This should really be renamed as the “Great” North East Skinny Dip. Cos, it’s great, see..?
Dogless on this occasion, I parked the car prettily at the Druridge Bay visitor centre – not knowing that the parking venue had been changed, which is probably why there were no other cars there… and shouldering my pack, bimbled the couple of miles South along the bay till I came to two lasses cooking what appeared to be huge and fairly red burgers on a small campfire. I recognised this spot as the skinny dip venue and went a bit further South to some tank traps to find a place to bivi.
It was roughly at this point that it went dark…
Turned out not to be the skinny dip venue after all, but never mind – after some struggle with tent pegs that wouldn’t stay in the soft sand, I managed to get the basha up by wrapping bungees around two tank traps – blew up the sleeping mat, rolled out the sleeping bag and bivi bag and settled down with a brew.
The night was occasionally cloudy and starlit and big waves were bashing the beach not too far away. Two or three tins of Guinness and a cheese butty later and I was in bye-bye land. I expect it was probably about nine o’clock. There’s nothing like an early night. It was a peaceful night, apart from the sand fleas which were jumping all over the place. They don’t bite, though, although they do commit suicide in your coffee.
At about four, I decided it was time for brekkies and brewed some coffee and sandfleas. Brekkies was a healthy and rather huge Bakewell cake (too big to be a tart) from Peggotty’s Cafe and Bakery in Wolsingham – a donation from my daughter who was visiting from bonnie Scotland. (I feel that I must commend Peggotty’s cakes to all those who 1) enjoy a nice cake and 2) pass through Wolsingham. They’re delicious and very generously sized…..
Soon, a bright light appeared from the North – a lad from somewhere or other seeking the skinny dip venue. We wandered North to where I thought it was. But it wasn’t Then , seeing lights further South, we headed that way instead. And there it was.
Gradually, in the first hints of a cold and grey dawn, a silent and nervous crowd gathered.
As the light strengthened we were asked to take our places behind some stakes containing numbers – 1 to 10. A few people stripped off at this point. And a little way away, a film crew launched their spy-in-the- sky – a sort of small helicopter with a camera on it.
And then everybody was naked and doing warm-up exercises and a count-down from ten to go and we all ran the 100 metres or so into the foaming surf.
The sea wasn’t as cold as last year, I think – but was quite rough and there were big waves and there was lots of gasping and screaming and laughing.
I think I probably managed five minutes. Others didn’t manage as long as that and yet others seemed to be in there for half an hour. I’m not sure how they do that.
I got dressed, wandered up the beach to my bivi, which turned out to be about 250 metres away, packed up and left to find notices on my car saying that the main gate was locked and detailing how to get let out and that it would re-open at 08:00. As it was 08:30 by now, I wasn’t too bothered. The gate was still locked, though.
I did get out, though, which is probably why I’m now sitting at home typing this, innit?
As an experience, this was just as fab as last year – and a bit bizarre - I mean to say, 300 people standing around shivering on a North-Sea beach at dawn and then suddenly stripping off all clothing and rushing screaming into cold and salty – and boisterous water whilst being filmed and photographed by various meejah types (who were all very nice, by the way) and it they’d all got their pics and reports out on internet versions of their papers by lunchtime.
For some, it’s quite routine to do this kind of thing – but for others – the brave ones – it’s a seriously major step to strip off in public and with cameras everywhere. Bless ‘em. I’m somewhere in between the two poles, I think although I do have a strong aversion to cold water specially when it rushes towards you in a big, grey wall from a host of bare bums and almost takes you away – coldly… brrrrr…
Will I do it again?
Course – but next time, I think a bivi-bag would be better than a basha.
All proceeds went to Mind and the National Trust on who’s land and beach the dip takes place.
Click logo to donate via my Virgin Money Giving page