Plunge issue two 2024

Page 1

plunge into cold-water wellness

THE GEORDIE ICE WOMAN ON HER 1000 SWIMS AND 50 BIKINIS

IS COLD WATER THE SECRET TO A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP?

‘It made me feel like I can do anything’

BBC DJ OWAIN WYN EVANS ON FACING HIS FEARS

issue two

THE COUPLE BRINGING INCLUSIVITY TO BLUE SPACES

Hello and welcome to issue two of Plunge magazine!

Is plunging a solo endeavour? While cold-water therapy can be the road to a better version of yourself physically and mentally, it is also about connecting with nature. It makes you aware that you can always count on the natural world to heal you and give you the most pristine sense of high.

Our cover story featuring the BBC radio star Owain Wyn Evans about his experience on the show Freeze the Fear says just this. He opens up on page 18 about how braving the cold also meant facing his fears, as cold exposure helped him alleviate feelings of anxiety.

With great awareness, comes great responsibility. We, as humans, are vested with the duty to preserve our environment as much as we take advantage of it. Keeping this in mind, the Plunge team brings you an array of articles in our second issue focusing on the need to protect our habitat in addition to prioritising wellness.

For instance, the story A Life without Lanes on page 38 is about the Wild Woman of the Wye, Angela Jones and her fierce fight to preserve River Wye, bringing urgent attention to water pollution. While we are on the subject of saving our water bodies, is it really possible to transform the litter on our shores into beautiful art? Artist Rob Arnold proved that it is. Flip to page 36 to read all about his journey.

Our team believes that cold-water therapy is for all and should be accessible to everyone. From Wheelchair to Water Sports on page 29 delves into detail about organisations that make this happen.

All this and more is in store for you this time, with a wider range of cold-water content than our taster issue. We hope our labour of love will offer you an immersive experience into the world of cold-water therapy. As always, let us know your feedback at dipintoplunge@gmail.com. Happy plunging!

BeckyGeorge,contenteditor

Highlights

18

BBC DJ Owain Wyn Evans on facing his fears

27 The Geordie Ice Woman on her 1000 swims and 50 bikinis

29 From wheelchair to water sports with Blue Horizons CIC

38 Angela Jones on living a life without lanes and saving the River Wye

Illustration Sophie Colson Editorʼs letter 03

Becky

Eve

George

Hannah

Hansa

Maddie

Sophia Grace

Sophie

Sophie

Team Editorial
Thieme
Ashley
George
Gurbicz
Eszter
Davies
Phillips
Wild
Tote
Balcombe
Colson
Illustration
Thomas Boyd
Colson Podcast
Phillips Reach out: dipintoplunge@gmail.com Visit: cardiffjournalism.co.uk/plunge Follow us: Instagram: @plunge.magazine TikTok: @plunge.magazine Join our community on Facebook Contents WAVES OF WISDOM 05 11 06 But first, books | What’s hot in cold water 07 Dip spot #2: Budleigh Salterton, Devon 08 Lorraine Kelly’s The Island Swimmer 12 I ditched my phone for a dopamine rush 14 Sweet dreams are made of chills 16 ‘I’ve never felt fitter in my life’ CHILL SEEKERS 18 No place for fears 24 Getting you in the zone 25 Cold-water therapy journal 27 Pregnancy didn’t stop the Geordie Ice Woman 28 Backyard plunging 29 From wheelchair to watersports 30 COLD-WATER CONSERVATION 36 Art for a cause 38 A life without lanes 40 Swimming with a porpoise 42 Leave only footprints 17 DISCOVER 09 Dip drinks and Water
George

• where to go

• what to take

• ways to warm up

Discover

But first, books

The best reads if you love cold-water

Salt on Your Tongue: Women and the Sea by Charlotte

This is a beautifully written reflection on what the sea means to us, particularly women. Runcie looks at the sea; its myths, its dramas, and its poetry, and writes this memoir in a lyrical manner. The novel makes you long for an ocean you have never known and think about the connection between water and motherhood.

Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times by Katherine

Have you ever heard of the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? It’s when the changes of seasons result in a type of depression often linked to the shortening of days and lack of vitamin D. Wintering by Katherine May looks at winter as a time of change and a necessary part of life. It explores how living through difficult times is inevitable, but managing these can be easier if you consider them like ‘wintering’ –a temporary period that will pass over to happier times.

The Lido by Libby Page

When the Lido in Brixton is threatened with closure, Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26, are determined to keep it open. An uplifting novel about community and friendship, these coldwater swimmers navigate saving their lido while handling the ups and downs of life.

Rewilding the sea: How to save our oceans by Charles

A non-fiction that encourages us to rethink the way we treat our oceans, this book explores how the sea can bounce back if we just give it the time to do so. A timely reminder that shows change is possible, Clover portrays how fishermen and communities work together to give nature time to repair.

What’s hot in cold water

Nyord Furno Wetsuit Gloves, £21.95

It’s important to keep your extremities as warm as you can when you’re wild swimming.

Rip Curl Dawn Patrol Neoprene Boots, £59.95

You can’t always see your feet when swimming in lakes, rivers or the sea, and neoprene shoes are the best way to protect yourself.

Safety Buoy and Dry Bag, £32.50

This safety buoy/dry bag is a perfect way to stay visible and keep your belongings safe wherever you swim in the great outdoors.

Zip Through Outdoor Oodie, £135

With a reversible outdoor Oodie you can keep warm and cosy through any weather conditions. Large pockets are perfect for snacks and valuables too.

Baltic Bobbles Big Hat, £20

If you’re not wearing a woolly bobble hat on your cold plunge, can you really call yourself a cold-water therapy fan?

Eco Hot Water Bottle with Zip Cover, £33.99

An easy and cost-effective way to make sure your body’s warmed up quickly once out of the water. They’re recyclable and come with insulator skins to keep you warmer for longer.

Discover 06

DIP SPOT #02

Budleigh Salterton: pebbles and panorama

With a beautiful beach and a scenic walk, this spot is the place to be for plungers in South Devon

Where is it?

Located halfway between Exmouth and Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton is a small seaside town with a two-mile pebble beach its neighbours can only envy. This picturesque place is part of the Jurassic Coast, a Unesco World Heritage Site known for its beautiful coastline and geological history, dating back 185 million years. Not only that, but Budleigh beach is also located by the mouth of River Otter which is an ecologically diverse area, providing a chance for a nice walk along the Otter estuary.

How to get here?

Budleigh is easily accessible either by car, by bus from the nearby towns, or through the South Coast Cycle Route. However, if you want to have a truly memorable experience, and don’t mind a bit of extra exercise, try walking from Exmouth

to the Budleigh Salterton beach. Walking along the cliffs, you’ll get the chance to admire the beautiful view, which makes the two-hour journey unforgettable, says Octavia Graham, an Exmouth local. “It is stunning, the route is easy to follow, and while there are a few steep cliffs, you will be motivated by the view of the ocean,” she adds.

Who is it for?

The beach, known for its big, round pebbles, is a popular spot for the local swimming community for its clean water and undisturbed environment. You can join swimming groups like Budleigh Swim Bobs, Budleigh Salty Ones or Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society. Due to the beach’s location, you won’t meet many tourists here, meaning it’s a great place for anyone wanting to have a peaceful swim. You can also

explore the town after your cold dip, which is home to boutique shops, homemade ice cream and local cafes.

When to go?

Budleigh beach is a great plunging spot all year round. Those looking for a true cold-water experience should visit during the spring months, says Octavia, as at this time the weather is warmer but the water is still cold from the winter. If you wish to spend a whole day at this scenic location, visit between April and October when you can hire beach huts from Budleigh Information Centre. In August you can also pop over to the nearby town, Sidmouth, to check out their annual Folk Festival.

Remember...

Unlike other shallow beaches in the area, Budleigh is a deep shelving beach, meaning the seabed is steep and will deepen quickly. While this makes it a perfect swimming spot, if you’re new to cold-water swimming then staying close to the shore is recommended. Also, beware that there are no operating lifeguards in the area, so only go into the deep water if you’re a confident swimmer and are aware of the risks. It’s best to choose a calm day for your dip, since it can become unsafe on windy days due to high-breaking waves.

Discover 07
X
marks the spot! Find Budleigh Salterton on the UK map above

‘Alive and zingy’

Writer and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly shares her love for the coldwater swimming community in her new novel, The Island Swimmer

First appearing on our television screens in 1988, Lorraine Kelly is considered a national treasure, and it turns out she’s on our wavelength when it comes to cold water. The 64-year-old presenter and now author has spoken a lot about her love of cold-water swimming in recent months.

On the BBC Radio 4 programme, Women’s Hour, Lorraine spoke about how, for her, one of the best things about cold-water swimming is “women supporting other women” and holding each other up, whether physically in the water or emotionally.

“Cold water swimming makes me feel so alive and zingy,” Lorraine told Plunge. She first swam in Antarctica on Deception Island. “As you can imagine, it was really cold but I loved it, and when I got back home I swam on Inganess Beach in Orkney and also in Loch Tay,” she said.

A love letter to Orkney

Set in the northeastern Scottish archipelago beloved by Lorraine for its rich culture, this novel has been labelled the broadcaster’s love letter to Orkney. It has a strong sense of place and even stronger characters. Lorriane’s descriptions of the “azure” sea, “bone-white beaches” and “vivid green fields” place readers on the beautiful island.

