'Unique and demanding' English Channel swim to fund vital new equipment for Chichester children with special needs

In a bid to raise £5,000 to fund sensory equipment for disabled children in Chichester, a group of swimmers are going to take on the English Channel.

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 12:24 pm

Fordwater School needs help to update and add new equipment to its hydrotherapy pool to be able to deliver high quality therapeutic interventions, needed by the children, who have 'profound and multiple disabilities'.

"Many of the children at the school have shortened lives, multiple disabilities, and autism," said deputy headteacher Kathryn Crosby who is also a member of the East Wittering-based Jolly Swimmers.

"We want to raise money for children who can’t access the sea as easily as we can but who benefit from swimming.

"Immersion in warm water helps the children manage their pain from muscle spasms and stiff joints, the buoyancy supports their bodies and allows them to float and move and relax in a way that is impossible for them on ‘dry land’.

"Most importantly, children just love the time having fun in the pool out of their wheelchairs."

The Jolly Swimmers swim all year round in the sea, 'whatever the weather'.

In July, they will be swimming across the English Channel, with the aim of raising £5,000 to buy sensory swimming equipment.

The Jolly Swimmers have officially started training for the challenge. Photo: Steve Robards SR2105081

Kathryn said it is 'considered by many to be the ultimate long distance challenge', adding: "It is a unique and demanding swim.

"It will take between 12 - 18 hours of swimming in unpredictable conditions and including through the night.

"We will be swimming through one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, possibly encountering jellyfish, planks of wood, seaweed, at the same time as managing seasickness and the cold.

"The sea temperature in July ranges from 14 - 18 degrees [and] no wetsuits are allowed.

The Jolly Swimmers have officially started training for the challenge. Photo: Steve Robards SR2105081 SUS-210805-124456001

"We have officially started our training, with no wetsuits, boots or gloves from now on, to adapt to the cold, and practice swims at night too. The current water temperature is nine degrees."

With two months to go, the fundraiser has reached over 50 per cent of the £5,000 target.

Kathryn continued: "We understand what a difference getting in the water makes to our own physical and mental health, which is why we hurl ourselves into the freezing waves and wind most days.

"We have all felt incredibly lucky to be able to swim throughout both lockdowns, and have benefited from having the sea on our doorstep. We swim for fun and try to live by our motto ‘the Jolly Way'.

The Jolly Swimmers have officially started training for the challenge. Photo: Steve Robards SR2105081 SUS-210805-124529001

"We are called the Jolly Swimmers because we swim at the bottom of Joliffe Road but the word Jolly has come to mean much more – especially since Covid-19."

Kathryn will be attempting the challenge alongside six other swimmers; Marit Ohrndorf, a paediatric A&E doctor at St Richard's Hospital; Toby Wilsher, a theatre director; Ellie Ward, a solicitor; Adriano Rolden, Indo-Board distributor; Maria Moorhouse, a British sign language worker; Emma Kelly, a yoga teacher, and Frith Roche, an events manager.

They will be supported by swimming coach Tim Strange, who has swam the channel twice on his own and swim training partner Paula Wickens.

If you would like to donate, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jollyswimmers