Druridge Bay Skinny Dip: One reporter's account of a freezing cold skinny dip; Hannah Graham was one of hundreds who stripped off on Sunday morning to take part in the annual Northumberland skinny dip.
It's 5.30 on Sunday morning.
Anyone sensible is tucked up in bed, looking forward to a lieA- in and a lazy breakfast.
I, on the other hand, am standing on a cold Northumberland beach, getting ready to take my clothes off in front of 350 total strangers.
For the last four years, people have been meeting at Druridge Bay to celebrate the autumn equinox with a sunrise swim -- bathing suits not required.
This year I volunteered to join them, to see what keeps people coming back year on year to dip their bare bodies in the icy waters of the North Sea.
Part of the appeal, I think, is the sense of community created among the very diverse group of people who gather on the shore preparing to strip.
The sight of a woman doing tricks with a flashing hula A-hoop to the rhythm of bongo drums created a carnival atmosphere as crowds started to form.
Bonded by the sheer weirdness of what they were doing, families in sensible waterproofs and wellies chatted to young women in onsies, next to a man wearing what looked like Druid's robes.
An elderly gentleman wearing nothing but a beanie hat and a pair of sandals warmed his hands by the fire, surrounded by volunteers in hiA--vis jackets.
As soon as the clothes came off, even these differences disappeared.
Screaming and whooping, we all raced towards the ocean together as one giant team, encouraging each other to take the plunge, applauding as the last person made it to the water just as the sun started to come up.
While some opted for the more sedate naked paddle, I am proud to say I managed the fullA--on swim, forcing my shoulders underwater for a few chilly strokes before racing back to my towel,
hoping my numb toes hadn't dropped off.
At this point, being extremely shortA-sighted proved to be something of a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, the softA- focus provided by my blurry vision is probably what you want when surrounded by the dangly bits of hundreds of people you've never so much as said hello to.
On the other hand, my desperate dash back up the beach was prolonged by the fact that I couldn't see my clothes, and might still be naked now if I hadn't tripped over them.
Throughout the morning all of the skinny dippers were extremely friendly and happy to talk, reassuring newcomers or sharing memories of previous dips with words like 'magical', 'celebratory', 'amazing' and 'wow' bandied around.
I'd add to that 'cold.'
Incredibly strange, absolutely exhilarating and of course freezing cold the North East skinny dip will be back next year -- why not give it a try?