A MERMAID, a beer bottle and a dinosaur met on Boscombe Beach this morning – and it's not the start of a bad joke.

The three were among more than 1,000 people to spend their Christmas Day dressing up and dashing into the sea to raise funds for a great cause.

All of those who took part were told: "You're all bonkers - but we love you" by officials over the PA system before the dip began.

Organisers of this year's White Christmas Dip, held annually for Macmillan Caring Locally, the palliative care unit at Christchurch Hospital, say it's been the biggest year yet.

Richard Gale said the event started with just eight people making the run into the sea.

The 2019 event – which is the 12th time the swim has taken place – attracted 1,194 people.

"We raise between £40,000 and around £50,000 every year – we've never hit the £50,000 mark, but hopefully it'll be this year," Mr Gale said.

"Around a quarter of a million pounds has been raised since the swim's inception."

The event first began when organiser Tom Baker's uncle was diagnosed with cancer shortly before Christmas.

His family, wanting to raise funds, sought out the Spartans Christmas Day swim group but, unable to find them on the day, they went in on their own.

Since then, the fundraiser has attracted more people every year.

This morning, there were thousands of people on the beach as swimmers brought friends and family to support them.

Mr Gale said: "The weather is absolutely beautiful, and of course that helps a great deal.

"In previous years, we've had rain and even a hailstorm once.

"In the early years, it was just us in a gazebo. There were days when all the forms blew away."

Swimmers took part in a warm-up on the sand as RNLI lifeguards waded in to keep participants safe.

At 10.30am, the countdown was called, and everyone taking part dashed into the cold water.