Two hospital clinicians are about to take the plunge and compete in the Winter Swimming World Championships

Lifelong swimmers Nicola Housam and Frances Mills will be swapping the hospital corridors at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust for outdoor swimming pools in Tallinn in Estonia.

Posted on in Latest Updates   News & Events

The Winter Swimming World Championships take place in from Monday 4 to Sunday 10 March 2024. Water temperatures are expected to be just above freezing at 0.7 degrees, but this is not something new for Nicola and Frances.

Nicola, an Advanced Clinical Practitioner in Dermatology, will be competing in the 25m and 50m breast stroke, as well as a front crawl relay, and has signed up to help be part of a World Record attempt in Noblessner Harbour for the largest ever winter swimming relay. Frances, a Specialist Family Practitioner, will be competing in the 25m front crawl, the front crawl relay and also the World Record attempt.

Nicola said: “As a lifelong swimmer, I am happy in a river, sea, or leisure centre pool. I get in water hot or cold to look for peace and quiet, whether that be a hot bath at home to breaking ice in my local river so I can swim. Waterfall chasing is a particular passion of mine.

“Swimming with nature around you instils a special kind of peace and wellbeing. There is growing evidence that this sense of wellbeing in the water has health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, anxiety, and inflammation.”

The pair are both founding members of the Boston Bluetits Chill Swimmers and also active members and organisers of the Boston Park Run.

Nicola explained: “When swimming pools closed during the pandemic, I often found myself in the River Witham with my long-suffering husband serving as my lifeguard, lookout, and kit monitor. Fran and I then discovered a national group called the Bluetits Chill swimmers. This is an inclusive group which brings people together to enjoy their love of cold water swimming.

“We started a local flock, and so it came to be that Boston Bluetits was born with two mother tits. Our flock is now almost 1,000 members strong. There are flocks of Bluetits all over the UK, and watching my flock grow and the friendships that have developed has given me an enormous sense of pride.”

The pair will be joined by 58 other Bluetits Chill swimmers from across the country in the journey to Tallinn.

Frances added: “There is something very special about open water swimming. The laughing and sharing of hot water bottles, woolly bobble hats and a hot flask after a swim in five-degree water changes your day. It is good for the heart and soul and I cannot wait to be surrounded by swimmers from across the globe as we all take on a challenge and do something that we all love.

“We are not doing this to win medals, but instead to take on personal challenges in the most beautiful of settings. It really is going to be amazing and we might even come home with a World Record.”

Although cold water swimming is invigorating, it is important everyone is safe. The advice is to conduct your own research thoroughly and join a local group so that you can get the support and advice needed to swim safely. Guidance is available from recognised groups, such as the RNLI, the Outdoor Swimming Society, Royal Life Saving Society, and you can learn about water quality from the Rivers Trust or Surfers Against Sewage. Information about the local group is available through the Boston Bluetits Chill Swimmers Facebook page.