Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Well, when you begin these adventures into the unknown, you never know exactly where you'll end up! When I first had the thought of Selsey Sea Bathing Society, it was about sharing my love of the sea with others who had the same passion. It was about getting people together who also feel the need for connection. It was about loneliness in the community. It was about helping those who didn't quite feel confident enough for a paddle or a bathe on their own. It was about wellbeing in an age where loneliness is an epidemic, our children spend less time outdoors than prisoners and 74% of people in the UK have felt 'overwhelmed or unable to cope' at some point in the past year. So often I have gone into the sea and wished I had company. Someone who loved the feeling as much as me. And last year, recovering from complicated knee surgery, I found myself having conversations with people on the shoreline who each said how much they loved the sea but lacked the confidence to swim alone or needed help to get in.
There's no doubt you have to work hard to get a project off the ground in the initial stages. This one began with spending 4 months fundraising as part of the West Sussex Community Initiative Fund. The council were incredible in adding £600 to the funds I raised through generous friends, family, those in my network and a few from the local community who believed in the project. Those funds have gone towards, and will go towards, building the website platform, a few marketing costs such as producing flyers, hosting gatherings (teas, coffees and cakes), future talks from speakers on the environment, swimming or anything else the members like the sound of. I also hope we'll take some trips out to nearby places to swim somewhere different, too, as well as some safety lessons - and, well, who knows what else we'll end up doing as a group of people bonded by our love of the sea.
We were joined yesterday by Sidlesham and Selsey North councillor Carol Purnell who very kindly supported this initiative. Her and I were asked by West Sussex CC Initiative Fund to say a few pieces to camera and Jack, from the council, came to film us all. I'll keep you updated on where these get posted and will be sure to send anyone a copy of the photos taken if you'd like them. I gave a little talk to explain where the idea had come from and where I hope it will lead. This is very much a community I hope will take on a life of its own, where people instigate gatherings on their own terms, as well as the monthly meets - getting out of it what best serves them.
Our next date is already in the diary for 29th June at 4pm and most of those present are already signed up. And of course we welcome anyone new into the fold. Just because you couldn't make yesterday doesn't mean you can't come again. I see this as a flow of people able to come as and when they can make it. And if they want to bring friends from further afield, that is also fine. At the end of the day we are here to cherish the benefits of the sea and have fun and connect together, whether that is swimming paddling, watching or just having a bit of tea and cake.
This morning I am off to see Avril, one of the ladies who came yesterday. Avril volunteers at the RNLI and thinks she may be able to persuade them to give us a talk in one of the winter months on safety in the sea, which would be wonderful. Jean, who also came yesterday has offered to make the cake for our next gathering. Here is the cake my good friend Gemma made for us for our first gathering. It was so special and more so because I know how much time and effort she put into creating it for us.
Others have connected to meet up for swims in-between our monthly gatherings, which is exactly what I hoped for.
So, please, if you like the sound of this, please do coming along in June, July (date just announced on our events page) or August - we'd love to meet you!
Thank you once again to everyone who came, and everyone who wanted to come but couldn't. I can't tell you how much this means to me and how much I hope we will continue forward in the same way we began this little adventure! Special thanks to Sue Graves (pictured) and her partner Mike who live next door to us (pictured above with our beautiful signpost) who did a great deal to support us yesterday and think of things I didn't! One lady who couldn't come yesterday, but plans to come next month, has mentioned to me by email that her mother belonged to something called the 'Yellow Hats'. It was a group of ladies who used to swim in (yes, yellow hats) up along East Beach in the 70's. I've asked if she wouldn't mind delving into this a little more as I would love to learn more about Selsey's history as a sea-bathing loving community, as I imagine you would too. More to follow on that one!
And finally, here are some of the wonderful comments we had from yesterday's events. I hope posting these will encourage you to come along if you are reading this and considering it..
Justine, It was lovely to meet you and Sue today. What inspirational women you are. I met up with some old friends, made some new friends, and it was only meet-up number one. It was good to hear what sea swimming means to other people, and to be amongst like-minded people who all appreciate the physical and spiritual benefits of sea swimming. I swim in the pool most days, in rivers sometimes, but nothing is as invigorating or as healing as being in the sea. THANK YOU. Looking forward to the next meeting!
As you already know, this is just what I wanted and needed, what a brainwave! Lovely to meet you everyone and just looking forward to getting back into the swim of things! Did I say thank you? THANK YOU!!
Thank you Both for a happy experience! It was lovely to see you again and good to see so many people!
It was absolutely brilliant. I loved having my dip into the sea with you all. Great turn out and I felt very safe. Tea and 2 lovely cakes afterwards. Massive effort made for us all. Thank you XXX
I really wasn’t sure about coming along today as I don’t feel that confident at gatherings with people I don’t know – it isn’t really my sort of thing. But I have a love of cold-water swimming and that won me over! How do I feel now having met 20 or so lovely people and having had an invigorating swim? Completely differently! It was so wonderful, and I am so glad I came along!