For as long as I remember the water or Airthrey Loch at the university was out of bounds. Not because some big grumpy dude was shaking his fist shouting “Git off my land” it’s just there’s not much running water through it and it’s always been full of nasties.
For years it has been on my bucket list, sitting just a mile away, teasing like a big chocolate éclair but better. Especially when you have to drive past it on the way into the Trossachs for a swim.
Anyway, the other night I was talking to a friend and he mentioned that the university had installed ultrasonic cleaners in the Loch. “What…..like a hoover but with bat sensors instead of a Dyson contraption?” I asked. “Not that complicated” he advised. “A bit more like poles emitting sound waves.” “It has worked in Dutch canals and its cleaned the water at the Uni.”
“Eh! sound waves! Will it rattle my bones or solidify my kidneys?”
“AWE FREAKIN YEAH”
Awe naw… I had just realised that we have to go Newcastle before I can scratch swimming in the uni loch off my bucket list.
My oldest is Basketball daft. I think I have mentioned I couldn’t catch a cold so I am in constant wonder of his abilities. To expand him and his team mates abilities, the coach has got them a chance to play in a Cup tournament over the boarder against Northern English teams.
I think a few mums and dads were slightly taken back considering the long drives but I started looking at opportunities.
Newcastle awe yeah. The Coach requires a 1 hour warm up and suss the other team out time before every game. In the past this is just enough time to get a 10 minute skin swim. Temperatures and proximity to the venue dictates on whether I arrive in the sports hall shaking and looking like a junkie.
Tynemouth beach had a few gangs of wet suited bairns on big foam boards learning how to surf. I managed to find a clear spot for twelveteen minutes then a quick run back to the car. I wish it was longer but the refs whistle was about to blow as I had just started driving back to the sports hall.
The boys won. They played well and not just as good players, but as a team, nobody lacking, no superstars, they played for each other. It was a joy to watch for the ¾ of the game I saw.
Were they good enough to sit and watch the warm up and the whole game and miss the swim. Well……..
(The team photographer requires a big kiss but I would say that as I married her)
Back to the Uni loch….. Look, the decision to swim in the Loch was not taken lightly. I have had food poisoning before from drinking stream water and don’t want to relive another 4 months of feeling rotten. I was nervous, really nervous. My swimming buddy body swerved it. He is starting a new job and couldn’t risk it. He has tried a few times for this job and they didn’t give him a chance. Tomorrow he gets that chance and requires to be able to trust not just his farts but his mind and body for the umpteen weeks of training so wisely he chose to be the safety photographer.
Back to that clean loch informer friend, bear with me… it’s the wee things that make the difference.
Consider the song called Behold by the reggae band Culture,some of the lyrics are below:-
This world is like a mirror
Reflecting what you do
And if you face it smiling
It will smile right back to you
So do unto others as you would have them do
So that your days
Will be many, many years much longer.
Karma, works fast round Stirling. I took five minutes the other day for someone, nothing big, I could have forgot or sat on FB for a few more minutes, but I made a wee bit of an effort. A few days later they made an effort to say thanks, that resulted in a conversation to discover that the uni loch was swimmable. A few freakin days. Karma is brilliant. A big wheel or in this case a few days circle.
Look, life is hard, with a wee bit compassion and thought we could make a wee bit easier.
I know when we are driving our car, it’s sometimes a race and cutting in front of folk can sometimes win a small feeling of accomplishment, but letting folk out into a queue of traffic or slowing down so a car can cross into a junction in front of you, is not hard. Karma, it may be a few days, might be years, might be the next traffic queue.
Ooh, and since we are on a wee driving rant, see that gap in front of a truck when yer racing up to a roundabout on a dual carriageway, that is not so you can sneak in and get home quicker, it’s the distance they need to brake, so they don’t squash folk.
Anyway, Karma, awe yeah, help folk even if it’s just a smile.
Sorry for the lecture. Sorry if it’s getting slightly sanctimonious, honestly I don’t feel even a wee bit morally superior. Full disclosure, my driving is worse than my swimming technique and that is rubbish. It’s probably something to do with constant dancing behind the steering wheel. I was just saying how I found out about the lack of poison in Uni Loch and got side tracked.
Blue green Algae has kept the uni water swimming and canoe free for years. However a fisherman sitting at the edge of the water agreed the water was looking healthy and he mentioned there’s more fish and the snails are returning.
Snails eh! Good enough for me.
The next worry was discarded debris so it was on with the cheap surf suit I used to jump about rock pools with my sons and the swim run gutties (or running shoes if you stay outside Stirling.)
See when your used to swimming in lochs, standing in clear water is weird. Even really clear seas have some discolouration. Lochs are worse. Imagine taking six tea bags in a cup of boiling water, let it stew, take a teaspoon and really go to town on the teabags, then fire it in the microwave. Repeat the teabag beating, to within an inch of their life, (don’t worry, the teabags have plastic in them so won’t burst, but for some reason they still go in the compost bucket. Must be the habit my grandad got me into.) that stewed tea is nearly as dark as Loch Lubnaig with sticks and leaves floating past.
Completely opposite was Airthrey Loch, it was like filling a sink up with water. It was clear and completely transparent (I realise we are lucky and highland spring water comes out our taps, for real. One side of the hill water gets bottled and sent round the world, the other side comes out Stirling’s taps). We’ll, the water in Airthrey loch was clear until I started traipsing about kicking up the mud. The original idea was to breaststroke about with ear plugs in, gloves, neoprene socks and shoes on. I wasn’t going to take any chances.
Instead I fired the swim cap on got the watch tracking and front crawled 250m up to the bridge. Couldn’t help myself. Even when I was a boy playing golf on the amazing pitch and putt course adjacent to Airthrey castle on the campus grounds I always wanted to swim in the Loch.
I was actually doing it. Awe yeah.
What you must realise is Stirling’s University was a purpose built campus. I fink, it’s design was based on a Swedish prison. Lecture halls, research facilities, student accommodation all contained in a big field directly under the Wallace monument and if you’re facing the right way you can see the castle and all within walking distance of the town center. Even as a bairn or kid I appreciated how cool the place was.
Maybe we should have got the water tested. Maybe when the water started getting a green tinge half way to the bridge I should have turned round.
Ached well, what doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger.
Look, I could still see my feet and the mad green bush. That bush was freaky. It covered the complete loch floor. The Bush looks like it’s about a foot thick and the Loch looks to be 2.5m deep. I didn’t dive down to see. I stayed on the surface. I didn’t see any dangerous objects apart from 1 traffic cone.
From the boat house to the bridge and back was 500m.
I was stoked and could imagine joining a bunch of mad individuals doing lengths of the Loch regularly as it would be just a run up to the uni, swim a couple clicks and run home. For folk that stay outside Stirling or folk that don’t swim, paddle board, kayak or canoe they might not get the importance of this swim. Maybe I am blowing smoke up my own arse, but having the ability to spend an hour on the water and not in a lido or swimming pool but in nearly natural safe surroundings is amazing. I honestly think a clean loch in the heart of Stirling is going to make a significant difference to the quality of life to the people of this neck of the woods.
I went straight home for a shower. And considered a paracetamol then realised it will have tainted the experiment.
Awe well, we will see what the next few days are like. See if I can trust my own farts. Hopefully I will be healthy enough for an update. What’s the worst that could happen, apart from losing a couple of kilos. But thats not the biggest worry here, don’t fret it was good fun and I am excited about the future of the Loch but I will still be heading to real Lochs in the hills for real wild swims.