Wild swimmer missing the sea hangs out in 300-litre tank filled with cold water

What do you miss most from the pre-coronavirus times?

A McDonald’s lunch? Reading a book on your commute? Hugging your pals? Going to the pub?

For Elspeth Murphy, 45, it’s going without a dip in the sea that’s been tough during lockdown.

The wild swimmer usually makes her way around the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebridess, but had to stop after the Coastguard and RNLI warned against swimming in open waters during the coronavirus pandemic.

So Elspeth came up with a creative way to get her cold water fix: she filled up a 300-litre tank with cold water, stuck it in her back garden, and then sat inside it.

She was inspired by her friend Norma MacLeod, who runs her own wild swimming business called Immerse Hebrides. Norma encouraged swimmers to maintain their cold water tolerance by taking part in a 30-day cold water challenge, whereby people endure quick icy cold showers every morning.

Mum-of-two Elspeth, from Stornoway, began taking 15 second cold showers, but as the weather got warmer she decided to make use of a large perspex box she normally used to shelter plants from the wind.

She is now on day 23 of her challenge and is spending around five minutes fully immersed in the tank of cold water in her front garden, which she fills up using a hose.

Elspeth said: ‘My friend Norma’s had to put her business on hold, but wanted to keep everybody connected and she set up a 30 day cold water challenge.

‘You start off on 15 seconds but by now we’re on five minutes.

‘Staying in a cold shower usually isn’t too hard but some days it is and some days it isn’t.

‘Others started going into their gardens and doing it in bins but I’ve got this plastic box.

‘Some are even using swimming pools, attaching a bungee cord and doing static swimming.

‘I thought “no way I’m going in a wheelie bin”.

‘We were given it years ago and up till now I’ve had garden plants in it because it’s quite windy up here.

‘I turned it the other way up and used a garden hose to fill it up and get in.

‘You need to keep up your cold water tolerance.

‘Some people are also using baths with ice in but ours has cracks in it so I’m not using it.’

Elspeth started wild swimming five years ago and normally goes out in pairs or groups as big as ten.

She has been missing the meditative effects of heading out to the chilly sea.

‘I just like swimming in the sea, but at the minute we’ve been asked not to by the Coastguard and the lifeboats, which is fair enough but it’s quite hard,’ Elspeth says.

‘I started wild swimming properly five years ago when I trained for a triathlon.

‘The swimming part was a mile in a loch and I trained in the sea, I just love it.

‘It’s very social and the people are lovely.

‘For me it’s almost a meditation, I don’t think about anything else.’

Are you spending your time in lockdown in an uncoventional way? Get in touch to share your story by emailing [email protected]

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