The Bluetit Effect

The Blue Tit Effect was a phenomenon discovered around the 1950s. Bird watchers and milk lovers alike noticed that Bluetits were pecking through milk bottle caps on doorsteps to get to the delicious cream inside. The Blue Tit turned out to be the only bird that did this consistently. The amazing part? It turned out that this was a learned behaviour, passed from Blue Tit to Blue Tit. Robins gave it a go, and some succeeded, but failed to pass it on to any other robins. This means (well we like to think it does) that originally there was just one brave, pesky blue tit who took the plunge. Others watched, and went off to try it themselves. This is known as the Blue Tit Effect.

Now, we only heard about The Blue Tit Effect a couple of months ago, a chance conversation between Sian and a camper. How wonderful it would have been if we could claim that Sian had known this 7 years ago and thus named the group of dipping friends after the phenomenon. Alas no, it was much more to do with how bloomin’ cold the water got that winter! All the same, the parallel is marvelous, isn’t it?

We began with one Bluetit, wiggling into her cossie on the beach, approaching the water and taking the plunge. The whooping and hollering attracted other Bluetits, who joined her and went off to spread the word. We have our own Bluetit Effect, and it has given us the absolute belief that the actions of one Bluetit have the potential to change thousands of lives.

What marks a Bluetit out isn’t just that you get in the water. It isn’t just that you get in the water making a great deal of noise and laughing all the way. What makes a Bluetit is a drive to spread the joy. Whether you shout from the rooftops about the incredible benefits of cold water swimming, or simply welcome a new person to a swim with a smile or an offer of a piece of cake, Bluetits are inclusive, kind and see any person discovering swimming as a positive.

So why are we telling you this now? Well, it has clarified our vision for the next stage of The Bluetits.

It is one year since we became a social enterprise, and Sian’s husband Alan breathed a sigh of relief as they let go of the responsibility to personally fund badges, which had become a beast since the days of four or five ‘Tits on the local beach. Since then, The Bluetits has been completely funded by the sale of merchandise and some media work.

Now, many start ups fail within their first year, and so this year has been about making sure that we cover our costs so we can continue to spread the joy for years to come!

Our main running costs are:

  • Free badges – each Bluetit is given a badge on their first swim free of charge. We absolutely love this part of newbie swims, and these badges cost more and more the more we grow!
  • A postage and packing assistant. – In order to keep up with the demand for merchandise (you lot love a badge!) we have a part time packing assistant.
  • Rent – We have a caravan where we work, meet and post from!

Our core team at HQ – Sian, Gail, Sam & Sarah – have done the vast majority of their work unpaid. As The Bluetits grows, so does the work involved in keeping things running day to day, and this becomes unsustainable as we all have other jobs and therefore limited time. We are therefore looking at funding to help us devote more time to this magnificent beast.

Once our costs are covered, as a not-for-profit we begin to look at ways to spend excess money in line with our mission – to create a capable, confident community through cold water swimming and adventures.

What we’ve done so far:

  • Changed thousands of lives every day. – We forget this bit sometimes! Simply by keeping things running, supporting our incredible admins, and answering messages every day, we know that we are making a difference in people’s lives because you tell us we are!
  • Safety Edits – We encourage all Bluetits to take responsibility for themselves in the water, and this year we created a series of safety edits to help our community gain confidence and knowledge to do so.
  • Training guides – We gifted training to four local Bluetits who wanted to be adventure guides. They are now running Bluetit Adventures on the Pembrokeshire coast, and plans are well underway to roll these out nationwide.
  • Offering training to our admins – We are in constant contact with our group admins and are rolling out training to help them manage their groups with confidence.

As this pot gradually grows, we got around a table. ‘The’ Sian crocheted, Beans (Gail) pulled together crumpled receipts from the depths of the others bags, Young’un (Sarah) flicked through the Insta-wotsit and Compo (Sam) clapped her hands and in her lovely yet occasionally threatening Valleys lilt said ‘Right, come on, ideas time.’

