Bristol's Henleaze Lake wild swimming club celebrates 100th birthday

Henleaze Lake is tucked away in north Bristol. Credit: ITV News West Country

Henleaze Swimming Club celebrates its centenary this weekend.

The club - the only one of its type in the country - was well-ahead of its time in gender equality and in the philosophy of physical mental wellness.

The club has more members than ever - in fact there's a three year wait to join.

But the club's fortunes have been mixed over the decades, as Rob Murphy reports...

The flooded former limestone quarry in north Bristol had been used unofficially for swimming for 15 years.

But, when two teenage boys drowned - followed by a rise in the popularity of wild swimming - the need for safety on the site helped inspire the official formation of Henleaze Swimming Club in 1919.

It was established at the end of the First World War, some of its earliest swimmers were soldiers convalescing at nearby Southmead Hospital.

The club was progressive, allowing women to be members from its infancy.

The club was progressive, allowing women to be members.

It soon grew and by the end of the 1950s it was the place to see - and be seen. In the summer it was used for swimming galas, diving contests and water polo.

In winters, when the lake froze over, members went skating and had snowball fights.

There is a lengthy waiting list to join the club. Credit: ITV News West Country

For decades gangs of children from the nearby Southmead district would break in at night, illicitly fishing, boating and swimming.

They had their own currency, some boys would catch frogs to swap for catapults or inner tubes. Eventually a large gate was put around the site.

The 1960s and 70s were darker days, where the club struggled financially. At one point it had just a few hundred members.

But another surge in an interest in wild swimming helped surge its renaissance in the late 1980s and it has grown to have nearly two and a half thousand members. There is a three-year wait for full membership.

Would you fancy a dip in the lake? Credit: ITV News West Country

These days members can enjoy early-morning Friday swims.

And there is a 200-strong 'Winter Dippers' club where people swim in icy waters - wearing just swimsuits and caps.