Leeds swimmers welcome in 2014 with a bracing icy water dip

The Powell and Daniel families enjoy The Big Dip at Bramley Baths. PIC: Tony Johnson
The Powell and Daniel families enjoy The Big Dip at Bramley Baths. PIC: Tony Johnson
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BRAVE swimmers took the plunge with bracing New Year dips across the county.

And it was compulsory fancy dress for The annual New year Big Dip at the indoor Bramley Baths.

At 12.30pm yesterday, people of all ages gathered for the fun-filled event at the popular, community-run leisure centre in west Leeds.

Costumes included colourful pirates, as worn by the Powell and the Daniel families, pictured right; the Barrow family dressed in a summer holiday theme, plus an adult crocodile costume, several superheroes and a man wearing a traditional Fez.

The event also marked the New Year at Bramley Baths itself, which will see opening times increased from 49 to 61 hours per week, as a result of a successful 12 months as a community enterprise and will include a 7.30am opening time and late weeknight sessions until 9pm.

Danny Whiteley, Manager of Bramley Baths, said: “There is a lot to celebrate this New Year. We’re genuinely looking forward to early mornings and late evenings here in 2014. It’s great to be in this position after just 12 months and to be welcoming more people in to gym and swim before work or after putting the kids to bed. This year’s Big Dip saw people jump in as superheroes, pirates and even a full size crocodile costume. We couldn’t wait to see what ingenious costumes people had dreamt up this time.”

Mr Whiteley and chair John Battle, the former MP, celebrated a successful first year as a community enterprise with a birthday cake at the poolside.

Afterwards, event organiser Fran Graham, said: “We had a brilliant time. More than 100 people turned up and it was lots of fun with some wonderful costumes. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to a little boy called Bruce who was two years old. It is also the start of our new timetable of longer opening hours.”

Elsewhere, adventurous types took an outdoor plunge in the annual New Year’s Swim at the River Wharfe Otley, where more than 100 people watched from the river bank as the brave swimmers took to the icy waters. The January 1 event is now a firm favourite on the town’s annual calendar and has taken place for more than 25 years.

The event is now held in memory of Joe Town, a former life-saver teacher, from Yeadon, who died in 2011, and had previously organised the event for more than 25 years. It is now known as The Joe Town Memorial Swim and collected funds in aid of The Camphill Family charity, which helps vulnerable adults. Over at the White Wells Dip at Ilkley, people of all ages joined in, taking the plunge into freezing waters including Damian and Jacob Smithson and fearless John Garrad.

The hardy swimmers enjoyed what some described afterwards as an “invigorating and refreshing” experience in the historic spa of White Wells.

Since 1995, people have been queuing up to take a New Year’s Day dip in the 8ft by 6ft stone bath, where the temperature is estimated at seven degrees centigrade.

Mark Hunnebell, who runs and lives at the White Wells, takes a dip in the spa every day of the year. He predicts that more than 150 people will have braved the dip this year.

On the East coast the annual New year’s Day swim at Scarborough saw a number of brave individuals take to the North Sea including many in fancy dress, with sponsorship for charities of their choice in the event organised by Scarborough Lions Club International, whose own collection will go to local charities.

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