The Herald

Ice, rain or waves… the wild swimmer who took the plunge every day in 2019

A dip in the ocean capped a memorable year for one hardy adventurer, reports Vicky Allan

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IT started with a calendar and ended yesterday by plunging into a 6 °C North Sea at Joppa steps as he celebrated completing a year of swimming outdoors every day.

Over the course of the last 365 days, Tranent-based Richard Cox has been for 418 wild swims, with around 100 different people, in 50 different locations, the majority of which have been in Scotland – though one took place in the River Ij, when on a mini-cruise to Amsterdam, to keep up his daily routine, he ended up asking a taxi driver to take him to a place where he could take a dip.

Mr Cox, a 53-year-old security officer, started his year-long dipathon almost accidental­ly, after he was sent a wild swimming-themed calendar by the artist Nancy Farmer for Christmas last year.

He said: “This is what started me off. I swam on January 1, then on the next day, then the next, and I started putting the details of the swims under each date – where it was, who I swam with and whether it was high tide or low tide.”

He carried on, and before he knew it, it was the end of January and he had swum every day.

He said: “It didn’t start off as a challenge or anything like that. It wasn’t a charity thing. It was just purely for my own fun really, and it turned into a bit of a journey.

“I’ve done it purely for fun. I’m not a competitiv­e person. I’m not into football or rugby. Even with my swimming, I just do heads up breaststro­ke.

“I don’t do front crawl. I don’t swim in any events or anything. If I do handstands or if I’m swimming round with my swimming shorts on my head, it adds to it. It’s been fantastic.

“It really has been a good year, and it has gone quickly.”

The coldest water he has swum in was in Gladhouse Reservoir in February, where he cracked the ice with a hammer.

Some of his favourite swims have involved diving into waterfalls and plunge pools, at idyllic spots like Soldier’s Leap and the Hermitage.

He said: “If I was to pick one special swim then, off the top of my head it’s the Devil’s Pulpit. It’s beautiful. It’s not a ‘swim’ swim but there are plunge pools there and you can scramble up the waterfalls and into the deep plunge pool.

“It’s so Jurassic looking, you expect a dinosaur to come around the corner. And the colour of the rock is a really rich red. Even the water itself is red colour.”

He also recalled revelling in the oftendeser­ted Aberlady beach, and jumping in some “really big waves” at Coldingham.

Mr Cox, who lives just a couple of miles from the sea, used to be a scuba-diver, but decided to “knock it on the head”, when it began to feel a bit of a chore, having to carry heavy kit and service it.

He recalled: “I started, a little bit of swimming in the sea again and snorkellin­g.” He said that he believed swimming had helped his health – and that he hadn’t let a cold or chest infection stop him from getting in there.

“I’ve had two colds and one started going to my chest. I thought, ‘I’m just going to swim through it.’ And I did. Obviously I’m not a medical person and advising anyone else to do that. You’ve got to do what you see fit. But I swam through it and both colds only lasted a couple of days.

“Compare that with when I had a chest infection in 2018 and stayed out the water for a couple of weeks and it just dragged on and on.”

He even kept swimming when he sustained, in the water, a deep cut in his heel, which did not heal for weeks.

But Mr Cox is not alone in dipping every day. Among those who joined him yesterday to celebrate his 365th day at Joppa steps were Christine Bell and Susan Ferguson-snedden, who had both swum outdoors every day for the past month as part of the increasing­ly popular

December challenge, in which people swim daily to raise money for charity.

Ms Ferguson-snedden said she was fundraisin­g for Chris’s House, a centre for help and interventi­on around suicide.

“Suicide is an issue which is very close to my heart. I read an article about Chris’s House and the amazing work they do in Wishaw and Motherwell.

“I was really struck by the bravery and strength of the founder in responding to her own tragedy by setting up such a valuable place of support.”

I’ve done it purely for fun. I’m not a competitiv­e person

 ?? Picture: Kirsty Anderson ?? Wild swimmer Richard Cox, who swam outdoors every day of 2019, at Portobello Beach in Edinburgh with fellow hardy souls
Picture: Kirsty Anderson Wild swimmer Richard Cox, who swam outdoors every day of 2019, at Portobello Beach in Edinburgh with fellow hardy souls
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