When I first started my website I wasn't on Twitter - I didn't really understand it (still not sure what I'm doing half of the time!), but I knew that I needed to be on there in order to spread the word about my passions. I was told that this was the best social media outlet for finding likeminded people, although I am much happier in the Facebook arena. I duly set up an account, and sure enough, there are so many professional folk on there - doctors, nurses, stoma specialists, midwives - who I would otherwise struggle to connect with. I even found Professor Robin Phillips, the colorectal genius who repaired my septic fistula tract all the way back in November 2012.
The open water swimming community are also active on there, and I was directed to a lovely travel writer called Emma Dodds, who blogs about her wild swimming activities under the pseudonym BareFootEms - please do head over to her website, link below. I made contact with Emma, and it turned out that she was staying not too far from me in Northumberland, so we arranged a swim. This was my first meeting with a fellow swimmer through Twitter, or any other medium!
I asked along my good friend, Jane Hardy, who is the first woman to have swum 1k in the Antarctic (in her 50's and only 10 years after learning how to swim), a local legend in the open water swimming community - and the woman who was instrumental in helping me overcome my fear of the sea.
The three of us at met 1pm on a grey, windy and overcast autumnal Saturday, down at Low Newton, which has fantastic views of the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle once you're in the sea. There aren't many places where you can site on a Castle while swimming! Low Newton is the place to go when it is low tide, and the water here is often crystal clear - a real treat, especially in summer.
Emma was immediately friendly and welcoming, a big smile and the typical open water swimmers ease at being with new people. We were all very keen to chat as it is so difficult nowadays to meet anyone new during the Covid restrictions. Keeping our distance to 2m, and swimming in a vast sea, is an easy way to enjoy the company of someone while keeping safe. Emma's parents were also there, and it was clear to see where Emma got her friendliness from - her mum acting as chief photographer, and clothes-hander-outerer when getting changed afterwards.
The sea was calm and flat, and it didn't let us down with visibility either - a lovely clean, clear swim while chatting constantly about all things swimming. We stayed in for 25 minutes which is a long time, so we hastily rushed back up to the beach to get changed. I had noticed during the previous days swim, and todays, that my chest got extremely warm when I'd been in the water about 15 minutes - like it was on fire. I had quickly got out when it had happened the previous morning, concerned that it was the first signs of hypothermia. Jane reassured me that in actual fact it meant my core was working hard, that I was acclimatised and it was a good sign. I was very relieved! Hypothermia is not something I want to get even close to having - and a clear symptom is if you feel hot in the water. Always good to swim with someone very experienced like Jane.
The five of us enjoyed a good natter afterwards, before we all parted ways with promises to meet up and swim again in a different spot. During the swim I had noticed several people reading my sign, and to my joy two families even donated some money, shouting their well wishes to me as they did so. My first beach donations! Thrilled.
On the way home I had to pick up Sam and had time to kill, so I went for a wander around Howick Gardens, the autumn colours in full flow. I was still wearing my full length bright purple dry robe, grey onesie and huge fluffy boots with my enormous woolly hat....so I got some strange looks. I forget sometimes that it is not normal for people to go on woodland walks wearing full post-swim attire! It was also very difficult taking it all off when I went to the loo...you live and learn folks!
Follow Emma's adventures on the following website: