North-East residents are wheelie bin swimming due to lockdown ban on travel

COLD water swimmers banned from the beach due to lockdown have been dipping in wheelie bins to get their fix.

New Zealand man Ian Stimpson was not much of a swimmer growing up but is now “addicted” to dips in the cold North Sea after living in the North-East for 22 years.

Despite living on the coast in South Shields, Mr Stimpson borrows his neighbour’s wheelie bin – “because it gets jet washed” unlike his – to dip in when the sea is too rough.

He said: “The endorphins are addictive.”

The 54-year-old is now taking part in a Polar Bear Challenge to swim every day from November to March and raise money for Endometriosis UK after a friend shared her experience with the condition publicly.

Endometriosis is where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, which has a range of symptoms including pain and infertility.

He said: “Endometriosis shocks me and I acknowledge that most cold water swimmers are know are female too.”

Marie-Helene Sanderson, from Ebchester, near Consett, getting her cold water fox during lockdown

Mr Stimpson, who praises the activity’s impact on mental health and wellbeing, says he has met “wonderful” people through swimming.

In Ebchester, near Consett, single mum Marie-Helene Sanderson cannot get her cold water fix due to looking after her sons.

Instead, she is “amusing” them and her neighbours by dunking in her wheelie bin on an almost daily basis.

The 39-year-old said: “I do have a river locally but often can’t get there when my kids are home.

 Ian Stimpson, 54, from South Shields

Ian Stimpson, 54, from South Shields

“I need a cold water fix every day so for half the week I dip in my wheelie bin, having got the idea from other swimmers and dippers on Instagram.

“Breaking the ice to get in is amazing. Some days I get a real buzz from the cold and it’s good for a giggle in lockdown too.”

Ms Sanderson said being in cold water helps her in my everyday life.

She added: “I’ve not had any colds or been ill since doing it and it’s improving my raynauds. I am generally happier and find it easier to manage my emotions. Getting into cold water can be a real mental challenge and it helps me learn to tolerate discomfort which helps me face other challenges in life.”

Marie-Helene Sanderson, from Ebchester, near Consett, getting her cold water fox during lockdown

Marie-Helene Sanderson, from Ebchester, near Consett, getting her cold water fix during lockdown

Meanwhile, Suzanne Green, also unable to get to the coast due to lockdown, has been practising her breaststroke on snowy grass.

The 46-year-old, from the Durham area, said: “The weather being bad and lockdown has led to many people becoming inventive in improvising how to achieve their outdoor cold water fix. I’ve been snow swimming in my back garden.

“I felt a bit silly but this lockdown has been different. A lot of people have struggled so you just have to do what you have to do.

“Some people take cold showers but for me, it’s about being outdoors, it has a positive impact. When you have been cooped up for days you just want that feeling.”

Suzanne Green, 46, Durham area

Suzanne Green, 46, Durham area

Ms Green last year set up a group called North Sea Mermaids, creating a community for female cold water swimmers who want someone to dip with.

Through lockdown, members have buddied-up as per guidance where two people can meet for exercise.

Each of the swimmers say cold water improved their mental and physical health.

While some people have opted for a bin to get their fix, others have invested-long term and bought pools.

  • To find out more about Mr Stimpson’s fundraising, click here 
  • Anyone wishing to find out more about North Sea Mermaids should search the group on Facebook

The Northern Echo | Durham