in the footsteps of the Roman legions who trudged the long road from Luguvalium (Carlisle) to the old garrison camp of Caer Amon (Cramond). Sol Invictus was the Roman God of the unconquered sun and was the Roman legionnaires guide through war and battle and it is with that spirit that we ride through the night to arrive for sunrise on Cramond beach, tired but unconquered!

Romans !

I saw this and loved the idea !!  Something a little different , a micto adventure for a Saturday night, non competitive and super friendly …  I enlisted the top fellas that are Mick  , Bongo and that diesel generator Stuart Deeks … We trained hard over the spring , gradually adding the mileage and ascents. Mick and Bongo had been cycling a while but not me or Deeks , we had it to build so heads were down a lot of the time but we worked hard to build the 100 mile legs. Some amazing Sundays were had training in all weathers includign gale force winds across the grey mares tail and baking hot afternoons at Sam Ye Lings

Ready to rock at Carlisle ..

We met in Hawick, Mark Wilson was driving the support van and it was great to know he was there. We drove to Carlisle and set up , soon we were cycling out of Carlisle on a beautiful night. Having never rode the route before we had given ourselves 8 hours before Sunset on Cramond Beach. Hopefully we would be there in good time.  We cruised the flats heaed for our first serious stop 45 miles in , Moffat.

We hit Moffat surprisingly fit and well , our hilly routes had made us strong. Mark was waiting for us in the square and already hundreds of cyclists were refuelling for the next section. This event was really friendly  a great buzz in Moffat with everyone chatting and joking. We got a load off in the back of the van and rested for 20 mins eating and drinking before taking on the Devils beef-tub , a 7 mile constant climb straight out of Moffat.

getting a load off 🙂

Soon we were back on the bikes and heading out of Moffat. It was dark now and as far as I  could see was a trail of lights ahead , curling up the huge climb of the Devils beef tub.

Devils beeftub

It was hot !!  even at 11 o’clock at night it was in the 20s , after a long long grind we were topping out and enjoying the freewheel into Tweedsmuir . Here was out next stop .. the Crook Inn Cyclorave. We arrived to a mad rave in the car park of the remote closed , Crook Inn .. music blared from a low loader and ravers and cyclists raved away .. Surreal 😀

Cylcorave .

We briefly rested but the midge was in abundance so onwards was the cry … soon we were heaed for Penicuik , then cruising down across the Bypass and into the city …… this was amazing , people were bouncing around out of their nut, drunk and drugged they cheeered and geered us .. what a laugh. Cramond was in our sights and we had done really well at only 6 1/2 hours run time .. we hit the beach early !

Early on Cramond

Soon the cyclists started to file in group by group and we awaited the sun rise … A huge cheer went up as the sun broke the horizon , it was beautiful moment of achievement and situation…… Until the next time RTTS

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Freezing the Balla in the Talla ..

Loch Talla

Talla Reservoir, located a mile from Tweedsmuir in the Scottish Borders, Scotland. It is an earth-work dam fed by Talla Water. The reservoir is supplemented by water from the nearby Fruid Reservoir. It was opened in 1899.   In the late 19th century engineers surveying for the Edinburgh and District Water Trust (EDWT) identified the area around the loch at Talla in the hills above Tweedsmuir in the Scottish Borders as an ideal site for a new reservoir to supply the increasing water demands of the expanding city of Edinburgh, 28 miles to the north. In the mid-1890s the land was secured from the Trustees of the Earl of Wemyss and March Estates for £20,000. Construction was by James Young & Sons.On 29 September 1897 a stone-laying ceremony marked the start of construction of Victoria Lodge, at the southern terminus. The Lodge was built as the headquarters for the Trustees of the Edinburgh Water Company. A category B listed house in the Scots Renaissance style, it sits in its own private grounds overlooking the reservoir.[3]All materials for construction were lifted from there to the construction site by a ropeway, called a ‘Blondin‘ after the famous tightrope walker Charles Blondin. These included stone and aggregates from quarries in North Queensferry and Craigleith, pipes, valve gear and pumping equipment from central Scotland, as well as the claygravel and sand used in the dam embankment. Puddle clay, for the watertight barrier within the dam came from the Carluke area; this material was initially developed by James Brindley for canal lining. In total, over 100,000 tons of material were transported for the building of the reservoir, and at least 30 of the workmen (who were mostly Irish) died during construction and are buried at Tweedsmuir churchyard. Construction work was virtually complete by late 1904 and Talla Water was diverted into the bed of the reservoir on 20 May 1905. The official opening ceremony on 28 September was carried out by Lady Cranston, wife of the Lord Provost. lets swim !! 🙂 

Beware big pink ballas !!

Myself Deeksy and Bongo decided one fine morning that the thing to do would be to swim the Talla , so armed with a little internet research to ensure we weren’t going to get sucked down a pipe to our depths we headed to the Tweedsmuir hills ..

changing room …

Its a beautiful place Tweedsmuir and the drive from Hawick to Loch Talla is amazing , the countryside is stacked full of lochs , waterfalls and long long vistas of rolling hills. We arrived at the loch to find a beautiful day with near perfect water conditions , for sure it was to be a swim to remember..   My last big swim had been months ago in St Marys with Mick and Bongo so I was excited to get in.

the fellas !

Fidlay was on support crew with swim dog Frank in assistance 🙂  Off we went into the crystal clear waters of Loch Talla and keeping as a group swam to the half way and stopped ot tke it all in .. floating in the middle of a huge flat calm loch in a sunny day !!  Existential thoughts fill your head and if it wasnt for the cold you could stay there all day 🙂

floating with the homies 😀

All to soon we were swimming the final 100 metres with Findlay and Frank waiting for us at the end with warm clothes and food.  Fuck yeah !!  Loch Talla I love you <3

Note: Learn your craft , understand water , reservoirs and your own limits … Everyone knows how to swim but now you must learn to wild swim 🙂  Stay safe

 

 

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