Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Bog snorkelling enthusiasts make a splash for contest's 10th year

Stephen McDonagh makes his way along the course
Mother and daughter, Louise Procter and Gemma Woods from Banbridge take a break from swimming
A competitor loses her way in the mud

As if the weather wasn't bad enough, around 30 hardy souls yesterday flung themselves into a wet and squelching Co Armagh bog.

Thankfully, the competitors came dressed for the wet weather and even damper terrain of Peatlands Park near Dungannon as it staged the annual Bog Snorkelling Championships – now an established feature of the Northern Ireland summer.

Two of the competitors came dressed as surgeons, perhaps in case they needed to be rushed to hospital.

Spectators were delighted to see the competition was far from bog standard as the much loved event at the 680-acre park entered its tenth year.

Two of the special visitors yesterday had travelled all the way from north Carolina in the United States, where the 40 degree heat doesn't do much for mucking about in the mud.

Competitors have to swim up to two lengths of a 60-yard (55m) bog drain with the aid – as the title suggests – of a snorkel.

They are also given masks and flippers as aids – but are not allowed to employ conventional swimming strokes.

"The atmosphere was fantastic. It was just mental," said organiser Colin Gates last night.

"The crowds were not as big as other years, but the weather probably had something to do with that.

"And the showers had no effect whatsoever on the competitors – they were already as soaked as could be."

Mr Gates, assistant warden at Peatlands, said the fancy dress entrants, including Iron Man and Spiderman, had raised around £600 for charity.

And it has another serious side. The event takes place on International Bog Day, which is now in its 19th year. More than 90 % of Irish bogland has gone since 1945.

"Bogs are now some of the richest areas of natural vegetation and it is all about what people can do to preserve them," Mr Gates added.

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