Swimmers brave icy daily dip to help end homelessness

A group of wild swimmers are braving a daily dip into icy waters across the north of England to raise funds to help end homelessness in the UK.

Around 30 members of The Dales Dippers wild swimming group are facing near-freezing water temperatures, snow, ice and Covid restrictions, clad only in their swimming costumes and the occasional bobble hat, to raise money for Crisis.

The annual January Daily Dip event is now in its fourth year, with the group raising more than £30,000 so far.

Les Peebles dives into the River Ribble near Stainforth in North Yorkshire
Les Peebles dives into the River Ribble near Stainforth in North Yorkshire (Danny Lawson/PA)

Les Peebles, a wild swimming guide in the Yorkshire Dales, said he enjoys swimming in waterfalls and rivers and is “unbearable” if he misses a day in the open water.

He said: “I heard a friend of mine say recently that wild swimming is like a free drug, a free legal drug, and that’s what it is.

“Of course it’s an adrenaline rush, it’s great for your mental health, after I’ve been in for a swim I feel bright and bushy, feel like I’m ready to take on the day.

“The benefits are all round and physically it’s good for you as well, of course the exercise as well as the cold water.”

Mr Peebles said membership of the group’s Facebook page had risen from around 1,000 at the beginning of 2020, to almost 4,000 members, which he said was testament to people wanting to stay local during lockdown.

And he said it was “really important” to support Crisis after a year which had seen people losing their jobs and their homes.

He said: “Crisis needs the funds to continue to support people because people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, especially in the last 12 months more than ever, so that’s why it’s really important to us to keep supporting them.”

Mr Peebles advised anyone wanting to try wild swimming to go with someone more experienced and to enter the water slowly to avoid slipping and falling.

He said: “Once you get started on this hobby, you want to keep going.”

The thermometer showing the temperature of the water in the River Ribble, in which Les Peebles is swimming
The thermometer showing the temperature of the water in the River Ribble, in which Les Peebles is swimming (Danny Lawson/PA)

The group had raised more than £7,700 on Wednesday and their fundraising page describes their members “taking the plunge in just our cossies and big smiles”.

They said: “We should all have a place to call home. Across the UK, thousands of people will be without a home this winter. We are facing the freeze for Crisis – The UK’s homelessness charity.

“Please donate here while we take our daily vigil into the cold to help end homelessness.”

Pictures on the page showed a number of members swimming in icy conditions, with one swimmer writing: “There isn’t one of us that hasn’t had to compete with snow, ice, wind, slippy footpaths or scrubbing ourselves dry with a scratchy towel.

“We’re all doing this together because we really believe this discomfort is nothing in comparison to the uncertainty, discomfort and danger of sleeping rough or not having somewhere permanent to call home.”

For more information, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/januarydailydip21

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