A GROUP of Clacks women have found a "life-changing" hobby during lockdown, boosting their physical and mental wellbeing.

Members of the group, Wild Wimmin Swimmin, have been enjoying open water swimming at Aberdona, near the vicinity of recently opened farm shop Polly's Pantry.

Founder and swimmer Jenny Paterson spoke of the "overwhelming sense of positivity and empowerment" that comes not just from taking a refreshing dip, but also from spending time with a group who encourage one another.

Jenny, who this week saw the group grow to more than 600 members, said: "I started swimming there last summer and kept going all through winter, which often involved breaking thick ice to be able to enjoy a cold, refreshing dip."

She added: "The camaraderie and support that I received from other women when we were swimming kept me going and even gave me the confidence to launch my own business.

"What started out as a small group of friends trying a new and exhilarating hobby has grown to over 600 members, spread across central Scotland.

"Our membership is exclusively female but very diverse – what unites us is our love of open water swimming and the overwhelming sense of positivity and empowerment that comes from spending time in the company of a group of women who encourage, inspire and motivate."

Outdoor swimming has become a lifeline for Jenny, helping her come to terms with losing her job as a charity CEO due to redundancy.

She continued: "Our members swim for relaxation and the buzz that can only be achieved through cold water immersion, however, the additional benefits for many have been life-changing.

"Our group has reached women who have survived cancer, who live with MS, fibromyalgia, chronic arthritis and acute migraines.

"We also have members who are struggling with long Covid symptoms and the cold water is helping.

"The mental health benefits outweigh, in my opinion, any medication that a medical professional could prescribe.

"The 'Aberdona Prescription' has played a critical role in protecting and in healing the mental health and wellbeing of many local women and in drastically reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation by creating a sense of belonging and community."

While there are some inherent dangers, Jenny explained safety always comes first and members of the group who are joining are always educated on the effects of cold water on the body while she insists that everyone wears tow floats.

On the long run, she is keen to register Wild Wimmin Swimmin as a charity to unlock funding opportunities and remove the barriers for those who cannot afford wetsuits and other kit.

She is also hoping to work with younger women and girls, promoting the positive effects of open water swimming.

Not only that, Jenny also explained that the group have been involved with research at the University of Edinburgh and have been approached by the University of Stirling, where academics are investigating the links between wellbeing and wild swimming.

Women can find the Wild Wimmin Swimmin closed group on Facebook.