The Island Swimmer is a novel with light and shade, multiple storylines and timeframes that weave into one gripping yet enjoyable story. From the get-go, there is an enigma around why Evie left her home island twenty years ago and it is not until later in the book we find out the harrowing reason why, along with why she is so scared of water.

The storyline spans Evie’s childhood in late 20th century Orkney to her escape to London in 2004 and return to Orkney upon her father’s death in the present day. As a child, she has a fraught

relationship with her difficult, older sister but is protected by her lovable father. As a teen, she falls in love with the charming Brodie, but they don’t get their happily ever after. She is a victim of coercive control during her time in London as a young adult but finds a friend for life in Sophia. Finally back home in Orkney, she finds her feet, gaining confidence and peace in female friendship and, overcoming her fear: cold-water swimming.

Cold-water sisterhood

The community aspect of cold-water swimming is what Lorraine enjoys most. She said: “I love the camaraderie with the women I go swimming with, and especially the coffee laced with rum and the fat slices of cake afterwards” – cold plunging doesn’t sound so bad after all!

It comes with little surprise, then, that this cold-water sisterhood is at the heart of the novel led by the grandmother, the fashionable and kindhearted Freya, to whom most characters turn for support at some point, Evie finds an affinity with this community and a calmness beneath the waves that begins to wash away the pain of her past. “We’ve got you. Just lie back and let yourself float. We’ll hold you up,” Freya tells her.

Between these pages, Lorraine covers deep themes of guilt, complicated family dynamics, identity, homesickness and friendship without losing her recognisably funny, cheeky voice. “I just wanted to write a really good, gripping story that readers will remember,” Lorraine said.

The novel ends with Evie joining the Selkies (the female swimming group) in the water in an ironically warming homage to the seas surrounding Orkney. A must-read for cold water lovers.

Discover 08

Drinks for your dips

From indulgent hot chocolate stirrers to invigorating cocktails, these are the hot drinks you need to fill your flask with on your next cold dip

Hot chocolate stirrers

While we’re not opposed to the classic hot chocolate in a flask, hot chocolate stirrers make for an elevated experience. Rich in flavour and often topped with marshmallows, these stirrers even come equipped with a spoon so you can make fresh hot chocolate on the go. Available from chocolatiers such as ‘Gnaw’, simply pack a flask with 300ml of hot milk and stir in your flavour of choice when ready for a sweet treat.

Mocha

For those wanting something more bitter-sweet, why not try a mocha?

Hot Aperol spritz

Soup

Take your standard cup of coffee and stir in cocoa for a rich, intensifying experience to heighten your senses after a plunge. Consider adding a double shot of espresso or cocoa powder to cater to your sweet tooth, or satisfy your bitter taste buds.

If you’re looking for something more adventurous, consider filling your flask with a mulled Aperol spritz. Crafted with a fusion of aromatic and warming spices, this hot cocktail is the embodiment of all things cold weather. Taking the classic summer cocktail, replace the prosecco with white wine and add cinnamon or star anise for deep, rich aromas. Heat over the stove and transfer to your trusty flask for a hot drink that’ll have other dippers green with envy.

Water memories

While it’s not exactly a beverage, nothing nourishes the soul more than a comforting bowl of hearty soup. While using a tin is more than adequate, there’s also the option of making your own; being an opportunity to clear out any leftover vegetables. Simply combine vegetables, potatoes, herbs and your choice of stock on the stove for a chunky, nutritious soup.

Herbal tea

Herbal teabags offer a convenient alternative to your traditional brew, as their simple infusion into hot water means you don’t have to leave milk stewing in your flask while gallivanting in the water. Although the options of herbal teas are endless, green tea is the ultimate ‘all-rounder’; supporting our immune systems, brain health and blood sugar levels. Add a drop of honey if you’re looking for something sweet.

Here at Plunge we’ve been looking back at memories of water, the connection we have with it and what it means to us. Thank you to friends of Plunge for sharing your memories with us

“I love water and have so many great memories related to it. I’ve swam in lakes in Germany, plunge pools in Denmark and beaches in Cornwall. I feel very connected to water as it reminds me of my late dad who taught me to swim. It’s very therapeutic for me.”

“Swimming outside whatever the weather during the pandemic, which was such a difficult time - I lost my dad and my job - gave me a strange comfort and reminded me of my strength and resilience. I could cry in the water, if I needed to, but I also felt very present and connected. That feeling extends to this day.”

“Growing up spending weekends down the Gower in Swansea, I have always loved swimming in the sea and being out on the water with my family. I now go sea swimming regularly throughout the year and love swimming while travelling to different places around the world.”

Discover 09
Words Hannah Wild Illustration created using Adobe Firefly

Waves of wisdom

expertise

health

wellbeing

I ditched my phone for a dopamine rush

Join Plunge’s Hannah Wild on her journey to discover if your morning social media scroll can be replaced by cold-water therapy

It’s hard to imagine a time when technology didn’t exist. Phones, tablets, TV and laptop screens are seamlessly woven into every aspect of our daily lives, even if we don’t realise it. From working to exercising, socialising to sleeping; there’s rarely a moment that these handy devices aren’t within reach.

SlickText, an SMS marketing and text message service found that 36% of millennials spend two or more hours per workday looking at their phones, while 46% of UK parents said that they feel “addicted” to their phones. Excessive screen-time consumption has been proven to negatively affect mental health and general wellbeing, on account of the increasing reliance upon, and use of technology.

The Kardashian of molecules

Dubbed the “Kim Kardashian of molecules” by psychologist Vaughan Bell, dopamine is a chemical release inside the body which motivates us to do things that we think will bring pleasure. We experience a rise in dopamine levels in anticipation of the activity, once it’s over we enter a “comedown”.

finishes, the next one loads automatically - trapping you in a vicious cycle.

To understand how to enjoy pleasures such as screens in moderation, Anna recommends taking part in a digital detox to, “Gain perspective on how dependency affects us”. She also suggests replacing vices with what she calls “painful pursuits”, being things that give us a dopamine boost after engaging in the activity, rather than before.

Learning to disconnect

So, knowing the negative impact that screens can have on our mental health, what is it that compels us to keep picking up our phones again and again?

Dr Anna Lembke, chief of Stanford University’s dual diagnosis addiction clinic previously told The Guardian that once we start indulging in pleasurable things which raise our dopamine levels, we eventually become dependent on them to keep functioning. It’s especially difficult to reduce dependency on digital vices on account of their lack of restriction. Consider YouTube for instance, after one video

When in a digital detox, cold-water therapy (CWT) can be a great alternative to screen time by providing the dopamine boost that often is sought out through technology - but without the experience of a comedown.

By distracting our mind and refocusing it on our senses, CWT lowers our heart rate and calms the mind, reducing symptoms of anxiety. Because of this, CWT has been Words

Illustration created using Adobe Firefly
Hannah Wild

proven to aid us on the road to wellness, and compliments a digital detox in satisfying our cravings for a dopamine rush, without many negative consequences.

Given that my housemates call me a “phone zombie”, you can probably imagine that I wasn’t best pleased when the Plunge team asked me to not only give up social media for a day but replace my morning scroll with a cold shower instead. However, considering this nickname isn’t something I’m exactly proud of, I accepted the challenge of logging off from 7am until 7pm, to see how CWT can aid a digital detox.

“I TURNED THE DIAL TO COLD AND WRAPPED MY ARMS AROUND MYSELF”

The night before

In preparation for my social media detox, I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone so as not to be tempted to open up TikTok or Instagram the minute I wake up. Whatsapp and iMessage are exempt from this, as I’ll need access to some form of communication in case of emergency - not to jinx anything.

7:15am

Despite my alarm being set for 7:30 am, I naturally woke up at around 7:15 am this morning. I instinctively leant out of bed to reach for my phone and had to stop myself. While I’m only detoxing from social media, I wanted the full experience of swapping out my morning screen time for cold-water exposure instead. I have to say, it made a nice change from shoving a glowing, blue-light screen in my face which I have to

admit, often makes me feel worse.

7:35am

Having stumbled my way upstairs, I hastily turned on the shower and stepped in. Although this was where I’d be testing out how CWT can aid a digital detox, I decided to start with a warm shower first to ease my half-asleep self into it. Then, before I could think twice, I turned the dial to ‘cold’ and wrapped my arms around myself in preparation.

Fingernails digging into my arms, I stood there rocking from side to side as the water took my breath away. After about a minute I managed to untangle myself, and began splashing my face with water to give me that extra dopamine hit. Aware that I’d receive the dopamine rush after the ‘painful pursuit’, I kept pushing through and ensured that every inch of my body had been exposed to the cold water. When the water created a burning sensation on my back, I felt it was time to stop.

8am

Half an hour passed since my morning shower and I could see why Dr Lembke recommends replacing digital vices with painful pursuits. The dopamine rush I experienced was a much more rewarding experience than one I get with my phone - where I often feel dissatisfied, or lethargic after indulging in an excessive amount of screen time.

With cold-water exposure, there was no ‘comedown’ or ‘dopamine dip’, just the glowing feeling of knowing I’d done something to better my wellbeing, and set myself up for the day ahead of me.

