John Mather swimming Ullswater, Lake District
John having just started the swim of Ullswater, 2016

John Mather decided to celebrate his 60th birthday in 2014 by attempting to swim the length of all seventeen lakes contained within the English Lake District, little realising the time, effort or the planning that would be involved. These 17 lakes range in size from Brothers Water, the smallest which is just under half a mile in length, to Windermere, the longest natural lake in England, which is ten and a half miles long.

John estimates that he swam a total distance of 40miles, which is greater than that swum by someone crossing the English Channel, by the time he completed this task in October 2016. He normally swam with colleagues and was always supported with one or more boats in the busier lakes.

John Mather's swimming group at Loweswater, Lake District
John's group of swimming friends about to swim in Loweswater, June 2014

He has written an illustrated account of his journey to highlight the beauty and fragility of this wonderful land; to draw attention to some failings in water quality and also to encourage other swimmers to have a go.

He describes many highlights in the swim: heading straight down the length of Wast Water in the shadow of the mighty screes; racing with four hundred other swimmers along the length of Coniston Water and even squeezing through the narrowest of tree lined passageways between Elter Water’s hidden pools.

John was particularly pleased with his successful swim of Ullswater. He did this to advertise that "Ullswater (and the Lake District) was open for business" following the flooding caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015.

Illustrative guides to swimming Windermere and Ullswater in the Lake District
John's illustrations featured in Challenging Waters

Unfortunately not every swim went to plan. And his tales of enduring the southern shores of Windermere in a torrential rain storm and misjudging the length and temperatures of Bassenthwaite Lake are quite frightening!

He was fortunate to see and experience the Lake District in many of its majestic moods and glories. He was also rewarded with tantalising glimpses of red squirrel, cormorants, woodpeckers and deer.

Challenging Waters: The Diary of a Lake District Swimmer book front cover

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