A PHOTOGRAPHER who grew up in Stonor is preparing to swim the Solent.
Emma Myrtle, whose cousin is explorer and adventurer Bear Grylls, will be attempting the challenge between Portsmouth and Ryde on September 28.
She says that her fear of the sea (and sharks) is making her feel particularly nervous about her up-coming challenge which is in aid of the Louis Dundas Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The centre, which provides palliative care to children with life-limiting and life-threatening diseases, was set up by her friend Max’s parents in memory of their four-year-old son who died of a brain tumour.
Miss Myrtle, 35, swam the Thames for the same cause last year and raised about £1,000. She says she hopes to raise much more with her latest challenge.
She said: “Max told me about the charity and I really wanted to do something to raise a lot of money because it’s an amazing cause, especically as he told me that Louis’ condition was made harder because there is not that much research into pallative care.”
She says it has been very difficult organising the challenge as she has had to arrange for herself and each of the seven swimmers accompanying her to have a canoe following them, as well as two safety boats. The team, which includes comedian Josie Long, who Miss Myrtle approached after hearing she enjoys outdoor swimming, will take a 45-minute ferry from Portsmouth to the start before swimming back.
They estimate the swim will take about two-and-a-half hours. Miss Myrtle, who now lives in Fulham, says she might sneak a bottle of brandy into her canoe to keep her going.
The group have come a long way since their intitial training, as they could barely swim a length.
She said: “We have all improved greatly as I must admit at first I did wonder how we were ever going to be able to do it. I have certainly never done anything like this before but if I was going to do a challenge I wanted it to be challenging.”
She says she is determined to get over her fear of sharks and has made considerable progress since deciding on her challenge.
“It’s something I’ve got to get over. I think it’s from watching Jaws at a young age,” she said. “The fact that I’m now swimming in the sea in Brighton is a massive step as I would never even go into it in the past.”
Miss Myrtle has been having cold baths in preparation for the low water temperature and has been waking up at 6am most days to swim before she starts work.
As well as swimming five or six miles a week in the pool she has also been swimming in the sea in Brighton at weekends with the rest of the team.
She got more into swimming while she was visiting her sister Lucy in Australia earlier this year.
“It’s nicer in the sun,” she said. “My sister is really into swimming but she said she wouldn’t do it because it’s too cold.”
She says she has been unlucky as many of the swimming events she had planned to do in preparation for her challenge have been cancelled, including this year’s Henley Swim, but she has found the Olympics encouraging,
She said: “The Olympics has been really inspiring and I am hoping a couple of friends will come down and cheer us along as I’ve seen that the crowd can make such a difference. I watched Mo Farah and he was really flagging until the crowd got behind him.”
Miss Myrtle has asked her famous cousin for his advice and he has suggested lots of practice and focus. She said: “I’m nervous but I know I’m going to do it. As I have organised the whole thing I am quite conscious that I’ve got to keep very positive and rally everyone along and watch out for everyone else. My parents think I am mad.”
To sponsor Miss Myrtle visit www.swimthesolent.org or send a cheque made out to The Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to Brigadier Andrew Myrtle, Pen Guen, Stonor, Henley, Oxon, RG9 6HB.