And thus the vision for ‘The Bluetit Effect Bursary’ was born. From the belief that one Bluetit figuring out how to do something they love can change the lives of others the world over. When Beans deems us ready to do so, we shall open applications, asking you how we can help you to peck your milk bottle, so that others can peck theirs.

As we figure out exactly what this will look like, we will let you know more, and ultimately begin investing in individuals to help them reach their cream and in turn help others to reach theirs.


2020 – The Year of The Bluetits

2020 has been an interesting year for all of us. At Bluetit HQ, it has been one to remember for more reasons than the obvious. The Bluetits has grown in a way we could not have predicted, and in between dealing with all the challenges this pandemic has thrown at us, we have been busy working to make this community one that can continue to grow and spread the joy of cold water swimming to as many people as possible.

We’ve been a part of the gradual growth of the cold water swimming movement for a while now, and this year the experience we’ve built up over the last 6 years has stood us in great stead at a time when The Bluetits has surged forward and continues to do so.

We are so grateful to those of you who have been a part of this movement in 2020. ‘Bluetit HQ’ are 4 women living on the edge of Wales who really bloomin’ love swimming. Every time you reach out with stories of how the Bluetits has been life-changing, photos of your swims, funny stories of your adventures, and so on, we do a happy dance (or cry, depending on how the mood takes us!) It’s tough being a swimmer during lockdowns and social distancing regulations, and this community has bowled us over with your positivity and enthusiasm for fun whatever it looks like!

We wanted to take a moment to share what we’ve been up to and celebrate some of the Bluetit highlights this year!

  • We have seen new flocks taking flight all across the world and now have nearly 90 worldwide! In 2020, the Bluetits’ Facebook following went from just under 2000 to over 7000! We’re absolutely thrilled that so many have discovered the joys of swimming this year.
  • On the 1st of September, The Bluetits Chill Swimmers became a social enterprise. Social enterprises are businesses that have a social or environmental purpose. This means that they reinvest any profits back into the business in order to deliver more of their social or environmental purpose. The Bluetit mission is to create a confident, capable community through cold water swimming and adventures.

With this mission in mind, we launched our new range of official merchandise, designed by Bluetit founder Sian! It reflects all that The Bluetits is about – fun, bright, and inclusive!

The Bluetit Swimsuit – launched 2020

We launched the Arctic Flappers Challenge; a fun winter swimming challenge to encourage our Bluetits to acclimatise to cold water with 20 swims over 21 weeks of winter. Over 2000 of you signed up! Again, cue many happy dances. The Arctic Flappers Facebook group is such a fun space to be a part of, and we’re loving seeing your photos and reading about your experiences.

We worked on our values this year; Fun, Trust, and Inclusivity. We also formed our strapline – Challenging Our Limits, Together. We launched the offer of Swim Walk Adventures, where Bluetits can challenge their limits in a supportive environment while having loads of fun! The first of these will run in 2021.

The profits we have made are already being put to good use. This year we began training local swim walk leaders in Pembrokeshire, creating employment in the community. We have plans to offer training across our groups in the future!

We have also now launched our training for our volunteer admins, meaning that they will start 2021 more supported than ever. We cannot thank them enough for their positivity, patience, and support this year.

Alongside all this we maintain our focus for fun and improving physical and mental health by challenging our limits, together!

Here’s to 2021, let the ripples continue!

Bluetit HQ – Sian, Gail, Sam & Sarah x


Outdoor Swimmer Magazine 2019


Ice Ice Baby….. Feb 1st 2019

Being two experienced sub 5 degree water swimmers, Tracey and I thought nothing of popping into 2.8 degree water for a dip yesterday. Tracey had been in Rosebush to do some distance training for her upcoming ice mile attempt and I was there to shout abuse at her. Her training pond was frozen over so as we decided to check out the quarry. I had my cameras with me and Jemeima to operate one so I almost broke into a trot with my crutch in hand when it started to snow heavily and we thought there might be a bit of ice to break through up there…. oh the filming opportunity!

