Wharfedale daredevils brave icy water for a splashy New Year's Day dip

Wharfedale Observer: Taking the plunge on New Year’s Day at the White Wells in Ilkley are Nick Driver, Jack Harrison and Jeremy Harrison Taking the plunge on New Year’s Day at the White Wells in Ilkley are Nick Driver, Jack Harrison and Jeremy Harrison

Hardy souls braved the cold and the wet at two traditional New Year’s endurance challenges last week.

In Otley, swimmers jumped into the chilly waters of the River Wharfe for the annual wintry stunt, with many participants donning accessories like neck-ties or silly hats as well as their swimsuits.

The participants dived into the waters, which had a temperature of 5C at about noon, before swimming along one side of the riverbank.

One of the youngest taking part was 16-year-old Rebecca Cook, of Leeds, who wore a bikini and Santa hat.

She said it was the fourth time she had taken part in the challenge and had been 12 when she first attempted it.

She said: “It’s completely shocking. You have no idea what’s happening.”

Another 16-year-old, Sam Altum, of Houston, Texas, decided to take part while visiting family in Otley. He said the dip was “awesome”.

He said: “It was freezing cold. I just went numb.”

The oldest participant was believed to be Carole Deighton, 71, of Morley, a veteran of the event, who was taking part for the 18th year.

She said she thought the water had been slightly milder than previous years.

She said: “It was very refreshing – a new start for the new year. It was warmer than previous years, definitely.”

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One of the organisers, Helen Town, said the charity event had proved especially popular this year.

Meanwhile dozens of people braved the White Wells plunge bath at Ilkley.

Among those throwing themselves into the cold waters were father and son Jeremy and Jack Harrison, of Menston, and friend Nick Driver, of Ilkley.

Mr Harrison said: “I’ve done this about ten times now. We have it as a family tradition.”

After taking the plunge, Mr Driver said: “It was invigorating but it is horrible when you are in there.”

Another participant, Anna Danby, of Halifax, said she used to brave the plunge pool when she was a child.

She said the worst bit was “when you put your head under”.

Fellow participant Kate Benny said: “It’s good to get in there straight away.”

She said when the cold hit, she could not breathe.

Proprietor Mark Hunnebell said he took a dip every day.

He said: “So far, I have been in 3,877 times.

“I can’t expect anyone else to go in and not go in myself. I go in every day and feel really good for it.”

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