We've announced a Year of Challenges for 2022, which will see various of us attempt to swim the Bristol Channel, the North Channel, the Freedom Swim in South Africa, and the length of the Thames from navigable source to swimmable sea. The swims are part of this year’s campaign to raise awareness of river and ocean pollution and campaign for an end to sewage discharges in our waterways.
We will be supporting raising money for environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage. Surfers Against Sewage is a national marine conservation and campaigning charity that inspires, unites and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife.
These include: Laura swimming from Robben Island to Cape Town, and all of us becoming the first all-female team to swim the Bristol Channel. In addition to this we will all be swimming the length of the Thames over the course of the summer, also Laura & Joan will be aiming to complete the prestigious triple Crown of channel swims by swimming the North Channel from Ireland to Scotland.
We all feel that swimming together has made us aware of the terrible state of our rivers. Only 14% of rivers in England are considered to be in good ecological health. The Environmental Audit Committee found that our rivers are being polluted with a chemical cocktail of sewage, slurry and microplastics. We are proud to use our voices to stand up for our rivers and for our beloved River Thames.
In April I, Laura Reineke will kick-off the year’s activities by swimming from Robben Island to Cape Town, a swim known as the “Freedom Swim”. Robben Island was where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. It is also known for its large population of great white sharks attracted by their main food source (apart from ridiculous swimmers) seals. I have to say I’m terrified but also incredibly excited, it will be moving and inspiring to attempt the Freedom Swim, not to mention rather chilly. The thought of the Great Whites will keep me moving, though. I've been very kindly sponsored by Philip Booth Esq Estate Agents.
In June 2022, myself & Joan will attempt to swim the North Channel, along with fellow swimmers Keri Hutchinson & Jane Hardy, both swimming royalty. Jane lives in Northumberland; she is an advanced Marine Mammal Medic, a swim coach and was the first and only English lady to swim an Ice Kilometer in Antarctica. Although, my favorite fact about Jane is that currently she has 2 seal cubs and 15 hedgehogs in her garage! Kerri lives in South Wales and her favorite swim venues are primarily various beaches along the Bristol Channel but mainly at Barry and Penarth. Keri is a regular marathon swimmer having completed over 8! She's completed a couple of ice kilometers, but her favourite swim of all time was the Alcatraz Shark Fest swim.
The shortest distance across the North Channel in a straight line is 34.5 Kilometers. Water temperature will be a very chilly 11 - 13 degrees. There are many jellyfish, including Lion's Mane Jellies!
The North Channel swim is considered the toughest of the Seven Ocean Sea Swims. The seven ocean swims include the English Channel between England and France and the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Henley Information Systems are generously sponsoring this swim.
Joan, while looking forward to swimming the length of the Thames and the Bristol Channel with all the Mermaids this summer, Irish born Joan said taking on the challenge of swimming from Northern Ireland to Scotland will be very special. “It will be a chance for my family and friends in Ireland to be on the ground and live the experience with us. It is the toughest of all the challenges we’ve ever attempted. I am so excited to become a Triple Crown swimmer!"
In July we ALL will be re-attempting the Bristol Channel, having had our first attempt last summer aborted after swimming 61km, and only 4km from finishing. The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world and is being kindly sponsored by Hanson Regan.
Throughout the summer we hope to swim the length of the Thames in sections to highlight the issue of pollution in our rivers. We will be doing this in sections, over the course of the whole summer, as soon as the river gets warm enough to do longer distances.
Mermaid Jo Robb said, “Over the course of the past two years, we’ve raised more than £72,000 for Henley Music School and charities for brain condition. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our family, friends and community. This year we are raising money and awareness around pollution in our waterways, and joining the fight to help save our rivers.”
We are also participating a series of river cleans, to coincide with World Rivers Day, and Earth Day. We are asking for local residents to come along and help on April 24th & September 24th. To register your attendance, please fill in the form on the website the more the merrier!
Susan Barry said, “The river Thames is a national treasure that is enjoyed by boaters, swimmers, walkers, paddleboarders. It’s also home to a huge array of wildlife. It’s time we treated our rivers with the respect they deserve. I hope people will support us this year.”
Mermaid Fiona Print said, "We have a variety of challenges this year with our love of open water swimming at its centre. Our rivers belong to us all and need our voice to help to protect them"
Wild swimming over 500 miles in 2022 must simultaneously be an exhilarating and demanding prospect – what a challenge! We couldn’t be more proud to have been selected by the Henley Mermaids as their nominated charity for 2022. They’ll be swimming in the ocean and rivers that Surfers Against Sewage are committed to protecting through our campaigns and community initiatives. We’ll be battling tides of pollution and plastic, whilst they battle the tides of the channels, rivers and oceans they're going to swim in. Thank you for highlighting the plight of the ocean and the need for more Ocean Activism in this most crucial decade for the environment. We wish The Henley Mermaids all the best in preparation for their challenges, and look forward to sharing their incredible achievements with our communities.
Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage