I feel like I haven't been in the sea much recently, it's been too rough and I went back to work this week - only three days a week, but still, that's three days I can't get in the water as at the moment it is too dark before/after work. I did my super ice smashing dip on Monday up at Harbottle Lake, and so by the time it got to Friday, I was left with 2 more dips to do.
The first took place in the River Aln, at the Pastures in Alnwick which is opposite Alnwick Castle. I have swum here before, but only once and certainly not when the river was as high as it was that day. I walked along with my friend Lynne and her faithful companion, Breeze the collie. Breeze is actually our swimming mascot and she comes everywhere with us, she is dearly loved by us all, such a gentle, sweet loving dog. We walked through the town towards the river, a 10 minute walk until we reached the fields and saw the river. It was high and fast moving, and ordinarily I wouldn't have chosen to get in - and if it hadn't been for my bikini challenge I can say with confidence that I wouldn't have got in at all! It was late afternoon by the time we got to the dipping spot, the pink and grey sky reflected perfectly on the water in front of the Castle, which loomed over the water from the opposite bank. The river itself was moved a few metres away from where it originally flowed, way back in the 1750's by the first Duchess of Northumberland, Elizabeth Percy. There are a couple of explanations proffered for this, but the most enduring, and romantic one, is that she took advantage of a flood and asked (demanded!) for the course of the river to be pushed back so that she could see it from the state rooms above. Two weirs were constructed in the river, which meant that the river flowed smoothly, creating a glassy effect akin to a mirror. The Pastures itself was designed by none other than Capability Brown.
Thus, a stunning spot for a dip. We walked a little further up from the weir, where Jane and I had got in last time, but where this time the river was flowing far too fast for a safe entry - we would have sailed over the top of the weir within moments! After considering a couple of options we chose a spot near a tree, and decided that we would stick to the edge of the river where the flow was weaker....but of course, where the reeds and mud are.....yuck. Lynne got in first, sensibly wearing booties to protect her feet - but of course my ninja challenge means no booties or socks for poor old me! Her shrieks confirmed the level of mud, so I opted for a very silly entry method - one foot in and then a leap into full immersion. Big mistake. I immediately got a shock, my chest tight and my breathing gaspy, making it hard not to panic as I realised I had got in far too quickly. I managed to steady my breathing, and looked at my thermometer - 2.6c! No wonder I had got a shock! Three and a half minutes was plenty of time in the water, my hands stinging and painful by the time I got out. A very quick changer
A very quick change and a hot drink, before we made our way home again to the warm.
The third and final dip of the week was the best I have had in a while - a stunning sunrise swim with one of my oldest friends from school, who has just taken up this crazy hobby in the last couple of months. The car temperature was a brisk -3, the car thick with ice and an indicator of what was to come, although thankfully there was no wind. I arrived at the small beach car park and saw a tranquil sea, the sun about to rise on the horizon in the distance, birds flapping silently over the water. This is what it is all about! We quickly got changed and made our way down the icy beach, slipping on icy patches on our way. before crunching our way into the sea. Karen spotted something in the water with a cry - ice floating! It was very cold, prickly legs and frozen feet. It took us 4 minutes before we were able to dunk under, where we stayed for another 5 minutes. I had forgotten my thermometer but it was most definitely under 6. It's always tempting to stay in longer when the sun is rising so beautifully, casting dancing rays over the rolling water, but we opted for the safe option of getting out before we got cold. We were both as high as proverbial kites, laughing and grinning as we ran back up the beach to our dry robes.
What better way to start the day, and end week 15, than this!