Gulls fill the sky above Brighton’s iconic piers and a couple miles away on Hove Lawns Beach another kind of flock is gathering on this blustery day. Calling themselves the Salty Seabirds, a dozen or so swimmers, mostly women, huddle against the sea wall. Their lively chatter and nervous laughter can be heard from a distance, long before their bright, funky sports robes and thermal swim caps come into view.
Everyone is waiting for someone else to go first. Suddenly one of them leads the charge. Stripping down to their swimsuits with giggles, squeals and Calendar Girls-style abandon, the rest of them dash to the water, the odd swearword escaping their mouths as they tumble into the freezing waves. They emerge 20 minutes or so later, invigorated, their skin glowing red from the cold. Changing at lMAKING WAVES ightning speed on the shingle beach before their fingers get too numb, they’re soon in woolly hats, gathered round Thermoses, exchanging hot drinks, cake, and a good gossip.
Salty Seabirds is a huge phenomenon. Its Facebook page has more than 1,000 members, and organises daily swims throughout the year on Brighton and Hove’s beaches. There’s also an associated online store (seabirdsltd.com), which funnels its profits back into water-based charities, including the Seabirds’ own Women, Wellbeing & Water initiative, a programme that introduces people with mental health issues to the benefits of sea swimming.
It’s a success story that founders and co-directors Catherine Brown and Katharine Ferguson could never have imagined when they first began swimming together in the summer of 2017. Stuck in an emotionally difficult place in their lives, having left jobs that had burned them out, the two women found themselves with plenty of free time and in much need of solace. While their kids, now aged 17, 14, and 11, attended Brighton Surf Life Saving Club on Saturday mornings, they, together with other mothers from the club, decided to take to the water themselves. ‘Soon we were swimming through the week as well,’ recalls Kath. ‘It was a form of self-care.’
Both women had long been drawn to the healing power of the sea. Originally from land-locked Surrey and London, Kath and Cath moved to Brighton in the 1990s and 2000s respectively, searching out the coastal lifestyle they’d enjoyed during childhood holidays. But it wasn’t until this critical juncture in their lives that embracing the waves became a weekly ritual, essential to their own wellness. ‘My husband goes regularly with the Brighton Sea Swimmers Club but I never thought that it was for me,’ admits Cath. ‘I wasn’t a sporty person. It comes as a bit of a surprise that I’m now so active, swimming four or five times a week.’
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
SOOTHED BY THE SEA
Retreating to a seashore hideaway could be the catalyst for recalibrating your life while truly resting a tired mind and body, says Jacob Little, who made the journey north to discover the simple solace offered by the Highlands island of Eilean Shona
Filmmaker and explorer Philippe Cousteau Jnr – grandson of one of the world’s first famous marine conservationists, the legendary Jacques Cousteau – is building his own legacy with EarthEcho International, his youth project dedicated to environmental education
TAKING THE SALT PATH
Brighton sea swimmers the Salty Seabirds have encouraged hundreds of novices to experience the glow of wellbeing following a dip in the ocean – and the rewarding sense of community that goes with it
20 HOMES to buy BESIDE the SEA...
From an Irish hideaway to a waterside manse in Scotland, here’s our pick of the latest properties for sale by the sea
EVERYTHING POINTS TO THE SEA
coast editor-in-chief Alex Fisher tries a rejuvenating blue health break at the Scarlet Hotel & Spa in Cornwall
10 Romantic Stays By The Sea
Escape to our pick of cosy coastal retreats for a bonding break à deux
10 Best... Blue Health Breaks
Make the most of the sea’s restorative powers on a wellbeing break by the coast – from wild-swimming retreats to mindful walking along the cliffs
Inspired By The Coast
From their design studio near Newquay, Kara Wilson and Dave Barker make folk art wooden decorations, and Christmas is one of their busiest times
Making The Move
Many of us aspire to live by the sea and in the next pages we give you the information you need to make that dream a reality
Bread-Making In Mawgan Porth
Caroline Wheater learns how to make artisan-style bread in a dreamy location on the North Cornwall coast
The City Politic
The Endorsed The Times vaulted Kathryn Garcia from mayoral long shot to … maybe … plausible?
LETTING THE DAY GO BY
BENTLE ROLLS-ROYCE, AND AN EPIC SOCIALLY DISTANCED DRIVE UP THE PACIFIC COAST
Clammers clear new Oceanville kayak launch
As part of the Shellfish Conservation Committee’s community service, several dozen clam harvesters cut trees, cleared brush and hauled away six truckloads of marine junk to create this kayak launch in Oceanville.
thumbs up! and down!
Best Of Show Or Worse For Wear? Digest Decides.
The Soul Of Bravo
A year of national reckonings on race and inequality has tested how real the Housewives should be.
Supermodel Turned Super-Mogul
Kathy Ireland Brings Fashion and Functionality into the Home Furniture Arena
SOUND OFF - What's on your mind?
BREAKING POINT I’m so heartbroken over the death of Franco on GH. I read the story from Roger Howarth stating that he’ll be back, but Franco won’t. When are the writers going to ever cut Elizabeth a break in the love department?
Belinda Carlisle on the Best (and Worst) of The Go-Go's
IN 1982, the Go-Go’s became the first and only (yes, still) all-women band who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to have a No. 1 album on the Billboard charts with 1981’s Beauty and the Beat.
RUSH'S $600M WILL WHAMMY!
Wife No. 4 gets it all Leaves other Limbaugh kin in limbo
Identities: Kathleen Hou
Swallowing Our Bitterness The quiet costs of being Asian in America.