A brief history of the Kingfisher Swimmers – how to set up an outdoor swimming club in a pandemic

This Kingfisher wasn’t certain of the definition of ‘infographic’. That is until I met Joanna for the first time, on a chilly November morning when we met for our ‘paired’ socially distant swim during Lockdown #2 and we enquired about each other’s professions.

The story doesn’t start here though. As Joanna’s beautifully simple and informative creation shows, our story began on 18th May when Naomi Dawson presented a request on Facebook for someone to keep her company: “Anyone fancy a socially distanced morning river swim with me? I jumped in on my own this morning, although it was fun, I’d much prefer to do it with a friend. Any takers?” (18th May 2020). I was running down to Woodmill with my towel flying behind me as soon as I saw Nay’s post! So, to give accompanying detail to the graphic, we now have a Facebook Page as you can see!

Our WhatsApp chat has 25 members, we adhere to social distancing guidelines with the aid of a Doodle poll so that we can book our swims in pairs. Swimmers have been recruited through friends of friends and directly from the riverbank. We continue to be awed by sightings of the beautiful kingfishers. We see them flying up the river as if it is their runway and perched singularly or in a pair, quietly allowing us to float reverently passed. We have an official photographer, Claire Melville and Steve Clift also shares his amazing photographs with us. We have held two socially distanced events.

The Evening Bat Swim involved approx. 6 swimmers, 2 families, 1 friend and the amazing bat expert Lisa sharp. The land-lovers accompanied the swimmers downstream whilst we all learnt bat facts from Lisa.

The Festive Swim was a spectacle to be beheld (please look at the photos on the December post). An amazing procession of swimmers in fancy dress, a canoe decked out with Christmas decorations to transport those musicians brave enough to take to the water, the star of the show…. the inflatable pink flamingo and a joyful ensemble on the riverbank consisting of the remainder of the musicians together with family and friends. All of this completed twice on the same afternoon to accommodate the COVID-19 rule of exercising in a group of 6.

As a group, we are all firmly agreed on the amazing benefits that regular outdoor swimming in our beautiful River Itchen has afforded us. Joanna has recorded the recruitment process and the initial friendship groups superbly. The reality is, we have all established warm friendships within the group and to quote one of our amazing NHS workers: “Can’t wait for the day that we can all jump in together and then have a massive picnic!”

Written by Joanne Forshaw

Photography Claire Melville & Steve Clifft

Infographic Joanna McManus

Published by Nay Dawson

Nay works with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. She works on the European Regional leadership team for the charity. She was the Revive Extra Plenary Director for one of largest Student Conferences in Europe. Nay is the founder of Passion for Evangelism. PfE is a network of creative, public female speakers. Helping hundereds of women grow in confidence in public communication. Nay set up an initiative called Community in a crisis. CIAC has been helping churches and charities across Europe get online during the pandemic.

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