9am

Instead of spending my morning walk aimlessly scrolling through TikTok and Instagram (as I typically do), this morning I opted for a podcast instead. Forced to actually watch where I was going for once, I was able to take in my surroundings and enjoy getting some fresh air before a 9-5pm working day.

Admittedly, upon arriving at my university I felt considerably more refreshed and motivated for the day ahead.

2pm

It’s been seven hours since my social media detox began, and I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying it. As it turns out, that extra 20 minutes of screen time I gave myself last night in preparation of this challenge was unnecessary. Gone are the urges and cravings I had to scroll through TikTok this morning - I’m not sure I can even say that I miss it.

Trialled and tested

I’m rather embarrassed that it’s taken such extreme measures for me to realise just how addicted I am to my phone. Throughout this challenge, despite not actually having the urge to see who’d posted on Instagram, I found myself constantly picking up my phone out of habit.

But while I was still physically reaching for my phone, I was surprised to discover that I don’t get as much enjoyment out of social media as I thought I did. It’s the next day now and I’m still revelling about the fact I took a cold shower yesterday morning, rather than spending those ten minutes scrolling on TikTok instead. Considering I had one of the most productive days I’ve had in a while, I might just start swapping out my morning scroll for a morning plunge instead.

Waves of wisdom 13

Sweet dreams are made of chills

If you struggle to drift off at bedtime, then immersing yourself in icy waters

could be the cure you’ve been waiting for

World Sleep Day took place on March 15th, putting sleep health at the forefront of a lot of our minds. Josh Odell, co-owner of the Cardiff-based wellness centre Mountain Yoga, states a good night’s sleep is a vital ingredient for our general wellbeing. “Sleep is the number one pillar of health,” he says. “If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s very difficult to be resilient. Your productivity and performance drastically decreases, and you can begin to make poor decisions. Everything is affected by sleep.”

Although sleep is one of the most essential aspects to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, Josh says it’s often something people disregard, sacrificing their eight or nine hours for a trip to the pub, or just one more episode of their favourite TV show. This is why Josh, along with his business partners Craig McCormack and Chris Flynn, are advocating for the importance of creating a healthy sleep routine through their classes at Mountain Yoga.

These routines will look different for everyone. Some may benefit from working on their breathing techniques, while others might struggle to clear their mind when their head hits the pillow. Whatever

the issue may be, laying the foundations for a good night’s rest is essential. While the Mountain Yoga team strives to help people develop a routine through their four-hour sleep masterclass, they also encourage the use of a lesser known hack to help you wave goodbye to sleepless nights: introducing cold-water immersion.

talk about sleep during Fire and Ice and vice versa,” Josh said. This is because cold-water therapy is thought to have undeniable positive effects on our sleep.

“ REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY CAN IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY AND DURATION”

How can cold immersion help?

Alongside their sleep masterclass, the Mountain Yoga team offer a Fire and Ice programme, where clients can try contrast therapy, alternating between hot pods and cold plunge pools. While the two classes are not run together, offering them both under the same roof at Mountain Yoga was a conscious decision. “We

Sleep expert Dr Sophie Bostock conducted research into why this might be. In an article for Benson’s Beds, she explains that the host of benefits that come with cold-water therapy can promote a better night’s sleep. “Improved control of the stress response, reduced pain and inflammation, and improved mood are all factors which could help sleep quality,” Dr Bostock says. Conveniently, these are all things that a few seconds of cold-water immersion encourages. One of the factors that Dr Bostock identifies as being beneficial to sleep is “Improved control of the stress response.” At Mountain Yoga, reducing stress and clearing the mind is something that Josh, Chris and Craig feel strongly about.

“Cold-water therapy clears your mind,” says Josh.

Words
Maddie Balcombe Illustration created using Adobe Firefly
“WHEN

blood vessels. Then, when you go into the hot tent, your blood vessels dilate. This works them like a muscle, and every time you work a muscle it gets stronger,” Josh explained. “So when my vessels are vasoconstricting and dilating, my body is working to get the blood around my system, and I get more tired as a result.”

YOU’RE IN THE POOL

YOU CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE SO YOU CAN JUST SIMPLY RELAX”

“When you’re in the pool, you can’t think of anything else so you can just simply relax.” Josh went on to explain that this state of relaxation then promotes better sleep: “When you go to bed after cold therapy, you feel like all your problems have escaped. You won’t be lying awake with thoughts running through your head.”

Additionally, cold-water immersion can aid sleep because it is a form of exercise. A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health stated “Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality and duration.” They even found that adults who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day sleep for an average of 15 minutes longer than those who don’t. You may not be breaking a sweat when you enter icy waters, but your body is still working hard.

“When you’re in the pool, cold water vasoconstricts [narrows] your

While traditional forms of exercise release endorphins, cold-water therapy releases melatonin. Melatonin is often dubbed the sleep hormone due to its ability to regulate sleep. Quick drops in temperature encourage a spike in melatonin, which is why the Mountain Yoga team suggests taking a plunge two or three hours before bedtime: “Doing so prepares you for a restful night of sleep,” said Josh.

Routine is key

If cold-water therapy can work wonders for sleep health, then establishing a healthy routine is key.

Many experts, like the team at Mountain Yoga and Dr Bostock, state cold-water therapy should not be practised directly before getting into bed. Dr Bostock explains this is because, “The heating process triggered by shivering may raise the body temperature above baseline, and make it harder to fall asleep.” So, after taking the plunge, have a relaxing bedtime routine to ensure your hard work is not lost.

The team at Mountain Yoga suggest some essential things that everyone should put in place to better their sleep. The golden rule, as they call it, lies in putting your

phone away. Josh said: “You should put your phone down two hours before going to sleep. You don’t want exposure to blue light.” Similarly, he also suggests no caffeine in the run up to bedtime. In fact, he recommends that your last coffee of the day should be no later than 2pm. For the caffeine lovers and social media obsessed among us, this will require discipline. However, you can also pretty much guarantee a good sleep by staying hydrated, breathing through your nose, and stretching before bed.

So, next time you’re debating whether or not to take the plunge, just remember that your well-rested self will thank you for doing it in the morning. Sweet dreams!

Waves of wisdom 15
‘I’ve never felt fitter in my life’

Personal trainer and business owner Lorretta Davies talks about how cold-water therapy can benefit your fitness journey.

Lorretta, better known as coach Tinks, thanks to her Tinkerbell inspired haircut, is a 46-year-old coach, business owner and mum of two. Since receiving her National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) qualification at the age of 41, Tinks grew her online fitness community, and now has over 12,000 followers on Instagram. Despite struggling with aquaphobia since childhood, she decided to give cold water a go after seeing a post of her friend with Dawnstalkers, a cold-water community in Penarth, Cardiff. After her first dip with the group, where she witnessed the “most incredible sunrise,” cold-water therapy became part of her daily fitness routine.

was dreading it, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I did the runs down to Penarth and then I went into the sea. I’ve never felt fitter in my life, I couldn’t explain it. I’m 46, I’m not 26, I don’t recover as quickly as other people, so the benefits of cold-water therapy in terms of recovery were massive for me.

Your business, Body Positive, is all about female fitness. How can cold-water therapy benefit women on their training journey?

How have you been practicing cold-water therapy since that day?

I still have a fear of the waves but I’ve progressed, and now I do cold-water therapy every day! I had an outdoor cold shower installed last summer. I’ve got a cold pod as well since I can’t always get down to the sea. I also decided to make 2024 about exploring new places. So, I do the shower, the pod, the sea, but also explore waterfalls, springs and the rivers.

What kind of physical benefits do you experience as a trainer?

The fitness industry is all about conditioning, but to come back stronger after, cold-water therapy is amazing. It helps with delayed onset muscle soreness, it helps with muscle recovery and it makes me feel less achy. Two years ago, I run 100 miles in 24 days for a suicide awareness charity. I

We’re built different to men. Hormones are massive. When you reach over the age of 30 to 40, your muscle mass begins to decline, we go through sarcopenia, agerelated muscle loss. We also go through perimenopause, and later menopause. Women need to understand how we can protect our muscles and cold-water therapy is a big help. As a trainer I’ve got a global community of women, and I’m encouraging them to get cold pods and trying to teach them that it’s not just about squats, lunges and protein and certainly not the scales. Cold-water therapy is the cheapest therapy in the world, and it balances our hormones.

What is the best way to incorporate cold-water therapy into a training routine?

Cold-water for menopause

A 2024 study by researchers at UCL found that coldwater swimming improved symptoms of menopause. Of the 1114 women surveyed, those who regularly swam in cold water reported significant improvements, physically and mentally. They found that cold water helps with anxiety, mood swings, low mood and hot flushes, as well as relieving aches and pains.

You got to look at your lifestyle and what’s going to suit you. I train in the mornings, I wake up at 5am. When I train, I want that muscle recovery but I don’t always have time to foam roll and to stretch it out, so I will go into my pod straight after my workouts. Sometimes I’ll then have a cold shower. There’s no right or wrong approach, listen to your body and where you feel the muscle aches.

Waves of wisdom 16
Find coach Tinks at @bodypositivefitnessandhealth
Words Eszter Gurbicz Photography Lorretta Davies

Chill seekers

• personal stories

• celebrity dippers

• cold-water groups

No place for fears

It’s been two years since BBC Radio 2 DJ Owain Wyn Evans took part in the gruelling six-week show Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof, but he’s still reaping the benefits

Words Maddie Balcombe Photography BBC Pictures

Picture this: You’ve been asked to take part in the adventure of a lifetime.

