Meet the Brentford river swimmer raising money for Chiswick Lifeboats

  Posted: 27.08.21 at 11:11 by Hannah Davenport

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A Brentford open water swimmer is fundraising for the Chiswick Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) whilst raising crucial awareness about water safety.

Sara Ward, 51, is undertaking a 5km swim in the London Royal Docks on 4 September, in aid of her local lifeboat services.

Ward, who describes herself as the “least sporty person you could possible meet”, discovered the joys of open water swimming just after her 50th birthday.

She currently goes out two or three times a week and has been building up her stamina in the nearby river Thames and river Jubilee near Maidenhead.

She said: “What’s wonderful about open water swimming is I feel like I’ve been picked out of my busy life and dropped into nature.

“You can’t see a building or car, you've got no computer or phone and you’re in the water with swans and nobody can interrupt you or ask you to do anything else.

Ward braved 3.6 degree temperatures last winter. Credit: Sara Ward

Ward started swimming in rivers last September when lakes were closed during lockdown and was braving 3.6 degree temperatures during the winter.

She said: “The currents are quite fun, you get swooshed along.

“We found one little place where there wasn’t so much currents but otherwise, in some of the main parts, we would put our bags down on the bank and walk up a kilometre, get in the water then swoosh back down to our bags.”

Ward runs a Brentford based business called Hen Corner which aims to help city dwellers lead a country life through hands-on courses including, bee keeping, bread making and wood carving.

Open water swimming is often seen as a country pursuit, not accessible to London residents but Ward aims to disprove this, whilst also making people aware of the risks involved.

Chiswick is one of the RNLI's newest lifeboat stations. Credit: Flickr

She hopes the money raised through her Facebook fundraiser will go towards educational programs that will raise awareness about water safety.

She said: “I wanted to make sure I was raising money for the Chiswick Lifeboat branch specifically because I want to shout out to local schools to teach the children about water safety.

“Learning to swim is one things, but learning about the dangers of water is an even more valuable skill than taking chances and potentially losing a life.

“I love water, I grew up with water and my parents have a boat so I'm very used to it myself and understanding the risks, but lots of people in London won't know.”

She added: “It's the Chiswick lifeboat station that is patrolling the stretch of river near where I live and I really appreciate all they are doing.”

Chiswick RNLI recently teamed up with the London Fire Brigade to deliver water safety training to local riverside venues ahead of easing lockdown restrictions.

The RNLI lifeboat services are a registered charity and do not receive any central government funding, relying solely on charitable donations.

Last year saw 631 water related fatalities in the UK, reported by the Water Incident Database (WAID), highlighting the importance of water safety training.

The 5km swim organised by Dock2Dock, will see 1,000 swimmers splash through the London Royal Docks under the Emirates cable car and alongside London City Airport.

You can find Ward’s fundraising page Here.

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