Anyhow, long story short, Western Tel got in touch today, reporter fancies a swim with us, could they use the footage? Of course, anyone who knows me knows I love a bit of exposure, (cheeky) and love introducing new people into our Bluetit clan.

So, below is the link to the online piece and of course all the comments! Most of the ‘WOW’ and ‘MAD WOMEN’ we used to but the negatives added an interesting perspective. Maybe when I spoke to the reporter I (the one in the stripy swimsuit) should have emphasised the ice mile challenge. I am and ice miler and to get this accolade (which is to pop on a swimsuit and complete of a 1 mile swim in open water that is 5 degrees or below) I trained for three years by swimming in sub 5 degree water a swimsuit, hat and goggles. I had to swim qualifiers that were approved by the International Ice Swimming Association and get a full medical before attempting the challenge. Tracey (the one in the red swimsuit) is currently training to swim the English Channel and attempt her first ice mile, so she too has trained for a long time to get to the point where she is well on her way to being ready to achieve both goals. Sometimes, when we find ice and snow for example, we take break from heads down cold water distance swimming, hang our knickers from a tree let it all hang loose mother goose! We are not to be confused with the people who chuck themselves from a great height into what the general public consider icy water in the summer months tanked up on a few beverages…although I have tried that one too (the tanked up bit not the great height), see ‘daft twat’ sentence below.

Many years ago someone called me irresponsible for sleeping on a beach with my children, something we did quite often and always with military like organisation… the organising was part of the adventure. It was then I realised that there can be a fine line between what we humans consider adventurous and what we consider irresponsible. I am capable of being both. I’ve learnt my most valuable survival lessons being the latter and my subsequent adventures were better planned as a result of the times I was a daft twat. To those who do push boundaries no explanation is necessary, to those who don’t, no amount of explaining will ever suffice.

Daily Mail Online next maybe? I did badger one of their reporters about a Bluetit article years ago … I wouldn’t handle the negative comments was the reaction to that shameless request for national accolade.

Maybe they were right. Most of the time I wallow In the wonderful Bluetit filled world of the courageous, generous and bold. The conversation and post swim tea is often fruity, the cake homemade and the hot chocolate laced with feck knows what to warm your cockles on the walk home. Negative they are not, and by facing fears about the cold and open water and body issues and peer pressure and the dumb things armchair troopers might say to them about irresponsibility, heart attacks and hypothermia they are some of the bravest people I have the privilege of knowing.


Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale – LoneSwimmer

The Lone Swimmer website is an interesting place to visit if you are a swimmer. With the water temperatures dropping nicely now and some Bluetits venturing into very cold puddles I thought the attached might be interesting and amusing….

Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale – LoneSwimmer

— Read on


The Ice Mile

Not for everyone this challenge but then neither is live modelling a swimsuit in a shop window or plunging into any of body of water even once without a wetsuit … challenges come in many shapes and forms and what one persons deems a major challenge can be considered a walk in the park for someone else. Why we choose to do what we do when we do always fascinates me but In my experience once a challenge takes your fancy it can be a bugger to get it out of your head. So the season for attempting ice miles is upon us and if you take an interest in this kind of thing the air is full of who’s done what where and in what temperature. Trying to stick to your training guns and remember you are unique and cannot compare yourself to anyone else is tough. The sensible you knows all of this but the beast within is impatient and eager to get the first ice mile done and that red jacket on…. everyone else is managing it so why not me?! It’s tough, but an ice mile attempt is not to be taken lightly. The author of the attached is a seasoned ice miler and I like the way she has written the piece… honest and no drama, it is what it is, challenging but doable.

Bluetit Tracey did her 1km qualifier today in 4.4 degree water with Jan as ‘recovery angel’…. the ice mile cometh