You’ll spend six weeks in Italy, participating in challenges and making friends with a stellar line-up of celebrities. The answer may seem like a no-brainer - 100% yes! But, for BBC Radio 2 DJ, Owain Wyn Evans, a little more thought was required. This is because Owain wasn’t asked to jet off to sunny Rome or take a trip down idyllic Venice canals.

Instead, he was whisked away to the Italian Alps, where he’d immerse himself in sub-zero temperatures, all in the name of BBC One show, Freeze the Fear, with Wim Hof.

He was reluctant at first, but eventually decided to take the risk.

Now, two years have passed, and Owain is still reaping the benefits from an experience that changed his life...

Chill seekers 19

When it aired in 2022, the concept of Freeze the Fear was entirely unique. We were used to seeing celebrities getting pushed to their limits, watching with gritted teeth as they competed in nerve-wracking challenges. ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here had that box well and truly ticked. But we were not used to watching them endure all this whilst living on the ice and forced to withstand freezing temperatures. This is what made Owain so reluctant to take part. Prior to the show, he said: “I was scared of water and didn’t like the cold, I’ve always been that person who wants to be warm and comfortable.” This was, in part, because he suffers from Raynaud’s Syndrome, a condition that affects blood circulation, causing fingers and toes to turn numb, sore and change colour. To ease the symptoms of Raynaud’s, those affected are advised to stay warm and relaxed, and Freeze the Fear didn’t lend itself to either of those things particularly well.

Also, Owain’s reluctance was fuelled by the sense of the unknown that surrounded the show. He said: “The show had never been done before; there was no litmus test as to what it might look like. So, when they approached me to do Freeze the Fear, initially I was like: ‘Absolutely not, it sounds like hell!’” However, Owain admitted that he had heard of Wim Hof previously, and said that the ability to learn from him was “a real pull to do the show,” leading to some deliberation.

Freezing the fear

Wim Hof, or the ‘Iceman’ as he is also known, is a motivational speaker, athlete and advocate for cold-water exposure. In his own life, Wim has used the wonders of cold water to battle emotional traumas and grief, and has inspired others to reconnect with themselves through his invention of the Wim Hof Method. The method is based on three pillars – breathing, cold therapy, and commitment – and participants are encouraged to combine these pillars, committing to coldexposure therapy whilst implementing various

breathing techniques. When done consistently, there are thought to be countless benefits such as better sleep, reduced stress levels, a stronger immune system and increased energy. This method laid the foundations for the BBC show, and the celebrities were coached by Wim as they followed the method for six weeks, exposing themselves to the world of cold-water therapy.

Free your mind

Wim believes that cold water has the ability to change lives for the better, and this inspired Owain to face his fears and give the show a go. “I’d heard about Wim Hof previously and I remember speaking to Arran, my husband, about it a lot, and we both said that this is an amazing opportunity to work with somebody who actually uses the cold for beneficial reasons,” he recalled.

“As someone who’s suffered from anxiety for years, I’ve used a lot of different tools to try and keep a lid on that. So I thought this would be a great thing that I could add to that kit of tools I already had, and it was,” he said.

Owain has always been transparent about his struggles

The participants of Freeze the Fear were coached by Wim Hof over six weeks

with anxiety, and he has tried many different methods to cope with this. “I have seen a therapist over the years, and I think more people should,” Owain said, however, he recognised that a lot of the work he has done for his anxiety has been through methods of self-therapy. For example, alongside his successful stint as a radio DJ, Owain is also a very talented drummer. In 2021, he completed a 24-hour drumathon for Children in Need where he played the drums non-stop and raised over two and a half million pounds. Not only did this endeavour entertain the nation and provide a huge contribution to charity, but it also had a profoundly personal impact on Owain. Drumming became a form of self-therapy in Owain’s life.

have to uncover what you’ve gone through, or do something that you’re not used to in order to progress on this journey.”

Just like his drumming, cold water became a tool that Owain used to clear his mind: “When your body is completely immersed in cold, you can’t think of anything else. You think of the breathing, the sensation, and the experience. It focused me on the present moment.”

“PEOPLE SEE THE COLD AS AN UNCOMFORTABLE THING, BUT A LOT OF THE TIME THAT’S WHAT THERAPY IS”

“Drumming takes my mind away from the million things going on inside of it,” he explained. His passion for the drums has become a form of therapy in its own right, and after participating in Freeze the Fear, Owain found that cold water surprisingly had a similar effect. When reflecting on how cold-water therapy worked for him, he acknowledged that people often have doubts about how the terms ‘cold’ and ‘therapy’ can co-exist and produce such wonderful outcomes. “People find it hard to connect the two things. Because they see the cold as an uncomfortable thing, but a lot of the time that’s what therapy is,” Owain explained. “You

Experiencing cold-water immersion also helped Owain come to terms with events in his life that he had tried to forget. One morning, in the tent that all eight participants shared, he recalled waking up from a bad dream. “I was a child in my swimming pool back home in Ammanford, Wales, and I was having trouble in the pool,” Owain remembered. However, he soon realised that what he was recalling was not a dream at all. “It actually happened to me when I was a child, and I’d buried it inside myself,” Owain revealed. “I didn’t drown or anything, but I had to be pulled out of the water. I think that’s one of the reasons that I didn’t like the water, so going through these experiences on the show always helped me in some way. From where I was at the start of the show, I ended up a different person at the end.”

In it together

Not only did this cold-water experience allow Owain an opportunity to reflect inwards and discover a new form of self-therapy, but it also gave him an opportunity to expand his circle and create new (and now long-lasting) connections.

“Going through those experiences with people always helped me,” said Owain
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There were times Owain was close to “panic attack territory” but the other contestants kept him going

Participants on the show stayed in Cogne, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, and the production team built the set, which was “a tented village,” Owain said. So, the contestants all stayed in one big tent together, meaning that they were really able to bond both on and off camera. In the cold-water therapy world, community plays a massive role. People will often head for a sea swim in a group, or take the plunge in an ice pod with a friend.

Owain’s cold-water mantra

01Strength in numbers

Community played a huge role in Owain’s cold-water journey, so his key piece of advice to anyone wanting to take the plunge is simple: “Find a local group who do cold-water swims and give it a go!”

02

Don’t overthink it

Owain’s time on the show allowed him to feel the benefits of building a community first-hand.

“These kinds of shows can sometimes set you up against each other,” said Owain, “but Freeze the Fear was very interesting in that it was very kind. There was no winner, everybody just did the challenges to the best of their ability.” The fact that the contestants were not pitted against each other allowed them to support each other through the process.

Owain recalled the first cold shower he did on the show, and how he was able to get through it with help from his fellow participants. “I was in with Dianne Buswell [a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing] and we both hated it,” Owain laughed, “but we’d psych ourselves up together and that made the cold-water challenges a little bit easier.”

This close-knit community helped Owain complete the challenges. “Doing the job that I do, people think I’m full of confidence and can go into a room and be me at 110%, but sometimes it is a bit of a performance,” Owain confessed.

“This show allowed me to just be me more naturally. Social anxiety used to be a big thing of mine, but being thrown into a tent with seven people I didn’t know helped alleviate that anxiety of mine. Or maybe it was the cold… it was a bit of both!” he said.

“I’ll be honest, there were times when I was close to panic attack territory, but the camaraderie and going through those experiences with people

At first, Owain was reluctant but he soon grew to love cold-water therapy and all that comes with it. Now, he advises you to just give it a go. He said: “You might absolutely despise it, or you might think, ‘that wasn’t too bad.’ Most people find it exhilarating, so 100% do it.”

03 Stay safe

As great as cold water is, Owain is right to say that “this stuff can be dangerous.” So, he advises people to proceed with caution if necessary. “If you have any concerns about your health, you need to be careful, even if you’re only shocking yourself with a cold shower.”

always helped me. The casting of the show was so great, they couldn’t have chosen a better group of people for me to do that experience with. It was truly fab,” he said.

Two years on

Although he doesn’t implement the cold into his daily routine as much as he’d like, Owain is still reaping the benefits of what he learnt on the show.

“I still do the cold showers every so often, but definitely not as often as I should,” he said, “but I learnt on the show that you don’t have to be immersed in the cold for very long before it has an effect.” When he does cold showers now, Owain recalls the advice that Wim gave him: “I remember he said to me, ‘You don’t have to get your head under water, just leaning back and oscillating is enough.’ And that’s more manageable for me.”

breathwork and it’s really helped me. People always talk to me about Freeze the Fear and say, ‘I could never have done that.’ But, breathing techniques are something we can all do quite easily, and it’s a really useful thing.”

“I’D NORMALLY PUT BARRICADES UP AND TELL MYSELF, ‘I CAN’T DO THAT’”

The combination of cold-water therapy, breathwork and the newfound community on the show has had a lasting impact on Owain. “We filmed the show two years ago now, and it just made me feel like I can do anything. When I think back to the time, it was often very scary and I’d think, ‘What am I doing?’”, he said. “I’d normally put barricades up and tell myself, ‘I can’t do that’ but I learnt that I actually can do those things.”

