Northern Ireland’s coastline is dotted with cold water swimmers who go out no matter what the weather or temperature. The group who swim near Jenny Watts Cave just past Wilson’s Point at Bangor on Belfast Lough are known as the Brompton Belles and Beaux Dippers, taking their name from the nearby road.
Using a decoy Goose as a turning mark was the idea of Nicola Woods who thought it would make a fun swim buoy. Not only is it great fun and a talking point, but from a safety perspective, it is positioned 150m round the reef. Swimmers can use this as a marker and slowly build up to swimming the 300m round the Goose.
Brompton Belles and Beaux Dippers was set up by Marie-Thérèse Davis-Hanson in 2017. Her objective was to establish a group so that anyone who wanted to swim could connect with a swim buddy and not swim alone. Safety of the swimmers is paramount and for this reason, the group offer advice and guidance for anyone thinking of trying open water swimming.
The rig was put together by Stephen Hanson and Paul Zund and put in position by Nicola, Stephen and Paul on 24th June 2020. (Paul’s other quite different interest is motor boating and he has a Sea Ray in Bangor Marina). The Goose has been causing a stir since then – in a positive way. Nicola says that she has some smaller ducks that she has plans for, so watch this space. Hopefully, the Goose will survive the next big North Westerly.
The group now has over 450 members and regularly participates in activities to raise money for charity, particularly Motor Neurone Disease Association as Marie-Thérèse’s brother has MND.
An interesting feature of the coast where the Brompton group swim is the Jenny Watts Cave. A local legend tells the tale of a local girl of that name who hid in the cave at low tide but was drowned when the tide came in. Her name lives on at the popular pub in High Street.
Safety is the main consideration for the Dippers and each swimmer always goes out at their own risk and is responsible for their own safety at all times. Tow-floats are advisable as the waters are often busy with boats, kayaks, yachts, lobster boats and paddleboarders. A brightly coloured swim hat and is also recommended as are post-swim hot drinks!