It’s the middle of winter, this lake is 6C... and I’m about to jump into it (From Swindon Advertiser)
Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
It’s the middle of winter, this lake is 6C... and I’m about to jump into it
Buy this photo » Josh preparing to take the plunge
THERE are bracing dips, and then there’s plunging into a bitterly cold lake in the Cotswolds first thing on a January morning.
As I stood apprehensively on the bank at Waterland to join hardy open water swimmer Richard Searle, I was already feeling the chill.
Richard is among a small but growing band of die-hards who brave the stretch of water in pretty much anything but Arctic-strength ice.
Lake 32, which is run by Waterland, registered at 6 degrees C during my short-lived dip yesterday – but felt positively Baltic.
Richard changed from his car boot on the bank, pulling on two swimming caps, while I battled with my wetsuit in the changing rooms.
I took part in the London Triathlon this year, which began with a 1500metre outdoor swim, but when it comes to frosty temperatures I defer to my Jamaican gene pool.
In a Titanic scenario I think it’s fair to say I’m a lifeboats-first kind of chap. So as I stepped into the shallows, any enthusiasm quickly turned to icy trepidation – while Richard looked as if he was wading into the leisure pool at the Oasis.
Originally setting my sights on a 200m-circuit around a raft with a skull and crossbones flag, Richard wisely told me to try reaching a much closer yellow buoy first.
While my wetsuit kept my core warm, I felt a deep icy throbbing sensation in the lower part of my face and my feet immediately started to go numb.
As I swam, my front crawl descended into a disjointed, unsightly shadow of my former stroke.
Piling back onto the bank my adventure was over – after an effort of just 50m.
Richard, however, headed back out with a controlled and highly-efficient front crawl taking him on an 800m circuit.
Back on dry land he admitted having been so cold on previous swims that he was unable to open the lock on the changing room door – because the mind-numbing temperature drop meant he kept turning the handle the wrong way. On another outing his body core plummeted by three degrees, about the level that hypothermia sets in.
But he swims once a week throughout the winter and says he gets an “almost surreal” pleasure from being in the lake.
The 48-year-old, from Chalford Hill, in Gloucester- shire, turns up in the morning before heading off to work as a technical support manager for British Gas.
The sessions, on top of his training for Stroud and Gloucester masters at indoor pools, have a unique set of challenges. “Wearing a wetsuit means you can swim for longer, but one of the things which happens is that you lose muscle dexterity in your fingers,” Richard said. “I’ve come out after an hour or so and have tried to take my goggles off but I’ve had no strength to grip them, so I’ve ended up having to use my palm to push them off.”
Despite the pain, silicone-covered heads have become an increasingly regular sight at the lake in Shorncote as participation in triathlon and open-water competitions increases.
David Furse, Waterland’s director of business development, said: “We have seen a huge increase in the past three to four years. We have gone from 200 members up to about 600 just for swimming.
“People also come here because it’s a nice flat area and they can run and cycle.
“We have members from all walks of life and had two people who swam the Channel and came to acclimatise to the cold. We keep an eye on people and they are never too far from somewhere where they can get to the bank or stand up. The water is also very clean.”
For more information about swimming and other activities at Waterland visit www.ukwatersports.co.uk or call 01285 861202.