High Peak teens to swim English Channel in bid to raise £25,000 for learning disability charity

Three High Peak teens are to make a big splash for cash this summer as they attempt to swim the English Channel and raise £25,000 for charity.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:37 am

Katie-Ann Smith,15, and Charlie Barnes, 14, from Buxton, and Whaley Bridge resident Reece Bromley, 14, are among a team of 12 students from Beech Hall School in Macclesfield who will attempt the feat in August or September.

They have taken on the challenge from coach Nikki Pope, who is well on the way to raising £100,000 for learning disability charity Mencap having completed her own solo and relay crossings of the Channel in recent years.

Reece’s mum Danielle Bromley said: “The school’s headteacher was part of the Mencap Marvels who swam the relay last summer, and they decided it would be a great thing for the students to take on.”

Those who volunteered, aged 12 to 16, have been in training since September. Three of the team compete for Buxton Swimming Club but all have had to build up the necessary endurance.

They have braved the school’s outdoor pool through snow and hail in the depths of winter when the heating was off. They have also had an intensive programme of training on dry land to build up their cardiovascular fitness.

In March they completed a two-hour qualification swim and then a 21-mile overnight relay swim in the pool which took more than 12 hours. In the next few weeks, they will head to the south coast for their first experience of training in the Channel.

Danielle said: “They have been so dedicated, and work incredibly as a team. They have been out there doing everything they can to get ready, build up their resilience and learning to support each other. Not one of them has ever wavered.

The Beech Hall School students have been training outdoors in all weather conditions since September.

“But they are also having great fun. It’s been an amazing thing for them to focus on during the pandemic. Reece is really proud to be part of it.”

The exact date of the swim will depend on the tides. The students will set off in two boats of six, and each swimmer will be in the water for an hour at a time. To qualify as an official crossing, they are not allowed to wear wetsuits, and run the risk of extreme sunburn and jellyfish stings.

Danielle said: “There is so much pressure on them and so many factors out of their control. Anything could go wrong with the weather, the boat, and if any one of the students breaks down they will all have to turn back – but my gut feeling is that they will make it.”

Nikki completed her first 18-hour crossing for Mencap in 2019 as a way to thank the charity for its support for her nephew Zach, who lives with autism, and around 1.4million other people in the UK with learning disabilities.

The school team has already raised more than £5,000 for the cause, and hope to rally support from the local business community. To make a donation https://bit.ly/3hFdfWx

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