I have always loved the great outdoors and walked & ran many of the wainwrights and cycled many of the country lanes of Cumbria over the past 20 years

By Ann Harris

So here is my story ….

We moved to Cumbria in 2013 and continued doing this but in 2015 I had a health scare, again which led to another mental break down. Being now in a different area I realised there wasn’t the crisis team to pull me out of this one. Mindfulness & running had always been my go to place but this time I wasn’t able to run ….just the very nature of getting about the home was physically draining and mentally infuriating. I had looked at all the lakes many times and dreamt of having a dip but never took the watery plunge. We drove to the shores of Ullswater that year Boxing Day I can remember it so vividly. I researched, OWS and wintery dips….I was told I was mad and risked further Ill health if I attempted it.

Finding solace in the fells and the draw of the water I made my first dip albeit only 5 minutes but the feeling of chilly water on the body unlocked a Pandora’s box of emotions. That season I continued with a few minutes when I could but slowly the body and sole got stronger and healed. I had seen so much about the Ice mile inspired by the website and inspired further by Cath, The Merthyr Mermaid.

Moving on 2019 COVID hit the world and again winter swimming became my saviour,  healing the wounds of life’s experiences….silencing  the inner chatter and saying it’s ok. That’s where another path was forged in my winter open water swimming . Time was increased and distance was expanded,  freedom and happiness was in my life once again mentally. I don’t wish to go on about my chronic health issues both physically and mentally…but winter swims are my saviour, physical pain is lessened, the inner chimp of negativity is tamed and my black dog days are more at heal than free fall.

As we move into autumn, and the depths of winter darkness, my thoughts turn towards preparing  myself for the cold months ahead. This transition has never been something I dread, the very nature of not fighting in and out of neoprene, is like wiping my bra off or a roar of FREEDOM !!! I adore the new and bountiful colours,  textures under foot and the riotous display of turning leaves …the rugged landscape of granite & slate glistening on a frosty sunny morning “an overwhelming” feeling of a tingling sensation.

Winter swims had always been an experience alone and considered by friends, madness! Christmas 2021 Her Spirit was in my life and a message was sent from now dear friends Majella can I join you with my friend Jude. Five minutes with these gals has turned out to be a vital friendship locally. Life’s experiences and the pathways it carves are unforgettable with Her Spirit & the Ullswater mermaids aka Majella and Jude, we are together swimming into new depths this season, friendship and the chilly water of our beloved lakes, together embracing life, silencing the inner chatter of life and breathing in the morning air with laughter or absorbing the silence of a moon lite night 🧜🏽‍♀️

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