A brave swimmer has endured freezing wild waters wearing only a costume everyday for the past year

·3-min read

A brave swimmer has endured freezing temperatures to swim in wild water wearing just a costume - on every day for the last YEAR.

Rachel Whitfield, 41, braved icy water in the middle of winter as part of her quest to raise money for her local lido.

Swimming for the 365th day in a row on New Year's Day, and surrounded by fellow supportive wild swimmers, Rachel has raised a whopping £1,600 for Hilsea Lido - and has even carried on swimming daily to raise more cash.

The teacher, who lives in Hedge End, Hampshire, said: "The cold water does something magic to you and makes you feel really fantastic.

"I've swam for my mental health - especially through lockdown - but my physical health has also benefited.

"I've also discovered a wonderful, friendly swimming community who have been really supportive.

"I think we see a lot of the negative on the news but this was the real positive side of humanity.

"The other thing is the contact with nature. You see things swimming wild that you wouldn't otherwise - kingfishers, otters, seals.

"It can be quite magical, as can spending time in nature and seeing the cycle of the seasons."

Rachel first went wild swimming at a swimming centre in Hampshire four years ago in a wetsuit but soon discovered a local swimming group.

Joining the Hampshire Open Water swimmers, she traded the wetsuit for swimming 'skins' - just a swimming costume - and has never looked back.

Rachel, who lives with her husband Matt, 41, and their five children, said: "I first tried wild swimming as I was really poorly with an autoimmune disease called refractory coeliac.

"I was signed off work and desperate to get better when a friend mentioned that she was going so I went along. It's very addictive!

"I think I managed about 50 metres in my first swim. I started at the end of February which wasn't ideal as that is when the water tends to be the coldest.

"I was shaking so much that I couldn't get dressed but I was beaming. The dopamine really kicked in and I was buzzing as I shivered!

"It's very different to a pool. No lanes, no funny smell of chlorine, and no lifeguards. You have to learn how to swim safely and how to get dressed really quickly."

Thanks to Rachel's determination to swim every day for a year, she has raised an amazing £1,600 for Hilsea Lido and is even carrying on in the hope of raising more.

She said: "Hilsea Lido is an art deco lido. I love it because it's inclusive and makes swimming accessible and because it's a real community hub.

"It's run by a team of dedicated volunteers who just can't keep up with it crumbling around them. They saved it from demolition and I felt I could just try and help a little to save this magical place.

"Some days were harder than others. I swam in 2.3°C where we had to break the ice to get in and the ice actually cut my legs because it was so sharp!

"I actually like the cold - once you've been swimming a while, you almost crave it. Cold isn't a problem, but I do get a bit fed up getting rained on and covered in mud.

"Swimming on New Year's Day after a year of doing it was a really lovely feeling.

"We had about 50 other swimmers come out to do the last swim with me and there was a real sense of community. Plus, there was cake, which is always good!

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