The last few weeks have been predictably unpredictable weather wise. One minute you’re scraping the ice off the windscreen of the car and cursing the need for extra clothing paraphernalia, the next you’re basking in glowing sunshine and commenting on how warm it is for the time of year and then in between you get some rather brisk winds coming by (what some call a ‘lazy wind’ – it doesn’t go round you, it goes straight through you). Having a variation in conditions one day to the next can be a really attractive part of outdoor swimming and something to be embraced.
I say the ‘attraction’ of differing weather but I do have to concede that the -1C frosty start after a couple of days of early spring sunshine has felt more challenging than attractive. However it does characterise the extreme variations we get in the British weather systems, especially at this time of the year.
Being outside each day, regardless of the weather, means that inevitably we swim on days that typify the old stalwart of the British climate – grey clouds and rain. Whilst the dull light is, well, dull, swimming in the rain always seems to feel a bit exciting. The strange combination of water falling on your head whilst also being submerged in the water feels uplifting. It’s like having the shower on whilst sitting in the bath – an addition too far but one that feels decadent whilst also slightly pointless. Each time we’ve caught a downpour it has made us smile and we have consistently said over the year how much we love swimming in the rain (surely there’s a song in there somewhere?!). There is an intense feeling of being truly ‘outside’ as though the rain falling makes us more exposed to the elements and somehow closer to the landscape. Or maybe it’s just that it has a sense of childish naughtiness?
One of my real favourite types of day is when, despite low temperatures and genuine cold, the sunshine is making a real effort to cheer things up; bright, glorious pushy sunshine that forces smiles on to our faces.
Just recently when the sunshine has filled a blue sky and sparkled on the water we have enthusiastically embraced getting in the water only to remember instantly that it’s not yet translating into water temperature increase. But the warmth of the sun on our bobbing faces brings laughter and chatter – something as simple as a sunny day can so lift the spirits and the enthusiasm takes over. Worryingly there is a definite current trend towards warmer seas around the UK (see CEFAS report) but it is widely recognised that March is generally the coldest month averagely for sea temperatures despite the oncoming spring.
But let’s be honest, it’s only the start of March and the summer warm water is quite some way off yet. Getting in the water doesn’t always feel as bad as the anticipation, although I know Karen will disagree with me on this, as you do get acclimatised to the lower temperatures (even if this does mean more huffing and squealing to start with). We seem to play out the same process most days…there is a point, a few minutes in, when I announce that “it’s ok actually” to which Karen always replies “not yet”! A few minutes more and we’ve forgotten what we were moaning about as we come to accept the cold and swim. After further time passing we start to compare notes on which bit of our body might be the coldest – generally feet, tops of thighs and hands. It’s time to head back to the beach and extract ourselves from the watery fridge. The steady but determined pattern of drying and dressing repeated each day with earnest finds us each wrapped up in assorted clothing and dry robes. One shower and hot cups of coffee later and all has been forgotten about the cold water for another day.
And… the sun is still shining.