A (N)ICE way to start the day – a frosty festive swim!
It was only after emerging from the iconic, ice-laced Kenwood Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath that we discovered the water temperature was 4 degrees. Apparently that’s the ideal temperature to serve ice cream.
Heaven knows what the air temperature was. Suffice it to say that puddles were transformed into mini ice rinks and muddy paths were frozen solid. More astonishing than the frigid conditions was the number of women who rose early on a Saturday — the coldest day of winter so far – for a glacial swim. A steady stream of ultra-brave women entered and exited the outdoor changing rooms – leaving as white as ghosts and returning red as raspberries.
Climbing down the freezing steel ladder in bare feet, all I wanted to do was plunge in and get it over with. But I was warned by Tania that I must ease in and keep my mouth shut because the gasp that accompanies a plunge can lead to serious water inhalation.
For a first-timer like me, it was more like a dip. But Tania, a proper open water swimmer, managed several laps.
There’s a special camaraderie that arises from choosing Arctic waters over cappuccino and croissants in a warm café (or even better, staying in bed). It comes with post-swim sisterly survival advice like ‘fill a tub with luke-warm water and stand in it while you dress yourself from the top down. And don’t worry if icy fingers prevent you from hooking a bra or zipping up jeans – that’s normal.’
That’s about all that’s normal about an escapade like this. That’s why we did it. It’s an adventure — an instant, icy departure from daily life. Coincidentally, I’d been feeling a need to step out of my comfort zone, but not necessarily into a freezing pond. But then, when you are co-founder of Women’s Adventure Expo like Tania and a WAE board member like me, it’s in the job description.
Rosemary Brown Tania John
If you’re up for a wintry swim, click here for cold water swimming tips from the Outdoor Swimming Society.
By Rosemary Brown