I have always been a big fan of swimming but spent most of my time in the pool. Although I have dipped my toe in to open water swimming, it’s not something I was very good at and, in all honesty, it scared me a bit. Prior to this challenge I had swum in the lake and sea a couple of times but nothing really to write home about and I was aways the mum who wouldn’t totally immerse herself in the sea when at the seaside with the kids in the summer holidays. However I was always envious of wild swimmers and thought it would be cool to be able to swim in open water all year round. This challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to tackle this head on and give me the push I needed to finally become a wild swimmer.  

The Eagles team standing together on the beach

Since November, when we signed up for this challenge, I have been swimming in lakes, rivers and the sea and haven’t worn a wetsuit once, even in the colder months when the water temperature has been as low as 6C.  Whilst sometimes the after drop has been something I definitely do not enjoy, the time in the water and the feeling afterwards is epic. As I thought I would, now that I have fully embraced open water swimming I really enjoy it – it makes me super happy. My eight year old daughter has been joining me in recent months and I’ve really enjoyed sharing this with her and she loves swimming in the river.

Louise being helped out the water by her daughter

The Aspire relay Channel swim challenge just sort of fell into my lap. I am a partner at Moore Barlow which is a law firm affiliated to Aspire and I’m also a member of our charity committee. We have a well-established relationship with Aspire and I became aware of their various swimming challenges during a catch up with them. I was sure I could get a relay team together for the Channel swim and sure enough, I did. Our relay team consists of six women from different departments and offices within our firm who all had very personal reasons as to why they wanted to join the challenge and all of them have achieved their own personal challenges. From a personal viewpoint, I joined Moore Barlow late in 2019 and the following March we went into lockdown and so I didn’t get to know my new work colleagues in the usual way. My teammates are now friends of mine and I have made more friends within the firm through chatting about the event (and forcing them to eat cake).

The Eagle team jumping on the beach

At the time of writing this we are eagerly awaiting the green light to swim. Our tide date is 31st July but with the recent changeable weather it is up in the air as to when we will go. Trying to keep the training going at the moment is difficult as we don’t know when we will swim. However it’s probably good to have a bit of a break as we have been training hard since December with double and triple swims, swim qualifiers, swim weekends with the charity in Dover and night swimming. My record was swimming 17 miles in eight days which left me pretty tired but feeling prepared for what is to come.  

Our fundraising has been going really well and as a team we have exceeded our target but we really want to raise as much as we can to help improve the lives of those with spinal cord injuries.  As well as asking for donations we have held a curry and quiz, bingo, bake sales, book sales, raffles for hampers and a weekend at a holiday cottage, held an open day at a garden in Lymington, organised a netball tournament and are currently running a ‘guess how long it will take us to swim the channel’ competition!

Aspire has been very supportive in our training and fundraising and with all of their experience, they have perfected the training weekends so that you come away from them full of confidence and knowing that you can smash this. Our boat leader, Bexy, is great – very positive and encouraging and we have all built a really good relationship with her.

To anyone thinking of taking on this challenge I would say go for it and be prepared to give it your all and train hard. You don’t want to be in the middle of the Channel thinking you could have given it more. Go to all of the Dover weekends and throw yourself in to it 100%.  And also try out the Turkish restaurant in Dover – it’s awesome! As for myself I had been thinking that I might give myself a bit of a break but have since had a bit of a rethink – I quite fancy signing up for a Chillswim next year!

After the swim

The Aspire Eagles successfully swam the Channel on Sunday 20th August in 14 hours 53 minutes. Louise said: 

The actual swimming in the channel was the easy part. The hard part was dealing with all of the unknowns - setting off in the dark, how to swim by a boat, diesel fumes, changeovers - until you do it, nothing can prepare you for it.  I swam three times; the first time was to set us off in the dark and it was quite choppy still at that point.  Conditions levelled off and the second swim was still lumpy but my final swim was glorious - calm water and sunshine, and it felt like I had only been in for ten minutes. Looking back on it now, the best bit was starting us off. I had been really worried about it leading up to it and was really scared. But once I got on with it, it was ok; it was as bad as I expected but I coped.  Landing in France was huge. We all got to go in together which is rare. We weren’t allowed to overtake the last swimmer but we were all so excited I almost did!  Swimming the channel was just an awesome, scary and mind blowing, but amazing experience.

Sponsor Louise 

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