The Wim Hof method goes beyond just cold therapy. Breathwork plays a huge role, and this is something that Owain continues to do more so than cold immersions. He said: “I do the

Owain said: “I learnt a lot about myself and how I deal with things. I didn’t do it for entertainment, I did it for myself. I was taken out of my comfort zone and the cold helped me get through those things, and has helped me do many things following on from the show. It was a treat, it was a delight, and it changed my life.”

“There was no winner, everybody just did the challenges to the best of their ability,” Owain explained

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Getting you in the zone

Managing your mind when you enter cold water can appear daunting at first, but meditation can help you get started

It can seem like an impossible task, taking that first step into the cold water. As the cold rushes around you, your heart rate begins to increase. In this moment your body enters a state of fight or flight. That rush you experience when you enter the water is one of the aspects of cold-water exposure that draws most people in: those seeking a new thrill and adrenaline boost.

But what if you’re not looking for an adrenaline hit? Instead, you might want to use cold-water therapy to declutter your mind. If you fall into this category, you need to lower your heart rate and calm your body, reaching a state of mindfulness. Here’s how meditation can help.

Pre-dip

Meditation music: keeping the tempo

Instrumental music is the best for meditation, with no lyrics to distract from the quiet relaxation in your mind. You can choose from jazz, orchestral, low-fi and many more, but here are three to get you started:

The Urban Ice Tribe, a global community using ice to positively impact life, recommends that you prepare your mind before taking a plunge. They say you should practise taking “slow, deep, whole-body breaths” to engage the parasympathetic system, the nervous system which predominates in quiet “rest and digest” conditions, while the sympathetic nervous system drives the “fight or flight” response in stressful situations. This technique should steady your resting heart rate and prepare your mind to focus on breathing when you enter the water, rather than how cold it is.

Ice Barrel, an ice bath company, reveals in their blog that ‘4 – 8 – 7 breathing’ can quiet internal doubts that may be distracting you. This method involves inhaling for four seconds, holding that breath for seven seconds, and finally exhaling for eight seconds, before repeating these steps until you feel focused on your breathing.

The dip

Following your calming breaths, you will be ready to take the plunge.

Research from Chichester University by John Kelly and Ellis Bird found the cold itself can improve your mood. And with meditation added to the time spent in the cold water, your body will reach a state of relaxation much quicker, helping you to avoid any cold shock.

Chill Goat Tubs, a collaborative project from the legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, lays out breathing techniques to follow during your dips. They advise a deep breathing practice as it is a “simple yet effective way to calm down and reduce stress and anxiety.” With one hand placed on your chest, and the other on your stomach, inhale through the nose and focus on your stomach expanding under your hand. Then make a prolonged exhale through your mouth and repeat until you can feel your body and mind begin to relax.

Post-dip

As you hop out of your ice tub or wade out of the water, you will feel proud of yourself and excited that you were able to focus on your breathing while every part of your body was telling you “Get me out of the water!” At this point, bringing your body back to normal temperature should be a priority. Some light exercise, such as shaking out the limbs or running on the spot, will keep the blood pumping around your body, helping you warm up faster.

It is helpful to do some stretches and adopt those same relaxing breathing techniques from before and during your dip. Consistent deep breathing will help maintain that state of mindfulness felt from the cold plunge. To further strengthen this, you can take some time to write down what you have achieved and be alone with your thoughts, as the most important part of meditating is training your mind to be at one with your body, so the two can work in harmony.

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Words Ashley Thieme Illustration created using Adobe Firefly
01 The Arrival by Kaleido Young 02 Sun After Rain by Rama Fiore 03 Tundra by Yeur

COLD WATER THERAPY JOURNAL

COLD-WATER THERAPY JOURNAL

Date __/__/____

Today I feel grateful for...

Today I plunged for ____ minutes ____ seconds

Depict today’s plunge with a drawing:

Today’s goals:

Today’s achievements:

Image generated using Adobe Firefly
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Take a break and add some colour...

Pregnancy didn’t stop the Geordie Ice Woman

Sarah Goldsborough is a cold-water enthusiast who has set herself the challenge of plunging every day for 1,000 days

M um of four, Sarah Goldsborough, is best known by over 3,000 online followers as the Geordie Ice Woman and is now three quarters of the way through her 1,000-day cold-water therapy challenge.

Sarah discovered the benefits of cold-water therapy when her mental health declined following two miscarriages. She credits it for saving her life, saying it helped to pull her out of the mindset of wanting “to go to sleep and not wake up.”

“If I didn’t dip it would be like taking away my medication,” she says. Sarah views cold-water therapy as a chance to check in with herself and escape the anxieties of everyday life for a while.

She has recently given birth to her fourth child, a daughter called Ocean Aurora, and she continued practising cold-water therapy throughout her pregnancy. Letting nothing stand in her way, Sarah was even in cold water the day after she gave birth.

Daily Dose

Despite being over 760 days into her challenge, Sarah doesn’t have a set plunging routine. At the beginning of her journey (before she had a newborn), she would go to the beach straight from the school run.

However, during the second year of her challenge she was much more focused on seeing the sunrise while out for her dip. She says she’s up at either five or six o’clock every morning. “I think the earliest I’ve ever dipped was four o’clock in the morning.”

this isn’t an option, she uses a cold pod in her garden.

“I get up in the morning, feed Ocean, get the kids ready for school, do the school run, come back and do my pod dip. Then I can continue the rest of my day.”

Preparing to Plunge

“I never thought I’d own more than 50 bikinis,” Sarah laughs. She has a big box of swimming costumes that she chooses from every morning before dipping.

The one essential she does prepare prior to using her garden cold pod is a hot bath so she can waste no time in running upstairs to get herself warmed up afterwards.

If she is going to the beach, Sarah will don her dry robe and grab a beach towel as well as a hot drink to warm herself from the inside out. She also takes a tripod so she can get footage of her dips for her online community. Her many followers have supported her along the challenge.

In winter, she swims for less time due to the cold weather, but usually still braves a strong five to six minutes in the water. “Nothing ever short of about three minutes,” she says – that sounds more than enough to me. But in summer, Sarah enjoys a longer swim, sometimes up to half an hour if she has time between managing her children.

“IF I DIDN’T DIP IT WOULD BE LIKE TAKING AWAY MY MEDICINE”

With four children in tow, including a newborn, getting to the beach is now a bit trickier for Sarah, especially because her partner works away from home for 10 days at a time. When he is at home, Sarah is still able to get to the beach. But when

The cold pod is a different story. “It’s colder than the sea, it’s absolutely brutal,” the Geordie Ice Woman says. Because of this, she will only stay in the pod for between two and four minutes. Sarah can find her garden pod a bit boring, as she is just sitting there with no real scenery as opposed to when she dips in the sea, where she can swim surrounded by lovely views.

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Backyard plunging

Ice pods are all the rage among cold-water therapy enthusiasts on social media. Fans from each side of the Atlantic tell us why they love theirs

Orion Miller is a 33-year-old musician and surfer based in Montreal, Canada.

First plunging experience?

I started cold plunging to train for winter surfing. I had been surfing in extreme temperatures (up to about -40 degrees) for about eight years and wanted to increase my comfort level in Montreal’s harsh conditions.

What made you try a cold pod?

I wanted to plunge every day, so being able to take a dip in my backyard was more convenient than trekking to the river every time. I bought a horse watering tub that was big enough for two people so my wife and I could dip at the same time. Before that, we used an old recycling bin that we found and dipped one at a time.

How does the ice pod differ to outdoor dips?

Outdoor dips are definitely more special. But the convenience of being able to take a quick ice bath at home with almost no preparation is a nice option on the days when I have less time.

What is your cold-dip routine?

As an artist, my schedule varies greatly, so I dip at different times. Last year, I dipped almost every day for the entire winter. This year, I’ve been dipping three to four times a week. I follow how my body feels on that day and dip accordingly.

Do you do other forms of exercises prior to it?

I like to do the Wim Hof breathing method earlier in the day. If it’s very cold or I’m in nature far from my van, I might do a horse stance (a stretch in which you take a wide squat position) and do some movements to help warm me up first, but in general, I just get in the water when I feel ready.

Why do you dip?

I use cold plunges both for mindfulness and overall physical health. It is very helpful for my surfing and muscular and joint recovery. I strive to remain calm and use my mind to keep my body comfortable. Everyone is different and every day is different, so I listen to what my body can handle and go with the flow.

Hari Tote is a 21-year-old medical student and rugby player at the University of Sheffield.

First plunging experience?

Three years ago, I went with my friend and his family to a local lake in my hometown Surrey. I was definitely not prepared for how cold it was going to be and remember not being able to stop thinking about how painful my feet were during the one minute I was in the water.

What made you try a cold pod?

I first tried a pod when my friend at university got one for his house. I used it thinking I would be able to show off my cold water experience by getting in unphased. Once again, my lack of preparation for the cold meant I definitely did not show off anything. But, the more I tried it, the more I started liking it.

How does the ice pod differ to outdoor dips?

A huge benefit of the cold pod is its convenience. Open water swimming will always be fun for me but it can be hard to do consistently. Despite this, I continue to swim in open water as I enjoy getting out in nature and taking time away from my normal routine.

What is your cold-dip routine?

I do it once every week.

Why do you dip?

I use it as a form of relaxation. I love the alertness and clearheadedness I get after a short dip. However, when I have used it after rugby games, it has left me less sore, so I might do it more next season.

