Since 2015, Laura has done many Aspire swims, including a Night Swim, Loch Lomond, Solent and a number of Relay Channel Swims.  She is also a boat leader, supporting Aspire’s Relay Channel Swimmers.

When I was younger, I swam competitively, but gave it up in my teens, as most people do.  I’d always stayed active and had done a few running events such as the Great North Run, when in 2008 I saw there was going to be a Great North Swim.  I had to give it a go - it was perfect as it was back home in the Lakes and it was a swim, so I started training again in a pool. I didn’t do any open water swimming beforehand and hired a wetsuit on the day, but from the second I started that swim in Windermere I was hooked. Open water events were few and far between at the time, but I did as many as I could, including some triathlons, but I really loved the swimming part, and this led to lots of swims in different locations and year-round outdoor swimming.  

I swim because it always makes sense to me. It is the place where I can go and shut off from everything else that is going on and have time out to think. Swimming particularly helped me through losing my mum a few years ago. I have learnt so much about myself in the water, both physically and mentally. I’ve made so many wonderful friends, everyone is just so supportive of whatever you want to achieve and wherever you are someone is always up for a swim. I have had some amazing adventures. 

I found out about Aspire when I did some research on doing a Relay Channel Swim, after someone mentioned that it was possible. I thought a solo was out of the question but perhaps I could do a relay. It was something I'd thought about for years and Aspire was the obvious choice as they had such a lot of experience and gave full support. I knew about them from when I joined their Night Swim in 2015, which I did as a bit of a test to myself as if I hated it, then I wouldn’t pursue the thought of a Channel relay… but I loved it.   

Laura on a boat for her Jersey to France swim

After my Relay Channel Swim with Aspire I did some bigger swims, but I missed being part of a team. The Channel is pretty special, but the team at Aspire are too and I’d had such a wonderful experience with my Channel crossing that I wanted to stay involved and help other people achieve what I did, so I became a volunteer boat leader for them.  From that, I have had the chance to also do many more swims for Aspire. 

Jersey to France

After my Channel relay in 2018 I had pushed myself to do some swims that I never thought I would be capable of - Dart 10Km, Thames Marathon, Hellespont - but as I was thinking about what to do next, I happened to be chatting on the beach in Dover to Mel Tyrrell from one of the Aspire Relay teams who had subsequently gone on to complete a Channel solo and she gave me the inspiration and information on how to book. The Jersey to France swim is similar to the English Channel, just on a smaller scale. The swim is 14 miles in a straight line but - as any long distance swimmer knows - swimming in a straight line is a rarity!  Taking tidal movements into account, I would be covering a distance of about 15-18 miles. 

Laura swimming

The two things I had to focus on for this swim were (a) the distance, because the furthest I’d swum before was 8.5 miles and (b) the cold as it was going to be warmer than the Channel, but the qualification swim is the same - six hours in under 16 degrees!  So I tried to do as many long swims of 4/5 hours as I could, and planned a few events along the way with increasing distances.  I completed the length of Ullswater and the length of Windermere as training swims and I also took part in a three person Channel Relay in June, which also helped with the cold as it was still around 14 degrees. 

Laura swimming

As with the Channel, for a Jersey to France swim you are booked on a tide. I had spoken to Matt the pilot and given the chance to go on Friday morning but he’d said that the conditions weren’t ideal and would be a bit choppy.  I decided it couldn’t be too bad and I should take the opportunity as I was in Jersey and it was going to be my only chance, otherwise I’d have to come back home and wait for a call.  In the end the conditions were worse than we had expected. I set off at 4.13am from St Catherine’s in Jersey and - I’m not going to lie - it was hard. From the first hour in the dark it was very rough and every third breath I was just inhaling water. I couldn’t see where the waves were coming from, but I thought I’d stick it out until sunrise, when I would then at least be able to see the waves coming at me. I settled in a bit and thought I was getting close but actually wasn’t anywhere near. I didn’t feel like I’d been swimming, just battling the conditions, but I just kept trying. 

The pilot told me afterwards that it had not been the 8 knots he’d expected but 16 and touching gale force on occasions. I didn’t say very much to the crew when I stopped to feed, and they didn’t stop me, so I just kept going. I thought several times they’d pull me out as the weather was too bad or I was going so slowly I’d never finish but they didn’t.

I’m very proud I didn’t quit that swim, which I could have many times. Physically it hurt but that was definitely more of a mental battle won with myself. I ended up swimming 21 miles and raising almost £1,000.

The track of Lauras swim

Aspire is such a wonderful charity, supporting people with Spinal Cord Injury move from injury to independence. I found out about them through swimming but it’s great that by doing something I love to do that I can help even a little bit.  The team at Aspire have been so supportive through all my swims and training. Without them I wouldn’t have had the courage to give this a go. 

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