Genius or featherbrained? The Bluetits first ever winter swimming event

Lake 32 in the Cotswold Water Park hosted the Bluetits first ever winter swimming event on 13 November – and what an event. With no timing or racing involved, this was primarily an exuberant celebration of the joys and eccentricities of cold water swimming. Even the swimming was optional. If all you wanted to do was wade in and dunk your shoulders under the water, that was fine too, and equally celebrated and cheered.

Organiser Sian Richardson (who also founded the Bluetits) set the tone in her briefing, emphasising the fun elements of the day and reminding everyone (to loud cheers) that the only competitive elements to the event were the hat competition and the inflatables relay race. She created a no-judgement, anything-goes party atmosphere. There were no costume rules: you could swim in a standard swimsuit or dress head-to-toe in neoprene, or anything in between. Her message, and the Bluetits’ ethos, was as clear as Lake 32’s water: if you want to swim, you are welcome, and we will support and encourage you, however you do it.

Sian’s enthusiasm and energy flowed through the event as she maintained a live commentary, cheering every dipper and inspiring the swimmers waiting their turn to warm up by dancing to Abba. Participants, who came from Bluetits’ groups around the UK, chose between 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m swims on an easy-to-follow course with safety coverage provided by paddle boarders. The majority swum head-up breaststroke (to keep their hats dry) and maintained animated conversations throughout the swim.

A mild late-autumn day with a water temperature of 10.4 degrees provided ideal conditions for first timers and more experienced swimmers alike while the low sun lit up the golden-leaved trees around the lake, creating a beautiful backdrop to the colours of the swimmers’ costumes, hats and tow floats. Timing was relaxed. One event started roughly when the previously one finished. Swimmers entered the water in their own time and took as long as they liked to complete their swims.

After the individual swims, it was time for the highly-anticipated inflatables relay race. Each team consisted of 4 swimmers and their inflatables – crocodiles, flamingos and others – and involved swimming, running, and much confusion and laughter. The day then wrapped with live music.

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About the Bluetits (from their website)

The Bluetits Chill Swimmers Ltd is a social enterprise committed to empowering our inclusive community of cold water dippers. Our Social Swim Community spans the globe, made up of informal groups of mixed-gender people who just like to swim or dip together.

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