It’s all very well filling in a form thinking it’s a nice idea to learn to open water swim but quite another matter to face the prospect of actually getting in the Thames and splashing down it – for a Mile. Also there’s nothing quite like signing up then immediately seeing news reports of an unusual creature swimming upstream by Greenwich to get you thinking about what lies beneath the surface! I’ve been told visibility in the river is silty and poor and to be honest, at over 2.5m deep it might as well be bottomless. Eels, trout, pike, crayfish and over 350 species of “creatures with no backbone” live in the river. All of which I hope stay firmly away from the Henley area during the event or there may be a new record set for swimming to the bank.
My interest in the possibility of open water swimming as more than a ‘dip’ in a sea or lake was sparked by watching a couple wade into Derwent water – and keep going. Suddenly the water didn’t seem like it was a barrier to be tackled with boats and other unobtainable paraphernalia but more an access route, quieter than all the surrounding access routes of hiking trails and roads. To use natures free waterpark (see picture) which seemed previously unreachable. The idea that you could swim to an island and explore (Swallows and Amazons style) seemed very tempting. The Henley Mile has its own Ransome style Wild Cat Island called ‘Temple Island’ which marks the finish point of the swim. So in my training I’m going to try and keep the idea of an island adventure at the front of my mind, to swim a mile to an uninhabited island appeals to the Enid Blyton/Arthur Ransome fantasist in me. Just hope there’s lashings of ginger beer at the finish.