Someone else with an unusually intimate relationship with the stars is Colin Hill, Another Place, The Lake’s swim coach.
Colin leads our Full Moon Swims, in which guests are given the opportunity of taking a night-time swim under nothing but lunar light. This autumn, he’s also inviting guests to try a Stargazing Night Swim, timed with the New Moon, which he hopes will allow us to experience the thrill of staring up at glistening stars and galaxies from the dark surface of the lake.
“The moon swims have been fantastic, but there’s still a surprising amount of light around – assuming the moon decides to make an appearance, that is, which is never guaranteed in Cumbria!” he laughs. “The idea behind the New Moon swims is to really embrace the darkness. Without any moonlight, you can see the stars with a clarity you just can’t get on land.”
Colin’s interest in night-time swimming developed over many years during his work as an open water swim consultant for FINA, world swimming’s governing body. He has since swum everywhere from Slovenia to the Seychelles, but has now settled down along the shores of Ullswater.
His night-swims are “more of a potter than a full-on swim”, he says: guests are equipped with full wetsuits and illuminated tow-floats to make the experience as safe and comfortable as possible. The idea isn’t to exert yourself: it’s simply to experience what it feels like to be out in the lake in complete, total darkness.
“You’re immersed in nature, in this ancient glacial lake, lost in silence, surrounded by the fells… Floating on our backs, looking up into the blackness, not really being able to tell where the lake ends and where the sky begins, with nothing but stars overhead.”
“It’s hard to describe how it feels until you’ve done it,” he explains. “You’re immersed in nature, in this ancient glacial lake, lost in silence, surrounded by the fells. People are often a bit nervous about swimming in the dark to begin with: you can often hear the trepidation in their voices as they walk down to the lakeshore. But as soon as they get into the water, all their inhibitions disappear. There’s something almost childlike about it. The feeling of just floating on our backs, looking up into the blackness, not really being able to tell where the lake ends and where the sky begins, with nothing but stars overhead.”
He pauses, wondering how to accurately describe the experience.
“It’s magic,” he says. “It really is. Magic. That’s the only word there is for it.”