I started open water swimming after setting myself a challenge to do a one mile open water swim in Loch Lomond in 2018. In 2022 I completed the North Kessock swim and in September 2023 I completed the 3K swim in Loch Morlich in Aviemore in 56 mins and was the third women in my age group, narrowly missing second place due to cramp. 

 As I had been a competitive swimmer from a young age, I knew I could probably swim in the sea but needed a bit of support when I first started such as when and where to go in, how to swim safely, what to wear etc. Luckily, I was introduced to some local experienced open water swimmers who swam in the local sea and lochs. I had tended to stick to the warmer months of June to September, always in a wetsuit and with gloves and boots because I suffer from Raynaud's, but last year I did the whole summer in a swimsuit and I've just kept going. 

I have always lived by the sea so I have always been confident in the water. I swam through all my pregnancies and spent years teaching my kids to swim. 

Swimming has always been a constant for me. I have a really busy life so my mind is constantly thinking/planning/worrying. Swimming is the only time I completely switch off, zone out and just glide through the water.  It's magical especially when you’re outdoors. 

After I surprised myself that I could swim 3K in under an hour, I felt I needed another goal. My husband suggested I should swim the Channel, saying “David Walliams has done it so surely you could!” With three children, a job, and the hours required to train I knew that wouldn't be an option, but I remembered seeing an advert in Outdoor Swimmer that the Channel could be done in a relay.

I’d always thought that - logistically and geographically - it would never be a challenge I could do. But last autumn I took a leap of faith and contacted Aspire. After speaking with Sarah about the logistics and challenges and going through it all with my very supportive husband, I put myself forward for their Assessment Day in London.

I have been a Physiotherapist for over 22 years and the majority of my physiotherapy career has been in Neurological rehabilitation. Before having our family, my husband and I travelled the world and had a stop off in New Zealand to fund our future travels, where I worked in the Spinal Injuries Centre in Christchurch. In New Zealand the health care in very different; pretty much everything was funded by the patient’s health insurance. At the time I was blown away by the equipment and help the patients got following injury. I know this is not the case in the NHS, so I understand how important Aspire’s work is for spinal injured patients in the UK. 

Aspire Alpacas

I’m in the Aspire Alpacas team.  I met a couple of the women at the Assessment Day in November and I was delighted to subsequently find out they were on my team. We’ve set up a WhatsApp group and had our first Zoom just after the New Year to meet everyone. 

I live near Inverness and am the only one from Scotland, the rest of the team are down South.  I always knew that geographically my home location would add an extra layer of complexity to the challenge of getting to know the rest of the team. I can't wait to meet our team in person and spend time together at Aspire’s training weekends in Dover.  We're just at the start of our journey but our boat leader Kay is already giving us wonderful tips and I'm sure there will be a lots more advice to come as our tide week gets closer. 

I've been really motivated with my training. I swim three times a week in the pool and run twice a week. I also started doing upper limb weights and I'm starting to get some muscle definition that I've not had since before having my children! My husband gifted me a lovely ice barrel for my Christmas which I go in a couple of times a week.  

Ashleigh in her ice barrel


My fundraising is going well.  I set up my JustGiving page as soon as I was given the green light. I have a Facebook page and I'm trying to share something weekly.  I also plan to organise a fundraising event every 4-6 weeks including a quiz, an afternoon tea, a tombola, a coffee morning and a wine raffle/lucky squares.

I came up with an idea to do a quiz in our local town. Our British Legion is just around the corner and I emailed them to ask for available dates. Our eldest daughter made up a poster advertising the event which I've been sharing weekly on local Facebook pages. I printed off the posters and put them in local shops. Most of the teams are local friends; I gave them the date well in advance and kept reminding them to come and pay up their money! It raised £535 which I’m really happy about. 

Ashleigh at her fundraising event

Just before Christmas my daughter and I had a table at a local charity event selling their secondhand toys. I had mentioned to the lady organising the event that I was doing the relay Channel swim. I knew she was a swimmer herself and she offered me a tombola at one of their events. I've pencilled in a coffee morning later in the year in the same hall and my last big face to face event will be a film/speaker event in their hall on Summer Solstice followed by a community swim/paddleboard. 

When I tell people that I am swimming the Channel in a relay, they think that the swimming bit is the challenge. In one way it is but for me, this whole experience is really pushing me out of my comfort zone.  I'm meeting new people, traveling to new places and doing a new swim challenge.  I dislike not knowing whether I can do something, but the fear of not doing something well drives me forward to try and succeed and do it as well as I can. 

I recently had a video interview from the local paper to promote the swim and the quiz night. This is not my forte and I stumbled over my words. Even emailing them to cover my story felt like a risk, but what it's led to is connecting with swim friends that I haven't spoken to in years, as well as some additional donations.

Even though I'm at the start of this journey, I've already learnt that if I can stretch myself out of my comfort zone, make a courageous conversation with someone, then an opportunity might arise from it because you took that risk.  This won't just be a swim for me; it's going to be a positive character building experience for me that I will remember for ever. 

 Swimming the Channel is going to be an amazing experience. Not many people can say they have swum the Channel. I hope my children will be proud and think how awesome it is that their mum has taken on this challenge. It's something we will all remember for the rest of our lives.  

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