Words Becky George Photography Aatefeh Padidar and Claire Tote

From wheelchair to water

The community interest company making South Wales’ coast accessible to people with additional needs

We can shout about the benefits of cold-water therapy all we like, but entering the water isn’t that easy for many people with disabilities. Yet thanks to community interest companies (which are special types of limited companies that exist to benefit the community rather than private shareholders) across the UK, adaptive and inclusive water sports are becoming more accessible.

Thanks to this inclusivity, we have a more advanced understanding of how hydrotherapy – therapy that uses water to treat symptoms throughout your body – can benefit people with additional needs. Leading this research is Carrie Tbaily, a PhD student at Bournemouth University studying how hydrotherapy impacts the needs of adults with severe, profound and multiple learning

disabilities. Water therapy has been proven to have a positive effect on posture and balance, range of movement, tone, mobility, and gross motor function, but Carrie’s research goes further, looking at how it impacts social and psychological factors too – like the post-dip mood boost that we are familiar with here at Plunge

Based in Pembroke, Blue Horizons is a community interest company that offers adaptive surfing lessons, inclusive boat trips, and beach access to people with a variety of physical and mental disabilities from cerebral palsy and MS, to dementia, brain damage and more. The company is run by couple Ollie Bird and Emma-Mary Webster, who work tirelessly to make these opportunities happen, bringing a source of joy and excitement to as many people as they can.

All staff at Blue Horizons are qualified beach

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93-year-old Pat had her dreams come true

lifeguards and surf instructors, with an extra qualification that enables them to coach people with additional needs. Since starting up Blue Horizons, Ollie and Emma have had to learn a lot.

The team at Blue Horizons always make the experience of going in the water as comfortable as possible. “A big part has been learning from the people who do have disabilities or learning difficulties telling us what they want and how they want it. We ask them about what might be barriers to them and what might make them feel uncomfortable,” says Emma. “And what pace they want things,” adds Ollie.

little bit more difficult. So those are the only limits really,” Emma adds.

Ollie and Emma recall stories about the people of all ages that they have helped through Blue Horizons. There’s Sandra in her seventies who, Emma says, didn’t think getting in the water was “going to be an option for her at all.” Sandra came to one of their meetings at The VC Gallery – a registered charity in Pembrokeshire helping service veterans and those in the wider community by getting them engaged in a variety of art projects –in her wheelchair, just for the tea and biscuits, and left with plans to go surfing.

Changing lives

Blue Horizons has specialist equipment to make surfing and cold-water dipping possible for those with additional needs. They have beach wheelchairs, transfer slings, helmets for people with brain injuries, seated surfboards for people who struggle to sit or stand unaided and tandem boards where the instructor rides with the surfer to aid them with steering and balance. They also have prone boards for people in wheelchairs who have good upper-body mobility. The handles on these boards enable people to raise their chests, helping them to take off on the waves.

“We cater for pretty much anyone short of having a tracheostomy which makes it difficult to prevent water from going in,” says Emma. A tracheostomy is a procedure where a hole is made at the front of the neck to help air and oxygen reach the lungs. Water must be prevented from entering this airway because of the risk of it getting to the lungs. “We can obtain a mobile hoist for anyone that needs one for transfer, but it is a

Emma recalls their conversation…

Sandra: “I can’t go to this can I, because I’m in a wheelchair?”

Emma: “Well we have a beach wheelchair.”

Sandra: “I can’t get on a surfboard, can I?”

Emma: “We’ve got a seated surfboard.”

Sandra: “Well I better come then.”

It was as simple as that!

After a six-week project with Blue Horizons, which involved weekly sessions using their adaptive surfboard, Sandra was beaming. Being in the water took her back to the days when she and her husband had a boat and enjoyed a coastal life. Emma says: “She’s an example of someone who thought it wasn’t ever going to be possible. And that’s a common thing – people don’t even think that they have access to the water and the beach until you can get the information across to them.”

Then there’s a young lad called Dylan who has cerebral palsy. Ollie says people with mobility issues get the biggest benefit from the water. He reports seeing an improvement in Dylan’s mobility and stability throughout the six-week sessions he took part in. Feedback from his mum then confirmed that these improvements extended to his everyday life. She said he was “much more stable on his feet” after the Blue Horizon surf lessons.

“WE WANT TO MAKE PEMBROKE A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES CAN COME AND TAKE PART”
The group cater for surfers with learning difficulties and additional needs

Appropriate for all ages

Blue Horizons also caters for the elderly. At 93 years old, Pat from a local care home would sit on the beach with her carers eating ice cream each week, longing to get in the sea. So, her wonderful carers made that happen. A phone call to Ollie and Emma made her dreams come true. It wasn’t just that day that was made for Pat, her carers told Ollie and Emma that Pat went on about how much she enjoyed surfing for two weeks after it.

Blue Horizons welcomes local people as well as tourists on holiday. Ollie and Emma strive to include everybody. “We want to make Pembroke a place where people with disabilities can come and take part in an activity together as a family. So they don’t have to go and do separate things. They could all do the same activity together, regardless of any additional needs that they have,” says Emma.

Swimming in the outdoors is a privilege in clean coastal areas and this should not be reserved for non-disabled people. The open water needs to be accessible to everybody. The positives that come with spending time in nature are well observed by Blue Horizons. “Anyone who loves being in the outdoors or enjoys being on or in the

water, already knows what it does to help your wellbeing and mental health,” says Emma. “But for people who have barriers, to be able to just go and get that freedom, I think it means a whole lot. It expands to the families and the carers as well, because they’re having a break in a blue space.”

The community aspect of cold-water swimming is important for everybody, and perhaps even more so for those with disabilities. “We all like to be included in something,” says Ollie. “So many people with disabilities get told they can’t go and do something. So being able to think that you’re accepted to come and join in goes a long way. I think that has a really positive mental impact.”

A Formula 2 racing seat enables seated surfing sessions
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Emma and Ollie work tirelessly to support their members

Dogs of water

Lots of cold-water plungers like to go for a dip with others, but what about taking a furry plunging pal? The benefits for dogs are similar to those that humans reap, experts say.

Cleo is my 10-year-old labrador who lives in Teignmouth, Devon. She absolutely loves the water, which is a good thing considering I named her after a mermaid. The popular kids’ show, H20 Just Add Water was one of my favourite programmes growing up so when I got her as a puppy for my 12th birthday she was christened Cleo. We take her down to the beach as often as possible and it’s especially important that she gets to swim now that she’s older.

Animals also suffer from some of the same issues we do, such as joint problems, arthritis and general muscle pain.

As per the Pet Health Network, a community of practising veterinary experts, the application of cold water can reduce inflammation and swelling. It relieves pain by reducing muscle damage following exercise, injury or surgery. The buoyancy of water reduces the stress on their joints, making it easier for them to move and exercise.

My mum, Susan Clementus-Loftus, takes the dogs to the beach as often as possible. She says, “The water definitely benefits Cleo. She swims really well and this is good for her joints which can be problematic for ageing labs.” She also says that Cleo seems much happier after a dip.

On this particular day, we headed down to the beach walking briskly as the clouds were looming so we didn’t get caught in the rain. Cleo ran ahead, eager to get there first, stopping every now and then to look back and stare at us, almost as if to say, “Hurry up!”

We followed her down to the beach, grabbed a stick, chucked it into the water and off she went, bounding after it. She emerged a few moments later

help

We’re well versed in the physical and mental benefits of cold-water therapy on humans, but we’re not the only creatures that it can

and the inevitable shake to get the water off came shortly after, splattering everything nearby.

We laughed as she looked up at us in anticipation, waiting for us to throw the stick again. Walking along the beach we took turns throwing the stick for her and watched her swim, working her joints. Our other dog, Amber doesn’t like the water very much but she does like to watch Cleo and goes right up to the shallows.

Cleo’s tail never stops wagging when she is on the beach and it’s so great to see that, even at her age, she is enjoying exercise. Labradors commonly suffer from joint problems and it can make them immobile. According to in-house experts at the pet food brand Purina, labs are predisposed to the following joint conditions: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and arthritis. The best at-home method of relieving pain associated with these conditions is exercise, making swimming a great addition to your dog’s lifestyle.

Words and Photography Sophia Grace Labradors like Cleo are predisposed to conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia, and arthritis

Chill seekers

My family and I aren’t the only ones who have seen the benefits of water for our dogs. Emma and Owen Senior from Wild Wales, who provide bespoke guided hiking and swimming experiences in North Wales, take their dogs on all their adventures. Their dogs Bear and Brease have been swimming with them since they were pups and they’ve always lived near the beach. Emma says “Our dogs come on all our adventures with us because they love the water as much as we do! I think that swimming for our dogs is great hydrotherapy for their joints as it’s low impact, it’s also a great way to keep them cool in the summer.”

How safe is cold-water therapy for dogs?

People are divided on whether cold-water immersion is safe and beneficial for dogs suffering from joint pain. Organisations like Wye Valley Canine Hydrotherapy state that swimming in cold water could be counterproductive. Instead, they suggest warm-water immersion.

Hydrotherapy can be used for rehabilitation and this involves heating the water to boost blood flow and relieve stiffened muscles. Country Canines Hydrotherapy says that if you’re looking to rehabilitate your dog then cold water might not be the best option.

