News & Press

Steph’s Packed Lunch

We are on the telly again in a feature on wild swimming for Channel 4.

January 29, 2021

We are on the telly again!

Check us out on Channel 4 Steph’s Packed Lunch where presenter Luke Kempel bravely takes an ice dip for the first time in our natural pool together with inspirational wild swimmer Ella Foote.

Wild swimming at Ellicar Gardens

Wild swimming in winter

With the surge in popularity of wild swimming in recent years it’s no surprise that more and more people are taking to ice swimming during the colder months. If you are not sure about this just type in #wildswimming or #iceswimming on Instagram and you will enter a world of intrepid wild swimmers plunging into cold water, often surrounded by ice, wearing woolly hats and euphoric smiles on their faces. 

Health benefits of wild swimming

The health benefits of wild swimming are well documented and over the years there have been studies on the positive effects of cold-water swimming on our mental health and wellbeing. One recent medical study even linked cold water swimming with delaying the onset of dementia. 

We’ve long known that plunging into cold water boosts your circulation and immune system and it has been clinically proven that immersing yourself in cold water is beneficial to your mood and mental health. 

Getting in the natural pool

Not for the faint of heart

It takes some doing though, is not for the faint hearted and if you have never dipped into cold water before or even been wild swimming during the warmer months, cold water swimming must be approached safely, seriously, and with caution. Your body needs to acclimatise to the cold slowly. Never ever jump straight in!

We swim through winter, as do most of our clients. It is addictive. Euphoric even. The endorphins released from an icy dip have to be experienced to be believed. 

So I was not at all surprised when wild swimmer and ice swimming expert and friend Ella Foote called me up the other day to ask if she could be filmed ice swimming together with presenter Luke Kempel in our natural pool for Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4.

As soon as the date for filming was set, an artic blast from the east arrived and our pool froze so the dogs could walk across it. Then it snowed and you couldn’t even see it! 

We rescheduled, kept the pool pumps circulating through the cold spell, which prevented the entire pool from freezing again, but a few days before filming temperatures plummeted and the ice was pretty thick around the edges. 

“Oh don’t worry about ice, it’s fun swimming in ice”

I mentioned this to Ella- “Oh don’t worry about ice, it’s fun swimming in ice” she breezed. I know Ella and know she is no stranger to ice swimming in our pool but I did start to worry about the poor presenter who is a wild swimming novice and had never dipped a toe in cold water let alone plunged under the surface with ice floating about!

Ella Foote

Quick introduction on Ella... 

Ella Foote
Ella Foote

Ella swims most days throughout the year in rivers, lakes, the sea, all over the UK. She is a journalist for various publications and a regular writer for the Outdoor Swimming Society

Ella is a special lady and an inspiration to me and so many of her friends and followers.

For years now she has been dedicating her entire December to fundraising for her charities. Called “Dip a Day December”, she literally goes for a dip every day in freezing open waters during December to raise money and awareness for her charities and mental health. 

Ella is also a qualified open water lifeguard and has her own wild swimming company called The Dip Advisor, dedicated to introducing people to wild swimming, organising swimming trips and taking groups or individuals safely on their journey wild swimming in open waters in the UK, often for the first time. 

Ella is calm, inspiring and utterly confidence giving. Which is just what you need when ice swimming for the first time!

Freezing conditions

When the film crew arrived in our gardens this week it was freezing. One of those special damp, grey, still, bone shilling days unique to the UK in winter, where frost never melted and the sun never broke cover. Our natural pool had thick ice around the edges.

All we could do to help was put out the urn and offer blankets.

The film crew started filming at 11am and had presenter Luke and Ella doing take after take wandering around the pool edges clad only in their swimming costumes. When they finally got to film them actually going in the water I guess they were pretty chilled and I really felt for Luke getting in the water for the first time.

But with Ella encouraging him on, and giving him confidence in her calm, positive way, letting him acclimatise to the cold while insisting on keeping moving, both of them were soon swimming and to our utter disbelief they seemed to be enjoying themselves and joking and relaxing amongst the ice sheets! 

Ella Foote and Luke Kempel

Ella talks about the physiological and psychological changes in your body as you enter cold water and remain there long enough to acclimatise and reach the bliss point- ie no longer feeling the shock of cold, you reach a high. I don’t think I have ever been in long enough to get to that bliss point and would definitely need Ella with me to attempt it. 

But Luke and Ella both got there and were incredible. Hats off to Luke, he was so brave to swim in that icy water in front of those cameras for the first time and I think you will be as inspired by them both as we were on the day.

See Luke and Ella swimming in our natural pool on Channel 4 Steph’s Packed Lunch 12.30pm 29th January 2021

For wild swimming experience days with Ella Foote visit her website

Visit Ellicar Gardens in spring 2021 and contact us for more information about our summer wild swimming and outdoor wellness days