Break the ice: Swimmers take on Cumbria's lakes and tarns for charity

Twenty five open water swimmers in South Cumbria have been taking a dip in the county's icy lakes and tarns every day this month.

They're raising money for the homeless charity Crisis, which is helping record numbers of people in the pandemic.

We spoke to Gilly McArthur and Vicki McCreadie, who wouldn't advise others to take on the potentially dangerous task but as trained winter swimmers, say it's an exciting and invigorating challenge.

Credit: Gilly McArthur / James Kirkby

With minus temperatures and no wetsuits, £20,000 has been raised so far. Speaking to ITV Border, Gilly said: "There's been a 14% increase in homelessness across the UK and obviously people that are losing their jobs are now finding it hard to pay their rent.

"There's been a few policy changes and things which mean that there's more hidden homeless as well.

"The suicide rates in the homeless population are much higher than the normal population, and conditions like psychosis are between 4 and 16% higher.

"That's why we're wanting to do this daily vigil because at the end of the day we can choose to get cold and get back into our warm houses but for so many people at the moment that's just not an option.

"Cold water swimming releases loads of endorphins and happy hormones, it's also really amazing for your circulation, and making that choice to stress your body in a natural way actually means that you can then handle stress levels better."

Credit: Gilly McArthur / James Kirkby

For safety, Gilly will swim with her friend Vicki who has been doing the same challenge for the Alzheimer's Society.

She said: "This time last year my Nanna lost her battle with Alzheimer's and my mum and I planned to swim in the Great North Swim, and obviously that didn't happen.

"Unfortunately my Grandma's just been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia so you know it hit home again and that's another reason why I wanted to plod through and give to this charity."

Open water swimming is an extreme sport and without proper precautions can be very dangerous. Here's the benefits and tips for how to do it safely.