However, that doesn’t mean it is completely unsafe and there are ways to make sure your pup is plunging safely.

Vet Help Direct, an online platform designed and run by vets to access personalised first aid advice, says that there are a few risks you should be aware of when your dog is swimming in cold water.

Hypothermia is one of those risks: they suggest that small, young, thin and elderly pups shouldn’t swim in low temperatures as they’re more at risk. “Dogs with hypothermia can show neurological problems (such as confusion, disorientation and weakness), a slowed breathing rate, heart issues and frostbite (damage to soft tissues) and possible death.”

It’s worth considering these risks when taking your dogs out in winter as the average water temperature in the UK can vary from 6 to 10 degree Celsius depending on the region.

Cleo can’t get enough of diving into water, no matter how cold! Being named after a mermaid definitely suits her

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Cold-water conservation

• environment

• activism

• awareness

Art for a cause

An artist’s mission to raise awareness and keep plastic out of the sea before history repeats itself

Cornish-based artist Rob Arnold, pictured above, uses his art to raise awareness about marine litter while simultaneously cleaning the beaches.

After stumbling across a video made about the albatrosses of Midway Island consuming single-use plastics and subsequently dying, Rob decided he had to do something. “Animals are the beings we share this planet with, and we shouldn’t be treating them this way. Their lives shouldn’t be destroyed by our pollution.”

He wanted to raise awareness to the problem of marine pollution while also clearing and repurposing as much as possible.

As well as recycling litter into his art, Rob also collects plastic nurdles from beaches. Eight years ago, he embarked on a mission to collect 1 million nurdles so that he could create a visualisation of the scale of the problem. He has now collected more than 20 million tiny pieces of microplastic from nearby beaches.

Will history repeat itself?

Rob’s replica of a Moai, or Easter Island head, is one of his biggest installations, made with millions of plastic nurdles he gathered himself from Tregantle Beach, in Cornwall.

He spent months collecting materials, teaching himself the art of sculpting, and eventually crafting the head, spending days breathing through a respirator in his garage to ensure he didn’t inhale any fumes.

“WHEN I GET TO A BEACH AND IT IS COVERED IN LITTER, IT’S LIKE THE SEA HAS VOMITED”

With World Recycling Day having been on 18 March, repurposing waste is more topical than ever, and Rob’s art is a great example of this.

Rob said he chose to make an Easter Island head to remember “How even the greatest of civilisations can collapse if they destroy the ecosystems upon which they depend.” He referenced the tale that states that the islander’s downfall came as a result of them using up all their natural resources faster than they could regrow, causing a chain of environmental disasters that lead to the population’s decline.

“We can look at ourselves as islanders in the universe, and planet

earth is our little island” he further stated, “We’re destroying our island home.” He feels as though the same thing will happen, but on a global scale, with humans using resources and polluting the environment with no regard to the impact it will have on the natural world.

He hopes people will take the metaphor seriously and realise if we don’t stop polluting the oceans, we will end up causing catastrophic damage to the earth.

The head is now on display at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall for guests to see and discover more about the impacts of microplastics in the oceans.

Trying to turn off the tap

Rob likens the marine plastic problem to an overflowing bath, saying you’d turn off the tap before mopping the floor, so humans need to stop producing so much single-use plastic before clearing it up.

He also feels as though people don’t realise just how serious the problem of litter in the sea is, which is why simply raising awareness of the issue is enough for him. It is also why a small part of him thinks people should abstain from cleaning the beaches, so that people can actually see just how much litter there is. “When I get to a beach, and it is covered in litter, it’s like the sea has vomited [plastic].”

He encourages people to write to the government or make their own art to further raise awareness to the issue of pollution.

“We need everybody to be thinking and talking and concerned,” he said.

One of his most recent pieces was a collaboration with fellow artist Tracey Williams’ ‘Adrift: Lego Lost at Sea’ in which Rob mounted the tiny plastic flippers he had found washed up on beaches following the Tokio Express container spill in 1997.

Working with fellow climate artists

allows Rob to explore new ways of turning trash into treasure while also raising awareness.

The Cornwall-local has recently purchased a plot of land in his home

What are nurdles?

Nurdles are tiny pellets of plastic, says Rob. It’s raw plastic that is then sold to manufacturers to make up nearly all the plastic products we buy.

Container spillages mean billions of nurdles end up in the ocean and cause problems for marine life. This is because they get mistaken for food by fish and seabirds as well as the fact they never really leave the ocean, they just become smaller and smaller over time.

Due to their small size, they are hard to spot, and even harder to collect, which is why Rob (who’s a former engineer) made a machine to separate them from the sand, allowing him to collect 20 million of them in the last eight years.

county in order to make as much of an environmental difference as possible. He said: “I got to plant trees, just devote it to wildlife. Nature is my retirement hobby.”

Cold-water conservation 37
Left, The Easter Island head (Moai) was created from just a fraction of all the plastics that Rob collected from Tregantle beach. Above, “I think this photo shows the sheer amount of plastic on the beach, and how tricky it is to brush it all up,” says Rob. Above, Rob’s prawn sculpture is “Food for thought.” Below, Rob says this Dalai Lama quote was his inspiration: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never slept with a mosquito.”

A life without lanes

Angela Jones has always lived a life without lanes. She has loved nature for as long as she can remember and spent over 40 years swimming, kayaking and wild camping. The River Wye runs through her veins and she can be found above and below its waters all year round. The last six years of Angela’s life have been dedicated to protecting her river and raising awareness of river pollution. She didn’t choose to become an activist, but felt she had no choice. Her river is dying and she wants to save it.

Angela always longed for the outdoors. She recalls being in school and staring out the window, desperate to be outside. She would ask why she had to spend 11 years inside at school –she just wanted to play in nature. As a child, she knew what she wanted: a lifetime of adventure.

But what was the catalyst that turned Angela from a nature lover to a campaigner and activist?

“I spend a lot of my time below the surface, I taste the sweetness and the clarity,” she says. One day she noticed the river did not taste right. She saw pipes in the water, coming from a nearby farm. During the summer, Angela sleeps on the banks of the river once or twice a week so decided to stay in the section with the pipe one night. She saw sewage being pumped into the river overnight,. She couldn’t believe it. There are 24 million chickens along the 155 miles of the Wye and farmers use all available land, getting right up to the edge of the river. Because of this, when it rained, all the chicken faeces would run off into the river. “Chicken poo is four times more phosphate saturated than any other animal,” Angela remarks. She saw algae blooms starting to appear and the aquatic plants started dying, and knew she had to do something.

The activist known as The Wild Woman of the Wye reflects on a life in nature and campaigning to save her beloved river

She tried contacting local MPs and councils but got no response. She then painted herself green which, thanks to some media coverage, got people talking, but it was still not enough. “I’m losing my river,” she thought. It felt like a bereavement and sparked Angela’s next idea. If people weren’t going to listen to what she was writing, they were going to have it in their faces. Angela swam down the Wye, towing a coffin behind her. She took it to the Senedd and down the Thames, and people started to take notice.

Angela hasn’t stopped since. Every day is different for her; there’s no routine. She is up and down the Wye, taking samples and looking at the pollution. She checks wildlife cameras, analyses data, trains groups and volunteers, and sits on environment committees, swimming whenever she can. However, her activism has come at a price. Angela’s business, taking people wild swimming, kayaking and wild camping, relies on the river and she’s losing it as a result of pollution. Her campaigning takes up so much of her time that she struggles to maintain the business. Her savings are gone, a large proportion having been spent setting campaigning groups up and buying water testing kits for them. She works 60 to 70 hours a week and calls it relentless.

Sharing her knowledge

For Angela, the biggest reward is getting people on board and raising awareness. She encourages people to get together and she’ll come and help them get started.

“So many people want to help, but they don’t know how to go about it,” she says. Angela works with local groups, campaigners, schools, universities and scientists and doesn’t get a penny for anything she does. She says you don’t need to be an expert in wildlife or marine biology, and that anyone can learn about it, if they’re motivated. Angela left school at 15 with no qualifications and she taught herself everything she knows. “We all have a voice and we can all reach it; we can bring that change,” she exclaims. “The biggest thing we need is people power. That is the biggest driver in bringing change.”

Words George Phillips Photography Angela Jones Testing the water is surprisingly easy once you know how

Open-water swimming has increased dramatically in the last few years, but according to Angela, 80-90% of the UK’s 1,500 rivers are polluted. Angela shares advice for those looking to enter the water and what warning signs to look for. Before anything, you have to be confident in your ability as a swimmer, know the currents, the wildlife and your river entrances and exits. People need to use their senses, she says. Look around you. What can you see, hear and smell? Are you by a sewage plant or a farm? Are there pipes around? Do things smell bad? You can also examine the water itself. Does it look clean?

Angela stresses the dangers of blue-green algae, blooms of harmful bacteria that appear on the water’s surface and are highly poisonous. They are very harmful to humans and fatal to dogs. Before Angela goes in the water, she always tests it: “We test for nitrates, phosphates, and conductivity. It takes about 20 minutes, but you know what type of water the place you’re going into has then.” Above everything, Angela’s priority is protecting the river and teaching people to respect the water – “without the environment, without water, we’ve got nothing.”

