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Boxing Day swim in doubt amid safety fears
Published 22/12/12

A BOXING DAY swim across the Thames in Henley is set to be called off.

The Environment Agency says that following the recent rain and floods, the river is still flowing too fast for even motorboats to navigate it.

For the past two years, a group of hardy souls has taken part in the challenge, crossing the river from Red Lion Lawn to Leander Club.

Organisers of this year’s dip say they will wait until Boxing Day morning to decide whether to go ahead.

The challenge was started in 2010 by Skirmett-born siblings Doug, Beatrice and Rosie Heller, who were joined on their maiden swim by neighbour Simon Moyle and cousin Henry Collett, from Russell’s Water.

When they repeated it last year, they drew in more than 20 last-minute participants, including film stuntman Gary Connery, who somersaulted into the Thames from Henley Bridge.

Beatrice, 26, came up with the idea after moving to London and becoming a keen outdoor swimmer.

She swims at least twice a week in the Serpentine in Hyde Park and is training for next month’s Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido.

She said: “Anyone who knows our family just expects this sort of thing. Other people think we’re totally bonkers but cold water swimming is actually very good for your health.

“The first time we did it, we didn’t quite anticipate it being as cold as it was. We ended up swimming through big blocks of ice.

“We do it purely for the fun and excitement. If it keeps getting bigger we might consider doing it for charity but we don’t want it to become commercialised. It’s just something light-hearted that anyone can take part in.”

She added: “I’m crossing my fingers that the Environment Agency will take down the caution by Boxing Day.”

If the challenge does go ahead, swimmers should meet at the Angel on the Bridge pub in Thames Side at 11am with the swim starting at 11.30am.

The swim will be called off if there are red board warnings on the day. For the latest advice, visit riverconditions.environment-agency.gov.uk

Published 22/12/12

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