Thousands of swimmers enjoy the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water

Thousands of people took part in the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water.

Thousands of people took part in the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water. - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of people donned wetsuits and goggles and took the plunge at the Great East Swim in Suffolk on Saturday.

Around 2,000 swimmers of all ages and abilities, including a Team GB athlete competing at the Rio Olympics this summer, took on a variety of open water challenges in the picturesque surroundings of Alton Water near Holbrook.

The participants raised hundreds of pounds for their chosen charities after conquering distances from the introductory half-mile to the marathon 10k swim.

Great Swim director Alex Jackson said: “It was another fantastic day in Suffolk and we would like to say a huge well done to all the swimmers who took part.

“We would also like to say thank you to all of our staff, safety team and volunteers, as well as our partners Suffolk County Council (SCC), who make this such a brilliant event every year.”

The 10k swim was a new addition to this year’s event, which debuted in Suffolk in 2009.

Around 100 people took on this ultimate open water challenge, including Carol Page, of Ipswich.

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She said: “It was a challenge as I haven’t swam in open water before.

“But I have been swimming at Crown Pools on a regular basis and have managed to swim a mile in the pool on numerous occasion, so I thought why not swim a mile for charity in open water.

“The atmosphere was great and I will never forget the day. It was a great achievement and I feel proud that I have done it. I have raised just over £400 for Macmillan Cancer Support which is a superb achievement.”

A group of 40 keen young junior swimmers also experienced the thrill of the open water in a 250 metre challenge.

The event also included an elite race, which was used as a selection race by British Swimming for their senior and junior European Championships team.

The race was held over 5k (three laps of the course) and featured the best of British swimmers.

The first man to cross the line was 2016 Swimming world cup silver medallist Jack Burnell, who has already qualified to swim for Team GB in Rio this summer. He was followed by Caleb Hughes and Mark Deans.

The first woman to cross the finishing line was Danielle Huskisson. The 2015 European Junior bronze medallist Alice Dearing took second place and Rosie Foden finished third.

Swimmers and spectators enjoyed the performance stage, which hosted music from Suffolk choirs, musical theatre companies, dance groups and singers.

They also had the chance to reward themselves with a wide selection of Suffolk food and produce at the farmers market.

Tony Goldson, cabinet member for health at SCC, said; “These events play a significant part in helping to achieve Suffolk’s ambition to become the most active county in England and I would like to say a huge well done to all those who took part.

“It is a privilege to see the sense of achievement on participants faces having completed their chosen challenge.”

The Great East Swim is one of five Great Swim events that make up Europe’s biggest open water swimming series; more than 20,000 people are expected to take part in 2016.

For more information, visit greatswim.org.