Louise’s mettle to be tested on English Channel swim

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A Bury St Edmunds swimming teacher is set to take on ‘the Everest of open-water swimming’ in a bid to raise funds in memory of her late uncle.

Louise Stratford, from Rickinghall, will attempt to swim solo the 21 gruelling miles across the English Channel to France next month.

The Dover-to-Calais challenge, which is due to take place, weather permitting, on a tide between August 14-18, is said to be as much mental as it is physical.

But the 33-year-old, who teaches at Swim School at Abbeycroft Leisure Centre in Bury as well as in Diss, hopes the scale of it can help raise vital funds to go towards refurbishing the chemotherapy outpatient clinics and day unit in the Woolverstone Wing of Ipswich Hospital.

It was there that her uncle Stephen Rose was treated before losing his battle to bowel cancer at the age of 53 in December 2010.

Straftord, a part-time art teacher at Hewett High School in Norwich, said: “The appeal is the challenge.

“I went to swimming club until I was 12 and I was very average so I gave up and carried on swimming for pleasure.

“I then wanted to lose a bit of weight five years ago and started swimming again, gradually increasing from 3k to 5k to 10k swims as I kept looking for the next challenge.

“The Channel was then suggested and I decided to do it.”

She added: “I have always wanted to swim the Channel anyway, but it is a good opportunity to raise some money for the Woolverstone Wish Fund in memory of my uncle who died of bowel cancer.”

The demand and constraints of swimming the English Channel are such that Stratford, who now swims again for Diss Otters in masters events, had to book her crossing back in 2010.

It was then she started the hard training, taking on the Great East Swim at Alton Water in Sutton as well as 
the famous Hellespont crossing from Europe to Asia in Turkey and this year completed her longest swim 
to date, the 10.5 miles across Lake Windermere in Cumnbria.

She has also swam the Great London Swim and the River Deben and as she gears up to the big day, Stratford is currently spending six days a week swimming, building in a couple of sessions at the gym and a yoga class.

Her weekends are currently spent in Dover swimming around the port, with one of her latest sessions seeing her swim six hours on the Saturday and four hours on the Sunday.

“I am trying not to think about how long it will take,” she said of swimming the English Channel. “I just want to get across, but I am hoping to get around 16 hours.

“People say it is 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical, but I was reading the other day that there is a lady from Warwick University who said it is 100 per cent physical and 100 per cent mental.”

Stratford will have to hire a pilot boat for her swim with boyfriend Julian Harvey and friend Sarah Taylor, who has completed the crossing herself, aboard for support and to feed her.

She hopes to smash her fundraising target of £500, having already gone past half-way.

To sponsor Louise, visit her Just Giving page at: 
www.justgiving.com/
Louise-Stratford