HARDY souls blew away any New Year’s Day cobwebs with a plunge in the River Wharfe and a spa pool on Ilkley Moor.

The annual swim in Otley saw a group of people bring in 2018 by taking to the chilly waters.

An event record of more than 50 swimmers, cheered on by hundreds of spectators, tackled a 20-metre stretch of the river beside Wharfemeadows Park.

Gavin Elkington, 49, of Otley, was the first person to brave the water.

“He said: “It was fantastic. It is the second time I have done it. I did it last year. It is a good start to the new year.”

Tracey Krupianka, of Poole, said: “It was breathtaking. It was the first time I have done it and I will do it next year. There was quite a strong current.”

For 25 years the event was organised by former lifesaving swimming teacher Joe Town.

After he died in 2011, it has been known as the Joe Town Memorial Swim.

Organiser Stuart Tasker said some people got into the water three times during the event and it was the biggest number of people taking part.

Meanwhile, the second traditional New Year’s Day challenge in the district saw a group of daredevils dive into the cold water plunge bath at White Wells spa cottage on Ilkley Moor.

Since 1995, people queued up to take a refreshing New Year’s Day dip in the 8ft by 6ft stone bath.

This year’s event saw people from the likes of Cumbria and Sutton in south west London taking the plunge.

Nick Smith, 44, of Haweswater, Cumbria, said: “It was cold. It was my first time doing it. I have been visiting my parents in Ilkley.”

Hannah Scott, 22, of Ilkley, said: “It was the first time I have done it. I have always wanted to do it. I am hoping my dad, who was here watching me, will do it with me next year.”

Fiona Pitt, who also took part, said: “It was incredibly cold, it was bracing.

“I have lived here all of my life but have never done it before.”

Elizabeth Oxendale, 29, of London, took part for the 19th year in a row alongside relatives Natalie Brykalski, 22, Holly Huber, nine, Charlotte Huber, 11 and Jamie Oxendale, 25.

Mark Hunnebell, who runs White Wells, said the event still proved popular among visitors and 158 people had taken the plunge by 1pm yesterday.