family adventure to Gormire lake

When a Fun Family Day Out Goes Wrong

I love the term “microadventure”. This is something I try and do with our girls to get them out of their comfort zone and trying new things. Microadventures for some people may be jumping on a train and seeing a new city, or like us getting out to a hidden lake and wild swimming. It’s about trying something new and exciting.

But what happens when the adventure goes a little wrong? Such as a medical emergency maybe? How would you cope?

This happened to me this last weekend. Here’s what happened…

The Microadventure Plan

Helen was on the rota to work all day on Sunday. This meant occupying 4 girls on a hot and sunny day and I sure as hell wasn’t going to be staying home. So, I planned to head down to Gormire Lake at the foot of the Sutton Bank escarpment near Thirsk.

path to Gormire Lake

We visited last summer and had a great time on the rope swing and walking around the lake through the woods. This time the plan was that the girls would go equipped to have a paddle and maybe even a swim.

The plan was simple. Park at the North York Moors Sutton Bank visitors centre and make our way down the cliff using the steep path cut into the side. There are other paths to the lake from the bottom but parking is an issue so we use this way. We would then play on the rope swing, play around in the water then walk around the lake and climb some trees.

About Gormire Lake

Gormire Lake is a natural lowland lake that lies at the foot of Whitestone Cliff, a western escarpment of the Hambleton Hills in the North York Moors National Park. The lake is 1.2 miles (2 km) east of the village of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe in North Yorkshire, England. Gormire has no inflow or major outflow of water. It is thought to be fed by an underground spring and drained by a limestone channel so the water finds a way out through the base of the cliff face to the east of the lake. The name Gormire translates as filthy swamp.

Gormire Lake

The lake was formed over 20,000 years ago by glacial erosion. When an ice sheet pushed its way between the Pennines and the North York Moors, it bulldozed the soft earth away and carved the cliffs at Whitestone and in turn the mud leftover stopped the water’s egress and formed the glacial lake. Gormire Lake was a result of this process and is fourth largest of the natural lakes in Yorkshire (the other three being Hornsea Mere, Malham Tarn and Semerwater). The lake was first designated as an SSSI in 1954; however, in 1985 the area surrounding the lake was incorporated into the SSSI status with the new area being 133.5 acres. The new designation incorporates the broadleaf woodlands of Garbutt Wood which encroach right up to the water’s edge.

The lake is the setting of several myths; one being of a knight known as Sir Harry Scriven who conned the Abbot of Rievaulx Abbey into letting him ride his horse (a white mare, the so-called derivation of White Mare Cliff (another name for Whitestonecliff)). The knight and the abbot rode on from an inn and as they did so, it turned into a race. The abbot then changed into the devil, which caused such panic in the knight that he couldn’t stop the horse and himself plunging into Gormire Lake from the clifftop. The ‘devil’ was then seen to jump into the lake after them and the boiling effect of the devil in the water is what is said to have caused the darkness of the lake to this day.

Other myths are that the lake is bottomless, that the bottom of the lake is the entrance to hell, there is submerged village underneath the water and that a goose once disappeared in the lake to emerge in a well at Kirkbymoorside stripped of all its feathers.

Gormire Lake is popular with wild swimmers as it has no streams feeding it so there is very little current and the waters are described as being ‘warm’. Swimmers have reported that it is seething with leeches. The Times named the lake as one of the 20 best lakes and rivers in Britain for wild swimming.

A Walk Around the Lake

We arrived at the Sutton Bank visitors centre and parked around the back close to the path towards the cliff. Of course, we needed to use the toilets first, but once that was done we were on our way.

I can’t visit here with stopping at the “Finest View in England” that looks out from the top of the cliff westwards. It really is a fine view.

The Finest View in England at Sutton Bank

From there we headed down the path that is cut into the cliff. It very steep in places and often the rocks makes the decent quite tricky. We managed with just one faller, L managed to slip on some loose, dry earth and bumped her leg. SHe was fine so we carried on.

Once at the bottom we were lakeside and sad see the rope swing had been cut down. There were a few people in the inlets there so we decided to head around the lake to find out own spot.

We sat by a very distinctive tree to eat our lunch, which was welcome for me. Not only was I hungry but I was carrying the big rucksack with everyone’s food and water in!

weird tree at Gormire lake

Duke was loving it down by the water, that dog is such a water baby! He was in and out and swimming around. He did manage to go through some rather foul smelling mud too that had us all cringing over our tuna sandwiches.

