It turns out there’s an alternative to binging on chocolate and telly over the festive period. Beginning with a dip in my beloved Cheltenham lido, here are 10 of our finest Christmastime swims
Apparently, a swimming costume and a willingness to leave the house beat turkey curry and repeats of Only Fools and Horses hands down when it comes to recovering from the excesses of the festive season.
I know – I’m as surprised as anyone. Up until a couple of years ago I was a happy traditionalist when it came to getting over the demands of Christmas indulgences, lounging in my pyjamas, consuming my body weight in chocolate orange and clutching at my head until the haze lifted.
But recently, the orgy of consumption required by this most wonderful time of the year has needed a rather more hardcore response. We’re talking cold water, freezing temperatures and exercise …
Welcome to the unique world of the festive outdoor swim.
My initiation into this club of eccentrics, nature lovers and, frankly, the occasional masochist, came via the art deco splendour of Cheltenham lido’s Christmas Day swim – an adrenaline shot of festive cheer and a kill-or-cure approach to any lingering Christmas Eve hangover.
And as with any outdoor swim, after the initial gasping, numbness and swear-words rendered incoherent, it offers all of the gorgeous, tingling sense of being reborn in a world where colours are brighter, shapes are sharper and everything seems just that little bit more magical – appropriately enough for the time of year.
Far from being a Gloucestershire anomaly, the lido swim is just one of a series for the brave, committed or just plain foolhardy up and down the country. Here are nine others:
Brighton Swimming club – Christmas Day swim
If you like a bit of history intermingled with your “oh good grief, that’s cold” then the Brighton beach swim could be the one for you. It has run every year since 1860 (except 2012 when bad weather intervened), and the fact that you’re swimming in the sea, not a manmade pool, lends the whole thing further romance.
Saundersfoot festivities – New Year’s Day swim
For those who fancy a side serving of whimsy with their swim, the Saundersfoot New Year’s Day event attracted nearly two thousand people to the beach last year, many of them in fancy dress. And in the spirit of the season, the swim also raises some significant cash for charitable causes.
Firth of Forth – New Year’s Day swim
Of course, those soft southern swims aren’t for everyone. So how about taking the plunge in the Firth of Forth as a “loony dooker” for fundraising fun in a more northern setting? And don’t worry, while the word “dooker” might sound like a dodgy sexual manoeuvre, in fact it’s just another word for a sea swimmer.
December Dip – Parliament Hill lido
A more gentle introduction to the world of the festive swim is offered by the December Dip, formerly known as the Plum Pudding Plunge, which takes place at Parliament Hill lido on the first Saturday in December. You only have to do two widths (unless you fancy more) and the Outdoor Swimming Society organisers offer Christmas hats, mince pies and even sneaky Christmas tipples to ease the shock.
Sutton Park – Christmas Day swim
The Black Country may not be the first place you think of when it comes to outdoor swimming, but the Christmas Day swim at Blackroot pool in Sutton Park offers one of a limited number of freshwater festive swims, with around 60 people in various states of (fancy) dress jumping in. Last year it was even the scene of a memorable marriage proposal, in the form of a banner reading: “Will you keep me warm for the rest of my life?” Aww.
Sennen Cove – Christmas Day swim
In the summer, Sennen offers golden sands and Mediterranean-style seas. In the winter it’s a rather different prospect, but this doesn’t deter several hundred keen water-babies from heading in for the annual Christmas Day swim. There’s plenty of Cornish wildlife to keep an eye out for, if the screaming doesn’t scare it off.
Whitby District Lions – Boxing Day dip
The Whitby dip is another swim with an emphasis on charitable fundraising alongside the usual fun, bravado and icy waters. There’s even an official fancy-dress competition to take your mind of your chattering teeth and numb limbs.
Serpentine Swimming club – Christmas Day swim
Sadly, this one is spectating room only unless you’re a member, but it does have some unique quirks that make it well worth a watch. Participants are serenaded into the water and then proceed to race for the Peter Pan cup, a reference to JM Barrie‘s association with the club. In fact, had you won the race between 1903 and 1932 it would have been Barrie himself presenting you with your prize.
What all of these swims ultimately have in common is a certain joie de vivre that comes from taking on the elements and living to tell the tale. (Although, obviously, it’s important to follow the safety advice and use your common sense to ensure the latter.) Festive swims are a joyful celebration of life in the middle of winter’s darkness – just like Christmas itself. See you on the beach?
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/34673cb7/sc/10/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Clifeandstyle0Cthe0Eswimming0Eblog0C20A130Cdec0C0A40Ctop0E10A0Echristmas0Eswims0Euk/story01.htm