Sea Swimming by Chris Shaw
I am Chris Shaw, a 53 year old ultra marathon runner and sea swimmer, living in Wallasey, who helps facilitate a group of friends to swim in the sea, all year round. I have worked in Mental Health and Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) for over 20 years and know the huge benefits of sociable, outdoor exercise – where you choose to take responsibility for yourself and your your choices!
Our group of sea swimmers now has well over 20 regular attendees, with 5-17 of them turning up to each swim. We swim all along the north Wirral Coast but our most frequent swims are along the New Brighton Coastline and Mother Redcaps Beach in Egremont.
Over the last 12 months we have done approximately 300 sea swims; in all seasons and all weathers!
Open sea swimming can be very dangerous and the Mersey coast can be extremely dangerous; documented as having the 4th biggest tides on the whole planet my 40 years of experience of the currents, channels, tides and sandbanks helps with swim safety. With our combined growing knowledge base we have been able to craft several routes which are swimmable at most states of the tide.
One of my favourite swims is at day break; the beauty is startling – dawn appearing over Liverpool, but, my very favourite is Sunset, the western dipping-sun horizon framed by the Welsh mountains and Mersey Bay windmills – then looking East, the Lancashire Pennines and Liverpool city including Anfield and Goodison Stadia.
We have even had the opportunity to swim with wildlife; quite often with Atlantic Grey Seals and once, right in the Mersey, we were passed by a couple of Porpoises!
I moved to New Brighton in 1970 when the beaches and the Mersey were filthy, with horrendous effluent and industrial waste smeared and littered on the beach and in the water. I’m glad I wasn’t a sea swimmer back then as I don’t think it would have been safe to be in the water for very long. Over the last decade I have built up to doing 10 mile sea swims and then a 12 miler from New Brighton to Hilbre Island, finishing at West Kirby. On my 50th birthday I swam 22.7 miles from New Brighton to Wales and then back, my biggest swim so far!
Our local beaches are really clean now, this is down to the work of regional agencies plus local groups like the New Brighteners who constantly clean the coast and also lobby locally to stop the unnecessary use of single use plastics by businesses and the local population. One beach at Wallasey has just been awarded the internationally coveted Blue Flag status- an unthinkable transformation based on how it was a just a decade or two ago!
Several of our swimmers take part in the New Brighteners beach clean events; whenever we are out swimming and running on beaches and sandbanks, we do our best to collect plastic bottles and bin them. Our pet dog Seth is an expert plastic bottle collector now too!
New Brighton has a thriving Coastal Community that the sea swimmers are a part of; we all see the beauty of the North Wirral Coast and feel proud of our local area. We support other community events and they support us.
One of our swimmers, Sam Rowen from Community Soul set up 2 colossal sunset swim events this year encouraging lots of local residents to swim in the sea with other people in their community. Over 150 swimmers joined us in July and almost 300 swimmers came in September! Check out the video from the event here: https://youtu.be/LKjzy00vPIo
If you are interested in trying out sea swimming you can join us at our Saturday morning training get together at New Brighton Lake. New swimmers will have to sign a Council disclaimer to swim in the lake but this is a great session where you can meet a wide spread of swimmers, from people who swim long distances in the winter, and are friendly and knowledgeable experts, right through to those who just want a quick sea swim and enjoy the efficacious health benefits of winter dips in very cold water!