Dozens of members of England's oldest swimming club braved the cold to take part in their traditional Christmas Day dip in the Channel.

More than 30 from the 300- strong Brighton Swimming Club, which has organised the annual event since 1860, made up much of the contingent.

But a few hardy spectators also joined in the swim near the Palace Pier and found it the ideal way to build up a Christmas dinner appetite.

Club management member Keith Marlton has been taking part for 15 years. Mr Marlton, 69, said: "When you come out, shower and dry off you really do feel tremendous.

"It's really invigorating and the perfect thing to do if you're feeling stressed out.

"Those of us who take part in regular sea swimming consider ourselves to be healthier than your average Joe. Beside the health benefits, it is great fun."

Swimming club chairman John Ottaway said: "The sea was calm and a little warmer than in previous years. There were probably more spectators than I have ever seen."

A pantomime cow, a few Santas and a band playing a watery version of Drunken Sailor were just some of the eccentric figures on Brighton beach.

Crowds lining the seafront cheered as the swimmers charged down the beach and into the icy waves at 11am.

Some screamed, flayed their arms and leapt back out again while others sprinted through the water to the pier.

The cow struggled to keep upright as it submerged itself in the water and the band howled their song through chattering teeth.

It was the second year that 40-year-old Paul Mansfield, of Chain Pier House, Kemp Town, had ventured into the water.

The American Express employee dressed up as Santa and took the plunge with his six-year-old daughter Mimi.

He said: "It is traditional in Brighton. It fits in with the quirky way of the town - the kind of thing we do best here."

Mimi said: "It is freezing - especially when you get out.

But it is fun."

Alan Palmer, 49, of Norwich Drive, Beveandean, opted for a Viking outfit over a wet suit.

Along with his friend Richard Schofield, 40, he stood in the water and played Drunken Sailor with a saxophone and banjo.

Attracting most attention was a family group which included Justin Spray and Jamie McConnell as a pantomime cow, Gill Attrill as an angel and a Justin's 70-yearold mother Frankie as Santa.

In Worthing, 2,000 people watched around 150 Boxing Day sea swimmers take the plunge to raise money for cancer care.

Crowds gathered at Splash Point for the annual dip at 11am, an event that started 24 years ago.

Many wore Save Worthing and Southlands Hospitals T-shirts in protest at plans to downgrade or even close hospital services.

They included Dr John Bull, a Worthing Hospital consultant, who founded the event, Worthing Mayor Tom Wye and his daughter Denise McGrath.

Dr Bull, who was taking part in his 24th dip, said the event had raised £20,000 in the last three years alone, with the cash going to Worthing Hospital's Cancer Centre.