Live in Lancashire and fancy taking a swim on the wild side?

Endolphins - a dose of Dr Sea; they are just some of the expressions outdoor swimmers use to try to explain the appeal of cold water, that acute sense of being alive.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 1:39 pm
Updated Friday, 30th August 2019, 2:39 pm
Vikki Sherouse is a newbie to the outdoor swimming trend and so far, she loves it.

Reporter Megan Titley finds out why so many go in search of the natural high.

For some it’s about overcoming fear, for others it’s the hit of jumping into cold water; the feeling of being alive and discovering new places.

Swimming outdoors, or in the wild, seems to make an indelible print on people who fall under its sway.

Clare Lord strikes out on a beautiful day

And for those in Lancashire who are on the hunt to find their tribe of other open water swim addicts, making their excursions more sociable, be encouraged - your people are out there, waiting for you on the banks of the River Lune, at Morecambe Bay and on the gravelly beaches of Coniston and Windermere.

Jon Gibirdi was one such lone swimmer, who a few years ago, wanted to find fellow aquatic brethren to swim with.

So he started up a Facebook page to do just that - and M.A.L.L.O.W.S. (Morecambe and Lancaster Lancashire Open Water Swimming) was born.

“I started out really as a runner and I got injured so I decided to do something which had a little less impact on my body,” says Jon, 44, a support worker in Morecambe.

Helen Harvey with her 11-year old son Earnie, who following in his mothers footsteps, in the sea at Morecambe.

“I started swimming in the pool and met someone who told me about The Great North Swim in Windermere.

“I didn’t even know people swam as a hobby - it hadn’t even entered my head.

“People had told me to practice in open water and get used to it. But I thought how different could it be.

“I turned up on the day and I ended up getting scared and breast stroked round it.

M.A.L.L.O.W.S open water swimmers couldnt resist a group handstand after a swim

“I was scared and nervous about being in the open water but I got addicted and now I can’t stop doing it.

“Overcoming the fear - that’s where the high comes from for me.”

Following his inauguration into swimming Jon decided to set up the M.A.L.L.O.W.S Facebook page and now, with more than 500 members, groups gather regularly to go swimming with other like-minded people who need to quench their thirst in similar ways.

There are regular gatherings on Wednesday evenings and favourite spots for swims include the River Lune, the sea at Morecambe and different spots on the South Lakes, in Coniston and Windermere.

Jon Gibirdi after his epic swim across Windermere

Since he started out Jon, who is also getting his eight-year-old son Joey into swimming, has taken on a one-way crossing of Windermere - even popping the question to his now fiancee

Lisa afterwards, offering her a Haribo ring as his spontaneous sign of commitment.

Jon says: “It was the psychological part of it. On the day I had no nerves at all but when I got into the water I was nervous and considered getting out.

“It was 10.5 miles and it took me six and a half hours. I was playing catch up all the time with the others - they would get a break but I had to keep going.

“I’ve got to the first marker and I thought I’ll get to the next one. At the end I was really struggling to believe it was me who did it.

“I proposed to my girlfriend afterwards. I used a Haribo ring. She asked me, ‘are you serious or are you just delirious from swimming?’

M.A.L.L.O.W.S out on an evening swim in the River Lune

“If I can get in the sea in Morecambe on a winter’s day and overcome the cold I can do everything for the rest of the day.”

For Clare Lord, 47, who works in local government, the moment she got into freezing cold water on a chilly day in April she knew swimming was for her.

“It’s the freedom for me,” says Clare, who is from Wesham. “I think when you’re in the water you’re the same as everyone else. It’s the feeling of the water, it’s the fact that you’re outdoors looking at the sky and the mountains. The hit of the cold is nice as well.

“I’m not a fast swimmer I’m not in it for that, it’s the discovery of new places and bits of water.

“My husband thinks I’m completely crazy. He says he doesn’t understand it.

“I think all winter I’m going to be told I can’t have the heating on because why am I complaining if I’ve just been in cold water.”

Child and adolescent therapist Helen Harvey, from Morecambe, enjoys getting into cold water the same way as Clare does.

“There’s something quite brave about going in cold water,” says Helen. “Psychologically it does something for you in helping you feel more resilient. It’s my way of being with nature.

“If there was a choice of how would spend time outside I would choose getting in cold water. It’s very therapeutic.

“The cold water makes you feel alive. Everything is brighter and sharper.”

Helen says it was her job which led her to getting into open water swimming.

“Sometimes it’s a bit heavy,” she says. “Swimming just makes me feel 10 times better. It makes me feel invigorated.

“The main motivation now is if I don’t swim I can feel that in terms of my mood. A little bit of agitation.

“I particularly like sea swimming. Some people do the Great North Swim which is where you go round in a circuit. I like to go from point A to point B. The motivation for me is going from one point to another.”

Vikki Sherouse, who juggles her part time job as a digital marketing manager with being mum to three-year-old Erin will soon be braving the chilly waters in an open water swimming introduction day.

The 36-year-old from Garstang says: “I really love swimming. It’s the only kind of way of keeping fit that I actually enjoy and I just want to do something a bit more exciting.

“It’s having people to encourage you along. I think it’s going to be really cold, I’m really excited about it. I’m borrowing a wetsuit from my partner in case I can’t handle it. I just want to go outdoors.”

Vikki Sherouse with her three-year-old daughter Erin