Somerset

Clevedon sea swim photos capture year-round activity

  • 9 March 2013
  • From the section Somerset
Clevedon sea swimmers walk down a snow covered beach.
Image caption Former head teacher Richard Hamilton-Jones said: "You go down there and the sea temperature is about four degrees and you come out just thinking 'this is really great'"
A sea swimmer enters the water next to Clevedon Pier.
Image caption The group of swimmers come from a variety of backgrounds and confess they are "totally mad"
A swimmer looks out to sea
Image caption In the winter the swimmers often wear two hats to help keep them warm
Swimmers in the water next to Clevedon Pier.
Image caption Although the water looks grubby, the swimmers say it is hygienically fine - just full of silt.
Richard and Dee Hamilton-Jones are caught in a huge wave.
Image caption The photographer captured Richard and Dee Hamilton-Jones in the aftermath of a hurricane from America
Swimmers leave the water next to Clevedon Pier.
Image caption Some of the swimmers "shake from head to toe" after their "invigorating" swim
A clevedon sea swimmer dries off with a towel.
Image caption Drying off, the swimmers also brew up warm drinks to stop any shivers

"Wet suits are frowned upon... you're not allowed a wet suit."

The Clevedon sea swimmers - come rain, shine or even snow - are continuing to keep a tradition alive that has been going on since the 1930s.

On an almost daily basis they don bright coloured swimming hats and battle the elements to swim in the sea at the Somerset resort before drying off and warming up with a cup of hot chocolate.

Sometimes they are only in the water for a matter of minutes, other days they will swim around the pier, depending on the tides and weather.

Now their morning outings have been captured by news and feature photographer Brad Wakefield, from Burnham-on-Sea.

'The theory is...'

Mr Wakefield, 26, said: "I have grown to love their attitude and sheer embrace of their surroundings.

"I have witnessed their pure dedication first hand, swimming through all weather as the seasons have changed from beautiful blue skies to painfully cold, snowy days."

The group of swimmers - aged 30 to 80 years old - swells in size from nine or ten in the winter to 20 or 30 in the summer.

Self-confessed as "totally mad", the "all year rounders", say the cold makes it all the more fun.

"I don't like swimming in swimming pools now, it's just too warm," former primary school teacher Dee Hamilton-Jones said.

"It all started with a conversation about swimming hats.

"I asked one of the members 'where did you get your swim hat?' and she said 'you must come down', but this was winter time and she said, 'don't start now, start in May', that's the best time to start."

Dee, 71, swims alongside her husband, 66-year-old Richard.

"The theory is, if you can cope with going in the British sea in the summer, the next day it only gets a little bit colder than the previous day," Mr Hamilton-Jones said.

"And if you keep going and keep going, you think, 'ok, it's December 31, but it can't be much colder than the day before'.

"It is absolutely wonderful. Somebody once said it's like having a high on oxygen."

The Clevedon Sea Swimming Photographic Exhibition will run from 9 March to 24 March at the Toll House Gallery on Clevedon Pier.