The return of the Kendal Mountain Festival as a live event after last year’s Covid-prompted hiatus has been much anticipated, and outdoor lovers have flocked to the town on the edge of the Lake District to enjoy its talks, seminars, activities and a chance to mix with fellow outdoor folk.
While many have been in the town in their woolly hats, hiking boots and rucksacks ready to hit the nearby hills, limestone ridges and fields, others will have brought their thermal swim socks.
That’s because the festival has recognised the growing popularity of outdoor swimming, with this year’s event featuring an outdoor swimming session (November 21st). This wasn’t actually taking place in the water but on stage in the festival arena, where a range of experienced enthusiasts for the sport spoke about their experiences.
Among the speakers were director of Ullswater Swim Place Colin Hill, editor of Outdoor Swimmer Magazine Ella Foote, Lake District swimmer Winnie Poaty, Cath Pendleton, who in 2020 earned a place in the Guinness World Records with the first swim of over a mile inside the Arctic Circle, and former Olympic swimmer Neil Agius from Malta.
Their stories may have inspired many to take to the water, not least in the Lake District itself.
Some of the best wild swimming spots to go to in the national park are not far from Kendal, often off the beaten track as the tourists rush towards Windermere.
Great locations include Gurnal Dubs, a tarn that like the more famous Tarn Hows was once three small tarns but enlarged by damming to become one bigger one, and its neighbour Potter Tarn, also enlarged from its natural state. Both lie to the north of Kendal close to the village of Staveley.
Other local options include Skeggles Water, a natural tarn lying on the plateau between the Kentmere and Longsleddale valleys.