Braving the Bay with Coldingham Brave Bayers

Since the launch of St Abbs Independent lifeboat in 2016 we have been grateful to all those who have kept us floating and functioning as a result of their donations.  We have recently started sharing  a few news stories with you that shine a spotlight on some of the groups in particular who, through their activities, have become regular donors over the years. Today, it is our pleasure to say thank you to Coldingham Brave Bayers. Not only have the Brave Bayers regularly donated to the Lifeboat though events such as an enticingly named “Santa’s Sausage Sizzle”, but their raison d’etre is obviously of direct relevance to our own objectives.

St Abbs Lifeboat’s constitution lists three core purposes for the charity. The second of these is “to educate and promote safe recreational and professional use of the waters and coastline in and around Coldingham and St Abbs”.  So it is with great interest that we went to Coldingham Bay to meet up with two of the founding members of the Brave Bayers, Linzi Betts and Sharron Macpherson. Sally Walsh is also a core part of the organisational team but was not able to join us on this occasion.

Linzi and Sharron 2 of the 3 Co-Founders of Coldingham Brave Bayers June 2024

The Brave Bayers started around 5 years ago as a small group of friends who met regularly to have an informal but invigorating dip in the chilly waters of the North Sea. As a tidal wave of interest in “wild swimming” has recently flooded the UK, so the group’s numbers have swelled until there are now currently around 60 – 70 regular swimmers out of a pool of over 600 interested members, with over 180 taking to the waters every month. The group attracts people from across the Borders and the Lothians, and there are even 3 regulars who come up from Whitley Bay to stay in the area and head out with the group. Visitors and holiday makers are also welcome, and so the group swim with people from all over the UK, as well as occasionally teaming up with other local groups such as the Berwick cold water swimmers, and the Salty Sisters at Dunbar.

Coldingham Brave Bayers emerging from the North Sea in winter March 2024

As we sit on the beach chatting it becomes very evident that this is an activity which brings great joy to those who dip their toes in all year round. “Euphoria” is a word that is used to describe the feeling that engulfs the body once the cold water shock hits and releases those all-important endorphins. Linzi stresses that it is vitally important to exit the water at the crest of this wave of euphoria. “Always get out while you are having a good time” is her stated mantra to avoid allowing the chill to set in, thereby negating the now well-proclaimed health benefits of wild swimming. Both her and Sharron swim 2 to 3 times a week throughout the year and their knowledge of local conditions and swimming routes is therefore second to none.

As the numbers of Brave Bayers have expanded, so has the geographical area of interest of the group. It is no longer just Coldingham Bay that is visited – the group also have trips out to, and regular sub-groups that swim in places such as Cove, Thorntonloch, Sea Cliffs, Preston Bridge and up at the gloriously remote Whiteadder Reservoir. The group recently held a very successful “open day” introduction to wild swimming up at the Whiteadder Watersports Centre which saw over 60 people choosing from beginner routes which traced the outline of the shore, to more advanced 800m routes heading out into deeper waters.

Preston Bridge river swim October 2023

So why is a group structure needed for this essentially “free” activity you might ask? After all people have been swimming in wild waters for generations. The answer is twofold – friendship and safety. Both Linzi and Sharron use the word “inclusive” very often during our chat. They are both passionate about bringing the community together through the group, breaking down barriers and getting more people feeling comfortable, competent and safe in their experiences of sea, river or loch. “We are very very lucky” Linzi beams as she recollects the laughs that are had by what she describes as a “really lovely community of people”. Both sexes are represented, and a wide range of ages swim at the weekly informal gatherings. Experience is not necessary and for those who need reassurance, there will always be someone who will buddy up with a swimmer at any chosen level from “dippers” to serious training swimmers who are hoping to achieve great things such as the iconic Kessock Ferry Swim. For those like me who are not in the know, this is a 1200m charity swim across the tidal narrows of the old ferry route between South and North Kessock in Inverness held this year in August to accommodate the tides.  At the other end of the scale, for those that are really uncertain about taking the plunge, there’s always plenty of homemade cake, cookies and chat at any of the group gatherings and shore-watchers are always appreciated.

Santa’s Sausage Sizzle: December 2023 (St Abbs Lifeboat in the background)

Safety is of course at the core of everything the group does. Whilst everyone at the weekly informal swims enters the water of their own volition, and therefore at their own risk, it became apparent to Linzi and Sharron that their growing knowledge and expertise on safety aspects and conditions was always sought by swimmers.  However, they stress that it is important that everyone is able to “read” the water and understand the risks of rips, swell, tides and weather changes themselves. They were therefore keen to expand both their own knowledge, and to formalise opportunities to train others in water safety and safe practices. This led them to set up a Community Interest Company and the Coldingham Brave Bayers CIC (SC785366) was launched on 9th October 2023. This enabled them to successfully apply for training grants and Sharron, Sally and Linzi now hold a variety of first aid certificates, mental health and suicide awareness certificates, have been on water safety courses and both Sharron and Sally are STA Open Water Swimming Level 2 coaches. The Company now aims to provide water confidence and safety activities, bespoke one-to-one group swims, swimming and snorkelling trips, and other events to promote mental and physical wellbeing, partnering with other local groups and organisations. Any funding that is raised from these activities is circulated back into the CIC on a not-for-profit basis. By doing this the Brave Bayers have become the only group on the east coast who are actively sharing water safety knowledge in an organised way. Not content to stop there however, the CIC now has interesting ambitions with their Swim to Inclusion and Second Wave Swims project launched in June, so if you are looking for somewhere to recycle your old swimwear these are your women. They are also currently exploring the recycling of neoprene, partnering up with a number of local businesses.

Crystal clear waters of Coldingham Bay: June 2024

Throughout our afternoon together it is very obvious that the Brave Bayers are a very well organised, dedicated group that has been born out of a love of swimming. It is also clear however that it has become much much more than just a swimming group. The core ethos of inclusivity, of wishing to break down barriers, the dedication to awareness of mental health and wellness and the desire to be ethically progressive is impressive. It will be interesting to see where the CIC goes in its ambitions to take the group to new areas of innovation. For the Lifeboat, their core messages and practices relating to water safety and safe practice makes them ideal neighbours and partners and we very much look forward to working with them in the future.

If you would like to dip your toe in the water with this group, bookings are available for one to one and group sessions. Bespoke options are available from introductions to wild swimming and advanced options. The following details might help you take the plunge:

Want to Find Out More?:,
tel 077539 592669
or follow Coldingham Bravebayers on Facebook and Brave Bayers on Instagram.
or use this QR Code

Regular Social Swimming times :

  • Every Sunday morning 10am at Coldingham Bay(winter) 9am (summer)
  • Once a month Tuesday evening 6.30pm at Preston Bridge 
  • Full moon swims (monthly)