'My family think I'm crazy' - The Somerset swimmers braving the cold water all year round

  • Watch Louisa Britton's report

For many of the South West's seasoned wild swimmers, January's wintry temperatures make the pastime all the more appealing.

Open water swimming has become increasingly popular thanks to the 2012 London Olympics which saw a boom in interest for triathlons.

More recently the activity has enjoyed another boost in popularity because of the pandemic when many enjoyed spending more time in nature.

Gill Self, a regular swimmer, told ITV West Country: "It's just so invigorating, it's lovely to be outdoors, it's just such a lovely environment.

"The cold water just gives you some kind of a buzz, gets your endorphins going and you feel like almost on a high."

Vobster Quay is one of the many places in the South West where you can swim Credit: ITV West Country

Many cold water swimmers report mental and physical health benefits, as well as the opportunity to socialise.

Emma Hannam said: "I love being out under the sky. You can swim around here and see the little cygnets floating around, the little ducks and the sky changing, it's beautiful."

Judy Reed said: "I just always swam in the rivers and at the seaside when the rest of my family think I'm crazy. "

The increased popularity of cold water swimming means the venue at Vobster Quay, which used to be solely dedicated to diving, has seen numbers boom.

Tim Clements, from Vobster Quay, said: "There are more people now who are motivated by the health benefits, there are many more people now who are striving towards their personal ambition of swimming through the winter."

But managers are keen to stress the importance of safety, especially for those taking up the hobby for the first time.

If you are considering giving a cold dip a try, it is crucial that you do not do so alone. It is also important to be careful about where and how you are entering the water, and whether it is safe.

Gill Self says swimming in the cold gives her a 'buzz' Credit: ITV West Country

Richard Smith, Open Water Swimming Coach, said: "16 degrees is what we would term cold water in the UK so even in the summer water can be cold and can be quite dangerous.

"So getting used to the temperature drop gradually, do things like ice baths, cold showers and just very gradual immersion into cold water, and as I say swimming within your own limitations."

Cold water swimming advice:

  • Ease yourself into the water slowly

  • Acclimatise yourself to the cold water

  • Do not swim alone

  • Check the location is safe where you intend to swim

  • Keep close to the shore

  • Make sure you have warm and dry clothing nearby

  • Have a hot drink afterwards to warm up

  • Be aware of dangers of currents and tides and research your surroundings