AS SNOW covered Stroud this weekend, some hardy swimmers amazed passersby by taking to Stroud’s River Frome for an icy dip.
Clair Brodie and family, who live in Brimscombe, were amongst those taking the plunge.
Clair, who runs the Felt Cafe in Brimscombe, got into the chilly water just by the cafe.
She said: “We started a little family tradition in the November lockdown of wild swimming once a week in the streams around our house.
“It’s been a fantastic sense of adventure for us in a time when you can’t go anywhere or do much.
“Sunday was our best swim yet, swimming with snow all around us.”
And Gloucestershire Camera Club member Peter Kinsella captured two more intrepid dippers, braving the water at Bowbridge, in the stretch of river to the right of the canal bridge, at the back of Bowbridge Lock.
Things to consider before going cold water swimming:
Swim England has issued the following advice:
You need to be a competent swimmer.
Never swim alone in open water.
Let someone in your household know where you are, what you are doing and expected time to return.
Look out for safety signs and online information/feedback. If a sign says ‘no swimming and/or ‘danger’, don’t swim there.
Plan your exit before you get into the water. Consider any currents, the tidal flow and wind direction.
Avoid weirs, locks and other structures.
If you get into difficulty in the water, don’t panic, stay calm and float on your back until you can control your breathing and then continue to swim once again.
And Outdoor Swimmer gives the following advice for cold water swimming:
For the inexperienced, the biggest danger from sudden immersion in water that’s significantly cooler than you’re used to is cold water shock. This is the body’s initial and automatic response to rapid change in skin temperature. It causes, among other things, a sharp intake of breath, an increase in breathing rate and an increase in blood pressure. It typically lasts up to a couple of minutes. For the unwary, cold water shock can be deadly, especially if that sharp intake of breath occurs under water. In addition, if you have an underlying heart condition or hypertension then the sudden change in blood pressure may cause complications. Therefore, enter the water slowly and keep your face clear until your breathing is under control. The cold water response decreases with swimming experience and being mentally prepared.
The second problem with cold water is that it can result in swim failure. To protect vital organs in the core, the body restricts blood flow to the limbs when in cold water. If this reaches extreme levels the arms and legs no longer function properly and you can’t swim. If you feel yourself slowing down or struggling to swim, get out.
The next risk is hypothermia. This occurs when you suffer a drop in core body temperature and can eventually lead to loss of consciousness and heart failure. The amount of time you can swim in cold water without suffering from hypothermia is determined by the temperature, your body size and shape and your experience, among other factors. Start with short swims to learn what your limits are. Always swim with other people. If your stroke rate slows down or you start to shiver, get out and warm up.
When you finish swimming, you also need to concern yourself with something called ‘after drop’. This happens when you exit the water and cool blood from extremities starts circulating through your body again, lowering your core temperature, which is why you often start to shiver a few minutes after you finish swimming. To minimise the risk, dress immediately starting with the top half of your body. Put on a hat and gloves and have a warm (non-alcoholic) drink.