Swimming with the Seaford Mermaids and the RNLI

Over the last three years the Mermaids have raised over £20,000 for the RNLI and the autumn early morning swim at Seaford Beach is becoming a tradition. The Mermaids’ swimming group is a welcoming all year-round cold-water swimming group begun by Ruth Rose whose deep knowledge and experience of meteorology puts her in a unique position to understand weather and tide patterns. She shares this knowledge with swimmers in a daily forecast of local conditions.

This was the first time I have been swimming with the Mermaids and I was excited at the idea of joining them. So, at 7.30 in the morning my husband and I picked our way over the stones towards the gaggle of people. It was a fabulous sunny morning and the waves were breaking just right on the beach; I always think it’s easier to get in if there is a bit of movement on the water. There must have been at least 30 swimmers already swimming, though of course all you could see of them were their heads and different coloured swimming hats bobbing about. Ruth Rose herself wears one of those rather glorious retro flowery swimming hats. She is pretty amazing for ninety.

My husband doesn’t enjoy cold water dips like I do, but I need his support for getting out of the water afterwards when my Parkinsons symptoms often kick in. I walked down to the waters edge along with another couple and soon we were bobbing out with the rest of them. There were no boats or other craft on the water, just swimmers; it made it kind of special. What a joy it is to be weightless, suspended in the water, floating and swimming around.

Getting out is tricky and timing is crucial: I need to put my feet down, so I land in a standing position and I need to move quickly, because at this stage my balance isn’t great and I could quite easily get bowled over. I touched the bottom and waded through rushing heavy water with the white foam frothing around my shins.

Soon we are warming our hands around warm coffee poured from our flask and someone comes over and offers us a piece of homemade tiffin in a tin. Next year I want to bake something to offer round.

You can find Ruth Rose’s portrait at: carlottaluke.com and an article by George Lee about Ruth Roses’s life at: thisagething.co