In the years Deborah Herridge worked in Lewes, she never fancied a dip in Pells. But when she returned to town last summer it was in her new and much hardier identity as Channel swimmer in waiting…
I used to work in Lewes as the Education Officer at the castle, and it saddens me I didn’t swim in the pool during that time. The idea of open water swimming didn’t appeal back then – I thought it would be too cold! – but I’m so glad I have found it now: it has changed my life in so many positive ways, and I’ve swum through the last two winters in just my swimsuit, cap and goggles.
When I finally visited the beautiful Pells Pool last summer, it was one of those great British summer days when the weather doesn’t know what to do with itself. I’d travelled about 60 miles from Hampshire to experience it for the very first time – this little gem of a pool tucked away at the bottom of town. I started my laps, and the heavens opened. Luckily, I love swimming in the rain these days: The feeling of the raindrops lashing down on you as you glide through the water, the sound of them bouncing off the sea or pool, it’s truly a joyful experience.
I’ve been open water swimming now for three years, completing a 7-mile swim diagonally across the busy Solent near the Isle of Wight and, last year, a two-way swim of 14 miles. I’ve raised 10k for charity, and now I am on a mission for my next big swim.
Sometime between 28th August and the 4th September 2017 I will set off from Dover and swim 21 miles across the English Channel to France. I’ll be doing this mammoth challenge to raise funds for five charities close to my heart.
The Channel is famously unpredictable and one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. I will have a pilot boat alongside me guiding my way, and once I start the swim, I will not be allowed to touch the boat or a person until I step on French sand/rocks. I’m told that more people have climbed Mount Everest than have swum the English Channel.
There’s a likelihood that the swim will cover many more miles with the tides pushing me sideways when it changes every 6 hours. Most swimmers paths are an S-shape because of this. The swim will take around 14-16 hours or more depending on the weather and conditions on the day. As always, I’ll just be swimming in my swim costume, cap and goggles, with no assistance from the thermal qualities and buoyancy of a wetsuit – and in any case they’re not allowed under the Channel rules!
You can follow Deborah’s progress on Twitter @DHerridge68