With marriage to Richard on 12th July, 2003 we had both swimming indoors and outdoors as a shared interest which you will see was integral to our family life. In 2005 our first child Eddy was born in September. Prior to his birth I had carried on swimming until two weeks before. I made use of the fantastic 50m Crystal Palace Swimming Pool in the latter weeks of my maternity leave when I stopped my day job in the civil service for a year’s leave. In the months after Eddy was born it is very likely with moving house at six weeks and the loss of two friends to cancer in the lead up to Christmas 2005 that I was in the throes of post-natal depression. It was circumvented by a very astute health visitor who said the winter and all the change wasn’t helping and I really needed a sense of direction – so ultimately at that point I went out walking every single day. I recall also choosing Eddy’s day nursery for my return to work in August 2006. Before my return, Richard and I decided we needed to embrace the spring and summer months and make sure of some time away with our Eddy. So we booked a family room in the Great Yarmouth Youth Hostel, and alongside meeting my parents for a day, we were blessed with being right by the magnificent sandy beach of Great Yarmouth. At Richard’s blessing I crept out each evening at 7pm to embrace the long summer evenings with a magical sea swim. Memories of those calm swimming evenings remain to this day. During my year out with Eddy, I had of course been swimming some evenings when Richard was home from work, at the fantastic Tunbridge Wells swimming pool. Those sessions were a boon to my psyche.
In the September 2006 we joined my parents for a week at West Sands Holiday Park, Bunn Leisure, Selsey. This would become a regular slot for us as moving to June 2008, our second child Henry joined the Billingham family. Going to the West Wittering Beach each year on our visits to Selsey as a family, and with my Mum and Dad, became an absolute must do on our annual travels.
As can be seen from the photograph, West Wittering is a heavenly sandy beach and magical for swimming. Over the years as a family, we have all grown in our enjoyment of swimming in the sea, and building fabulous sandcastles in no small part due to this wild expanse of beach and sea which is lifeguarded during the main season. Timing for visits has to be carefully done and these days you book car parking which actually makes planning to visit much easier.
Both Eddy and Henry had swimming lessons in their younger years at Tonbridge Swimming Pool, which was the epicentre of many weekend activities in our younger family days. Getting that start in swimming with lessons somewhere suited to your children is essential. Anyone who has watched “Saving Lives At Sea” on the BBC which follows the Royal National Lifesaving Institution (RNLI) volunteers on various journeys to save life will appreciate that early tuition where possible is essential. As a ongoing supporter of their work I share their website link: https://rnli.org .
As a family we grew in our love of swimming and enjoying the beach. I had been following various magazines about swimming outdoors and wanting to do more. Joining the world of Facebook aka social media around 2011, I started looking more for opportunities. As a family we did also start visiting the magnificent Saltdean Lido, near Brighton and the Pells Pool Lido in Lewes during the summer months. During 2016 a local company called TriSwim was born, providing opportunities in local lakes for fabulous outdoor swimming, see website link: https://www.triswim.org.uk/ . The next in my series of blogs will look at life changes and the growth in my love for swimming outdoors.
I dedicate this particular blog to my Mum and Dad who loved our times as a family on the beach and in these latter times at West Wittering. Both were lost to cancer in 2014 and 2018 respectively, but spent their available retirement travelling and enjoying the outdoors.
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