After lunch we continued our walk around the lake, passing a few other people walking in the opposite direction as we went. We spotted a couple swimming the length of the lake, we were all impressed. We actually came round to those swimmers had left their belongings – I have to say they were very trusting!

We eventually came around to almost where we started from. We found a little “beach” where a man and his son were just packing up. They warned up about the leeches in the shallows and off they went.

Where Did it All Go Wrong?

The are we had to ourselves was lovely. L, G and D went in the water and splashed around. They did a little bit of swimming with me keeping a watchful eye ready to do my best David Hasselhoff. It was all lovely summertime fun in the sun.

splashing in Gormire Lake

After about 20 minutes Grace looked concerned and said she had stepped on something sharp. As she came out of the water blood was pouring from her foot.

I immediately went into first aid mode. I had her lay down so I could raise her leg and applied pressure with a clean towel. I kept pouring clean water from our bottles over her foot to remove dirt. Something had sliced one of her toes really badly. I knew immediately she would require medical attention.

The issue was that we were at the bottom of a huge cliff with a long, tricky accent back to the car. I had to asses whether calling 999 would be appropriate, especially if I couldn’t stem the flow of blood.

The bleeding subsided enough to allow me to get her tow wrapped tightly. With her sock and trainer back on she bravely climbed back to the top of the cliff and into the car. We got home into time for Helen arriving home, so I dropped of Grace’s sisters and headed for the local urgent care unit.


The urgent care unit in Malton was empty and we were seen pretty quickly. While the nurse was pleased with the treatment I had given he couldn’t be certain there were no foreign bodies in the wound and therefore was happy to close it. He dressed it and sent us onto Scarborough A&E where they could x-ray it. Malton does have an x-ray but it only runs Monday to Friday.

Having never been to Scarborough A&E I didn’t know what to expect. But a seaside emergency department on a hot summer Sunday was sure to be busy. It didn’t disappoint.

In actual fact, we were dealt with quite quickly by their urgent care team that runs alongside A&E. Waiting for the x-ray took the longest and trolley after trolley of people in various states of distress were wheeled in and then out. Eventually, it was Grace’s turn and we were soon back in her cubicle.

in the a&e cubicle

The nurse practitioner who was assigned to Grace was satisfied that there was no significant object in the wound so set about cleaning it with sterile water and iodine. It stung a bit. Grace flicked her leg up and almost knocked the poor nurse out! Eventually, it was clean and time to close the wound.

Steri-strips were not an option and stitching was not advised in the location so it was glued shut with medical super glue. That is incredible stuff! 

toe wound

Apologies for the grim photo, but I at least thought you ought to see the wound after reading this far!

The Aftermath

Grace was discharged and simply told not to get it wet and to keep it open to the air to help it dry out. It was gone 8 pm by now so we headed off to find something to eat,

After a McDonald’s it was time to get home. We had to talk about Grace’s dancing and up-coming tap exam as this was now a serious doubt. There was also the matter of her week away with school in just a weeks time as well. The holiday was active one involving water sports, climbing and all sorts of other great activities.

Today we went to see the GP as the wound was weeping quite a lot. It was reassuring that he was happy it looked clean and not infected and thinks it will be healing fine.

Looking back I am so pleased I take a first aid kit with me on these trips. If we hadn’t had that with us then I’ve no idea what I would have done. One thing I shall take away with me it to make sure we get them water socks/shoes to protect their feet in future. If she had been wearing something like that then this would not have happened.

DIY Daddy

5 thoughts on “When a Fun Family Day Out Goes Wrong”

  1. Oooo, now there’s an idea. I’m going to take a first aid kit on all future trips. That’s such a sensible thing to do. Why haven’t I done it before now?

    Hope Grace makes a full recovery son. As it happens, I had a very similar experience last summer when I took our eldest to the beach and she trod on a wooden steak buried in the sand. Didn’t bleed much but the would was filthy and had to be cleaned out. That was a fun afternoon, but then I suspect you can relate to that! #thatfridaylinky

    1. I can certainly relate.
      Yes, always a first aid kit. Ever since one of the nippers came off her bike on a ride (close to home thankfully) and scraped her arms quite badly; I didn’t have a kit with me and ended up having to tie one of my socks around the wound!!!!! Vowed then, never again.

  2. So I’m sat here thinking yep, yep, yep – first aid kids. I have them coming out if my ears… except I leave them in the car… no longer!

    Hope Grace makes a full recovery in time for the school trip!

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