17 May 2021

Swimmers make a big splash for hospice care

Our Open Water Swim welcomed over 100 people to Merchant Taylors’ Lake on Saturday 15 May. Most donned wetsuits, and some even less, as they braved 15-degree water temperatures to raise vital funds for the local charity.

Following a long period of restrictions, the Open Water Swim was the first active event held by charity since September 2020. Swimmers were invited to take part in either a timed and or untimed swim and were set off on their challenge one by one, meaning that participants of all capabilities were able to enjoy the lake in a safe and socially distanced manner.  

locals dive in to Merchan't Taylors Lake in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice Care

Sam Hollier of Northchurch, Berkhamsted, took the plunge as an avid fan of open water swimming and as ​one of our supporters: “We’ve had family members cared for by Rennie Grove. The care they provide touched our hearts, so we wanted to get involved and support in some way. I’m a huge lover of open water swimming, and I’ve been doing it for almost two years. I’m doing 400m timed today, but I might push it to 750m!”

Discussing the difference between swimming in a lake and swimming in an enclosed pool, Sam said: “What I love is that it’s really refreshing to be outdoors with like-minded people, you can’t beat it.” Sam also recognised the importance of hospice care: “Having a service like Rennie Grove in the community means everything; for a loved one to be looked after in their own home makes a huge difference to everyone in the family.” 

Swimmers soaking up the feel-good atmosphere

Clancy Criss of St Albans and Lou Ward of Beaconsfield were joined by their teenage daughters, none of whom had ever swam in open waters before. Lou said: “Clancy is a volunteer counsellor for Rennie Grove, she managed to rope us all into doing something a bit different. We’ve done fundraising events in the past, but none of us have ever done anything like open water swimming before.” After they’d completed their challenge, Clancy said: “Once we got going, it was surprisingly enjoyable, I’m glad we went for it! The four of us have been fundraising too, so there are a few pennies coming Rennie Grove’s way too which is the most important thing.” 

Leonie Lowrie of Redbourn took on the 400m swim as a newcomer to this style of swimming: “I’ve always had a hankering to try it, so when I saw that Rennie Grove were hosting, I thought hey, let’s give it a go! I managed to convince some friends to dip their toes in with me and we’ve been encouraging each other.” Wrapped in her robe to get dry afterwards, Leonie reflected on her first swim in a lake: “I didn’t know what to expect but it was just beautiful. To be out there, trying something new and exciting with friends and family after the year we’ve all had, and to be supporting a local charity, is brilliant.” 

9 year old Maddy getting ready to swim with her mum Julia

While many active events attract sports enthusiasts, the Open Water Swim also brought families together to take on a challenge together. 9-year-old Madeline Merritt from Redbourn was inspired to take part with her mum Julia: “Mum does it a lot and I wanted to try it, but I also wanted to raise some money for charity.” Maddy reflected on her challenge: “It was a lot of fun, and the best bit was that even though it was cold at the beginning, once I’d warmed up it was relaxing. The hot chocolate I got at the end was also nice. This is my first time raising money and my grandparents have been sponsoring me. I’d definitely like to come back and give it another go!” 

Also taking part with a parent was Lauren Presland of St Albans, who beat her dad, Lee Presland, to the finish line. Lauren, who came ​first in the 400m timed challenge, talked about why she took part: “Rennie Grove cared for my aunty, so I wanted to take part and raise money because it meant a lot to our family. We’ve raised over £700 so far.” As a keen swimmer, Lauren has swum in open water before, but never at Merchant Taylors’ Lake. She said: “I really enjoyed the swim; it was a good challenge. We’d love to come back and do it again.” 

Lauren and her Dad, Lee, raised over £700 for Rennie Grove

While the untimed swim and the 400m swim proved tough but fun, ​we reserved one challenge for strong swimmers: the timed 1,500m distance. Stephen Gould of Beaconsfield, said: “I don’t need to know anyone directly impacted by Rennie Grove to know that it’s a great and well-loved local cause. Our group is doing a channel relay next year and it’s the first time we’ve been able to get together for a timed event in almost two years which is excellent. None of us have swum here at Merchant Taylors’ before which makes it exciting too, we’ve not been in the water for a while so we’re looking forward to testing our fitness levels!” 

Senior Challenge & Special Events Fundraiser, Emily Elvin, said: “We’re thrilled to be hosting outdoor fundraising activities again, and it’s wonderful to see people coming out to show their support. Our swimmers have done brilliantly, raising an amazing £12,200 towards our nursing care and support for local families facing life-limiting illness. Thank you to Active Training World for supporting the event and helping everything run smoothly on the day. 

“Families have been depending on us more than ever during the pandemic, and we continue to rely heavily on the generosity of the community to keep our services going. Thanks to our supporters, our nurses have been able to keep visiting patients in their homes throughout. Thank you to everyone who participated, your support will help to keep patients at home with their loved ones and make every moment together matter.” 

Think you'd like to have a go next year? Fill out the short enquiry form on the Open Water Swim page here and we'll be in touch with all the details for 2022's event.