THE UK’s biggest open-water swimming event, the Great North Swim, will welcome thousands of swimmers from around the country, and further afield, to its new home of Brockhole on Windermere for the first time this weekend.  

Set in the stunning surroundings of the Lake District National Park from the 8 – 10 June, the event welcomes swimmers of all ages and abilities. Challenges range from the beginner 250m wave for anyone aged 8 and up all the way through to the gruelling 10k marathon swim, which takes an average of four hours in the water.

Now in its eleventh year, the three-day festival of swimming will also feature the popular SwimRun element and an exciting elite race.  

Amongst the swimmers taking part will be Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell, tackling the two-mile event on Friday. Lindsey will be getting some top tips from Great Swim ambassador, Double World Champion and Olympic Silver medallist Keri-anne Payne, who will be on hand across the weekend meeting swimmers and offering advice.

Charity fundraisers 

Many of those taking part are raising money for worthy causes close to their hearts, including the events official charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support. Dumfries surgeon, 61-year-old Fanus Dreyer decided to take up the challenge following his own battle last year. Fanus was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent a lobectomy, the removal of half a lung, at the Golden Jubilee hospital in Glasgow in July 2017, followed by chemotherapy.

Fanus said, "I was well prepared for the physical consequences of surgery and how long that recovery would take, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional and other effects of chemotherapy and its side effects."

“Only a few months after surgery I signed up to the Great North Swim as a long-term goal, that would keep me mentally focussed in my recovery.

“Before my operation, I was a keen outdoor swimmer, and had swum 2 miles at both the Great North and Great Scottish Swims. I hope the one mile distance is a realistic goal and it’s given me something to aim for and look forward to.”

34-year-old Natasha Langthorne from Lytham St. Anne's is tackling this year's Great North Swim after her husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November.

Inspired by her bravery, fourteen of their friends and family, including sister-in-law Sarah, have now signed up to take on the event with them and will also fundraise for Macmillan.

Natasha has been supporting on the side-lines for many years but this is her first time in the water.

“My husband has always done the Great North Swim for as long as I can remember, as a personal challenge.  Last year my step-son Charlie also took on the 250m for the first time. They both love being in the water.

“David had promised him that he would take on a longer distance with him in 2018, but we realised when he got diagnosed that it wasn't really going to be possible. I really wanted the children to be able to do all the things that they would normally do.

“It's a massive psychological challenge for me, I don't even like getting my face wet!”

Improved event experience

The new site will offer an improved event experience for swimmers and spectators alike, with family activities, a selection of restaurants and catering outlets and the brand new Handsome Beer Tent, serving locally brewed beer, ales and lagers as well as wines and spirits from 11am until 10pm, accompanied by acoustic music.

Great Swim Director Alex Jackson said, “We’re really excited to be staging our first event at Brockhole this weekend. The new location is a great opportunity to take the event to the next level.

“As the largest and most well established swim series in the UK, Great Swim offers an unparalleled open water event experience. The safety of our participants is our number one priority, and first timers can be assured that our safety experts and kayak team will be with them every stroke of the way.”