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Great Bardfield mum swims the English Channel to raise money in aid of village school’s pool

PUBLISHED: 16:30 06 September 2017

Abigail Brockwell (left) and the three other Channel swimmers in the four-woman relay

Abigail Brockwell (left) and the three other Channel swimmers in the four-woman relay


A mum has swum the channel to raise money for the swimming pool at Great Bardfield Primary School, where her four-year-old daughter, Edie takes her place this term.

Channel swimmer Abigal Brockwell and her daughtie EdieChannel swimmer Abigal Brockwell and her daughtie Edie

Abigail Brockwell, 39, discovered at the start of the school holidays that the boiler needed replacing for the school’s swimming pool, which is a community pool built by the villagers and used by the community during the holidays.

The school had to find £5,000 to replace it or the pool would have been out of action.

When Abby heard that she knew just what to do. She said: “Four of us had been in training to swim the channel for two years and when I heard about the school pool, I thought this is meant to be. I wanted to raise money for a good cause. Swimming is not a luxury, it’s an important life skill but not all parents can afford swimming lessons, so the pool is important for the community.”

She raised £1,700 for the campaign but at the start of the four person relay across the 26 mile stretch of water in July, it was only the thought of the promise she had made which finally made her take the plunge.

In the sea, the tide is so strong you feel you are going backwards. It takes 40 miles to swim 21 because the water keeps pushing you backIn the sea, the tide is so strong you feel you are going backwards. It takes 40 miles to swim 21 because the water keeps pushing you back

She said: “I was the last person to get into the water and at first I thought: “I’ve got to get out, I’m the mother of a three-year-old, what am I doing in the middle of the English Channel. Then I told myself, I can actually swim, it’s not cold water, it’s really nice out there and I had committed myself to raising money for the school. It’s a mental challenge more than anything.”

Abby, head of marketing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said this was the toughest challenge she had faced, previously she swam the Europe to Asia four-mile swim across the Bosphorus from Turkey and swam the Solent from the UK to the Isle of Wight. Was she scared for this swim? “Absolutely and totally.”

The second dip was when the jelly fish began to appear. “It was swimming through a jelly fish soup. You get stung a bit, it’s like stinging nettles.”

The swimmers Abby’s sister Louise Stratford and two friends Michelle Mead and Gilly Hoy, were wearing just swimsuits and a hat and covered only with a layer of Vaseline “to stop the friction burns from the salt”. The crossing from Dover to Wissant Beach is about 21 miles but the four swam 40 between them because the tide pushes the swimmers back. Abby said: “As you get near the French coast, it feels like you are going backwards.”

The team of four who had been training three or four times a week and sometimes for whole weekends came straight back to Dover warmed by ginger biscuits and tea. They have yet to have a celebration.

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