Record numbers expected to brave the chill to take part in New Year's Day dip

A dip in the freezing waters of the North Sea is becoming part of the New Year’s Day ritual for a Northumberland community.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 4:45 pm
Participants in the 2019 New Year's Day dip at Alnmouth 
Picture by Jane Coltman
Participants in the 2019 New Year's Day dip at Alnmouth Picture by Jane Coltman

More than 150 people are expected to take the plunge at the seventh annual New Year’s Day dip at Alnmouth beach.

“It’s become a real focal point of the holiday period,” said organiser Nick Matlock, who will be taking a quick break from duties in the village convenience store to take part.

He recalls he was one of just six people ‘coerced’ into taking part in the inaugural event in 2013.

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New Year's Day dip at Alnmouth 2019. Picture by Jane Coltman

At that time he had just taken over at Puffin Stores and Post Office so, when the event’s founders moved away, he saw an opportunity to develop it further.

“I thought that the Red Lion’s got its beer festival and the golf club’s got its volcano night so what event can we get involved with to help the community – and it was the New Year dip,” said Nick.

Since then it has grown steadily to around 150 participants last time and a record turn out anticipated in 2020.

He hopes it could hit the 200 mark, although he concedes that it’s always difficult to tell exactly how many take part.

“We get a few people who go in up to their knees and some go for a full swim and stay in for quite a while, but there are also some who take part long after the main event,” he revealed.

“But what’s great about the whole event is not just those who go into the sea but the number of people from the village who come down to support it.

“Last year there were about 150 people but there must have been three times as many people standing in the dunes watching. It’s a real social occasion.”

The community spirit traditionally continues long into the afternoon at the village pubs.

“There’s always a bit of a rush to get dry and warmed up afterwards and get to the bar, though I’ll have to get back to the shop,” says Nick, who only closes on Christmas Day.

Participants often raise money for charity, including the likes of the RNLI, Hospicecare North Northumberland and The Hindmarsh Hall Fund, but it is not essential.

“We must raise close to £1,000 every year but it is primarily a ‘fun’ event,” revealed Nick, whose business sponsors the fancy dress element of the event and gives a prize to the best entry.

“We always get some great entries.” he added.

Dippers will gather from 11.30am before the traditional charge into the water at 12pm.

If travelling to Alnmouth by car it is advised to arrive much earlier to get a parking space. The Burgage Holders of Alnmouth will be supervising the Beach Car Park this year to minimise congestion.

Alnmouth Parish Council have allowed use of the small boat house on the beach as a changing facility.

Anyone wishing to participate should register at Alnmouth Post Office or ask for a registration form from [email protected]