Making a splash to start the new year with traditional events in Otley and Ilkley

For more than 30 years brave and hardy locals of all ages have started the new year with a brisk dip in the River Wharfe at Otley '“ and today was no different.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 1st January 2019, 4:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 10:09 am
Crowds of onlookers watch on as hardy locals take part in the annual New Year's Day dip at Otley.
Crowds of onlookers watch on as hardy locals take part in the annual New Year's Day dip at Otley.

Watched by crowds of onlookers at Wharfemeadows Park, more than 70 people took to the water for a New Year’s Day tradition.

For the last seven years the event has been known as the New Year’s Day Otley Memorial River Swim in memory of Joe Town who founded the event back in the 1980s.

He died in 2011 and ever since the dip has raised money for a different charity and this year the beneficiary will be the Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice in Headingley.

Richard Parkin jumps in for his first New Year sip at Otley.

His daughter Helen, of Yeadon, took part this afternoon and said: “That feeling of adrenaline when you get it – it is such a buzz and everyone stays around afterwards for a drink.

“It wasn’t too cold this year, maybe about six degrees, but it is lovely to see so many people still doing something that he started.”

Mr Town, who was born in Ilkley, started the dip with two other men when they used to do life saving training and it carried on every year for fun. In 2010 he was too ill to take part and died in 2011 following a stroke and pneumonia.

The annual event was then re-named in memory of him and done for charity with a different cause being supported each time.

Taking the plunge at the White Well in Ilkley this morning.

A newcomer to the event was Richard Parkin of Otley who was dipping his toe in for the first time.

He said: “I saw it last year and thought there are some things we do locally and make it quite a special town and I fancied doing it.

“I have ticked it off the bucket list and it was cracking. It was a nice day and not too cold – it could have been worse. It was good fun and a great crowd and blows off the New Year’s Eve cobwebs.”

In Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast people took a dip in the north sea off the South Bay in a custom that dates back around 17 years.

Braving the sea at Scarborough.