Plucky swimmers brave icy waters at Lee Dam

Onlookers stood in amazement as nearly 20 hardy swimmers ran into an icy dam and made a desperate dash for wooden trophies.

The Upper Valley tradition of an open-air New Year Swim made a wonderful wintry spectacle at Lumbutts, Todmorden.

Dieter Rutkowski, men's winner of the Todmorden new year swim at Lee Dam, Todmorden.

Dieter Rutkowski, men's winner of the Todmorden new year swim at Lee Dam, Todmorden.

Pennine Sub Aqua members had spent the weekend breaking-up ice and ensuring the swimmers had a safe entry and exit into Lee Dam.

Diving officer Matt Allaby waded into the water carrying three trophies - one for men, women and children.

Swimmers spent around two minutes in the water with the winners’ the first to collect the trophies.

Mr Allaby said temperatures were hovering just above freezing but with the wind chill it was warmer in the water than out - not, that the swimmers believed that!

“It was freezing, awful. It was my first time and I won’t be doing it again!” said children’s winner Harry Brown, 13, of Todmorden, who struggled to speak afterwards.

Another youngster, Joel Deakin, 12, also of Todmorden, entered as he wants to start open-water swimming.

“It was extremely cold - colder than expected,” he said.

“I could not really move.”

Dieter Rutkowski, 18, of Slack, near Blackshaw Head, won the men’s race for the second time.

“It was chillier than last time (2011) but I will do it again to retain my title,” he said.

“At first when you get into the water it is a shock and then you get into it and the adrenaline takes over.

“Coming back is the worst because having made it to the trophy you have to swim back again.”

Claire Smith, 44, of Todmorden, was the first woman and coped with the elements better than most.

“It was not too bad. I will do it again,” she said.

All proceeds go to the Todmorden Swimming Club which organises the swim.

Last year it had to be cancelled due to insurance problems but Todmorden Lions stepped in to support the event through its public event insurance.

Swimming club spokeswoman Debbie Lorimer thanked all those taking part and especially Todmorden Lions.

The swim dates back to 1961 and has been held at Lee Dam for more than 20 years.

It has also been held at Gaddings Dam, Todmorden, and in the canal at Hebden Bridge.