Taking on those in charge

Angela is not afraid to call out those in charge and those at fault for river pollution. She has withheld her sewage payments for the last three years and laughs about being blacklisted by Welsh Water and having debt collectors at her

house. Eventually, they let her bill go, something that angered her as she wants them to take her to court so she can show the evidence she has. “They don’t want any attention being brought to them,” she exclaims, “they are running frightened.” In February, Angela was in court with the Environment Agency and has been to Westminster four times in the last ten months.

She called on the Environment Agency, a public body responsible for the environment in England, and Natural Resources Wales, responsible for the Welsh environment, to actually implement the regulations they have set out because they “aren’t doing the job they’re supposed to do.”

“WE ALL HAVE A VOICE AND WE CAN ALL REACH IT; WE CAN BRING THAT CHANGE. THE BIGGEST THING WE NEED IS PEOPLE POWER”

Angela sadly states how the Wye is now “90% ecologically dead,” but she is not giving up. “I detest speaking up for the river, but I do it because I care,” she says. “I never wanted to be in the media, or in the limelight. I’m just a quiet person who loves river life.” Angela believes people have to listen because she has no intentions of going away. She won’t be silenced.

To hear more from Angela, listen to episode three of our podcast, Deep Dive.

Cold-water conservation 39
Run-off of chicken faeces is a huge problem for the River Wye, and an obvious target for Angela’s activism

Swimming witha porpoise

How a Welsh non-profit can help you preserve the wildlife around you on your next coastal plunge

Coastal areas across the UK are popular destinations for fearless cold-water enthusiasts. But how can wild swimmers make sure they aren’t disturbing the local marine wildlife?

Based in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Celtic Deep is an organisation made up of conservationists and diving enthusiasts. Through increasing awareness of the variety of species found beneath the waves, Celtic Deep aims to make people feel more connected to marine life, preserving our sea’s ecosystems. Emma Williams is managing director of Celtic Deep Conservation CIC, the community interest company (CIC) that works alongside the main organisation, and has worked full time with Celtic Deep since spring 2022. She guides visitors through the marine wildlife, instructs diving sessions, researches, networks and holds the fort in the office.

Be less shallow

Emma worries the under-water species in Wales are going

unnoticed. “I think one of the main threats to marine life off the coast of Wales is a lack of awareness of its presence and the importance of this area for so many species,” she says.

The Celtic Deep team believes that awareness of species in British and Irish waters needs to be raised amongst the public in order to make sure marine animals won’t be overlooked or left unprotected. “So much of what happens in the ocean is out of sight, whether that’s because it’s below the surface or offshore,” Emma says. Using diving, boat trips and social media platforms, the CIC works to increase people’s awareness of marine life.

“Our aim is to enable people to see what’s in the sea around us by looking underwater and coming face to face with the animals and plants that live there,” Emma states. The idea is that through first-hand experiences, people’s connection to the marine environment grows, giving them connection to what is an alien marine world to many.

“Being able to connect people to this environment through first hand

experiences is crucial. Without connection people are unlikely to care,” she says.

All creatures great and small Celtic Deep offers full day excursions with the highlight being swimming with blue sharks. Emma also emphasises that there is so much other marine life to see offshore. She says: “You never know the wildlife you might see whether it’s bluefin tuna, sunfish, fin whales or seabirds such as Northern gannets, fulmars or storm petrels.”

Another trip on offer is around Skomer island, one of the nesting places for the Atlantic puffin, an iconic bird in Britain. For this, Celtic Deep have drawn up a carefully designed code of conduct for small groups and guides that enables people to see the birds in their natural habitat. This is not only at eye-level in the water, but even diving underwater where these animals are truly at home.

The Celtic Deep team are also very excited about their newest trip that heads to Lundy island,which is

Cold-water conservation 41

Celtic Deep’s newest trip involves swimming with grey seals and more than 1/3 of the world’s grey seals populate British and Irish waters

choice whether to approach you or not,” she says.“Rather than pursuing animals to try and achieve the encounter you want.” The conservationist states that this can cause disturbance which may lead to a defensive or scared response.

Under UK law, cetaceans (the order of animals including whales, dolphins and porpoises) are protected from hunting, injury or any kind of disturbance. Emma and other members of the Celtic Deep team have been lucky to have dolphins swim past them while in the water offshore, but their customers are always told during briefings that if this does happen they should stay where they are and not move towards the animals.

animals’ welfare. For example, all our shark research is conducted in the water rather than traditional methods of catching sharks,” explains Emma.

This heightened understanding only serves to feed their other conservation efforts and increase people’s feeling of connectedness with marine life. When it comes to thinking about conservation, Emma finds herself always referring back to a quote by the Senegalese forestry engineer, Baba Dioum, who says: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

famously home to curious grey seals. While crossing the Bristol Channel they are often joined by dolphins that come to play around the boat, catch sight of minke whales and even leatherback turtles.

“IN THE END, WE WILL CONSERVE ONLY WHAT WE LOVE. WE WILL LOVE ONLY WHAT WE UNDERSTAND”

Precautions for plungers

Even if you don’t aim to interact with animals when you go wild swimming, when going to coastal spots where marine life can be sighted, Emma suggests learning beforehand about the kinds of animals you might encounter. You should also read up on their behaviours, and learn how to respond if you spot signs from the animals that they are disturbed by the people around them.

“One of our key messages is to respect wildlife by using passive interactions in which it’s the animal’s

“If you do encounter wildlife don’t pursue them and stick to a no-touch policy even with small, less mobile species such as starfish,” she adds. “Be aware of your surroundings to ensure you aren’t in a position where you may be cornering an animal such as blocking a cave entrance or trapping them in shallow water.” She also recommends downloading the Wales Coast Explorer app to find out more about voluntary no go zones, codes of conduct and information about invasive species.

Diving deeper

Celtic Deep contributes to the wider knowledge of marine life by monitoring marine species on their boat trips. For this they record detailed information about all megafauna (large animals) and any other unusual animals encountered while at sea, including dolphins, seabirds, sharks, sunfish and bluefin tuna. “We facilitate research projects with an emphasis on prioritising

Around 28 different whale and dolphin species are seen off the UK coastline – bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, and fin whales are most commonly sighted

You can discover more about the conservation work done by Celtic Deep by visiting www.celticdeep.org

Leave only footprints

Are your cold-water dips causing harm to the surrounding environment, and what can you do to combat the depletion of environmental resources?

“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” Thought to be said by Chief Seattle, a leader of the Duwamish, a native American tribe in the 19th century, the saying has been adopted for many different causes over the years including environmental conservation and sustainability to ensure we are protecting natural landscapes. When cold-water dipping, it can sometimes be unclear what you are and aren’t allowed to do in the areas you swim at.

Time and time again we hear of people bringing shells back from their holiday or collecting a vial of sand from the beach where they got engaged. Shockingly, some may even think it is okay to leave just one bit of rubbish behind if there is no bin. But these activities can cause more harm to the ecosystem than first meets the eye.

Take only memories...

The Reef-World Foundation, a UK registered marine conservation organisation, states: “Everything in the ocean is interconnected. This means all forms of life in the ocean are naturally recycled. Many of our ‘souvenirs’ play a big role in maintaining healthy reef ecosystems by providing habitat for other species and producing important nutrients as they break down.”

Therefore, taking souvenirs means you are decreasing numbers of already endangered wildlife species along river beds, in lakes and on the coast.

The saying “take only memories” encourages people to focus on taking in

the experience, rather than taking from the environment. Although it may seem like you’re not doing much harm by taking ‘just one shell’, if you’re cold dipping with a group and each of you take a piece of memorabillia, you’re making a big impact. Removing these from the area can speed up the rate of erosion and lead to habitat depletion; having the potential to damage ecosystems and endanger native species.

Natural Resources Wales advises you should “leave no trace of your visit,” and, “leave rocks, stones, plants and trees as you find them and take care not to disturb wildlife.”

...leave only footprints

Put simply, “leave only footprints” is the idea that when visiting an area, you shouldn’t leave anything behind that could harm the environment, and its ecosystem. Nobody should be able to tell that you were ever there, and you should leave the area as natural as possible. The most prevalent example of this issue is littering. Many dippers will take something sweet to elevate their blood sugar levels and warm them up after a

cold plunge, often packaged in nonresuable wrapping.

There has been an issue for decades in the UK with litter ending up in our waterways. Research from YouGov on behalf of Keep Britain Tidy, a UK independent environmental charity, shows one in four people admitted to ‘carefully’ littering. This includes leaving coffee cups on walls or leaving meal deal packaging behind. Although this may not seem like it can affect our waterways, while being unsightly, litter can cause extensive damage to the environment and animals that live there.

The United Nations have a goal of clean water and sanitation which was agreed to in 2015. This goal encourages people to “organise a clean-up project for rivers and oceans.” When swimmers leave things behind, there are people who have taken it upon themselves to clean up after them like the Marine Conservation Society or Keep Britain Tidy. So give them a helping hand and remember, take anything that you brought along to your dip back with you – and leave everything else as it is in its natural habitat.

Cold-water conservation 42 Reduce your footprint on a cold dip with: 01Transport Taking active, or public forms of transport can help to reduce your carbon footprint and let you explore new places 02 Plunge pods Investing in a plunge pod for your garden. If you are an avid daily dipper, this is a great, convenient investment
Image Patti Black on Unsplash
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