Porthcawl – 6 November

November 25, 2010

I had to change the destination for my 11th swim from Weston Super Mare to Porthcawl in South Wales due to the tide. I didn’t fancy swimming in the dark at this time of year or walking through dangerous mud just to get to the water.

Porthcawl it was then, and I was joined in the water by my brave Mum who stayed in for over 12 minutes. Well done Mum! Not bad for a 61 year old!

We swam at Sandy Bay so Ryan could have a go on the fair afterwards. I haven’t been to Porthcawl since I was a small child and we had a nice day. The Sandy Bay area is a little bit dated but Ryan loved the mini-rollercoaster and the bay itself was lovely. The weather helped with the heavy rain stopping and the sun coming out just as we got to Porthcawl and the rain starting again on the way home.

The sea didn’t seem quite as cold as Herne Bay the week before but that may have been due to not really being able to swim due to injury last time. It was pretty rough and there were a few surfers who went in after us (in wetsuits – get some nuts suckers!!)

Following her earlier comments after Barry Island I was surprised when mum came downstairs in the morning and announced she had her cozzy on ready. Even then I expected her to have a quick paddle and get dressed. She is obviously made of stronger stuff than I thought as after 5 minutes I asked her if she wanted to get out and she said “No, I’m loving it!”

I enjoyed this swim too and navigating the waves was good fun. It was great to have some company in one of the cold swims which hasn’t happened since Dan joined me in February.

We dried off and then went for a much deserved cup of tea to warm up before taking Ryan to the fair and then heading home. Porthcawl remains a great place for a family day out with lots to see and do and a reat place for a swim.

Mum is now going to get some sponsorship which will help me as I get nearer to my target. Anyone who knows my Mum please sponsor her! It all goes to a great cause, Magpie Dance a wonderful charity for people with learning disabilities. You can either give Mum cash or donate online (you can say its for Jackie in the comments). To find out more about Magpie Dance go to their website.

I’d like to thank everyone that has sponsored me so far. I’ve raised over £2,400 which is brilliant but Magpie still need more. They need to raise over £250,000 a year. There are lots of people who have promised to sponsor me but not gotten around to it yet. If that is you, please do so as you are running out of time. For my twelfth and final swim I will be dodging the ferries at Dover on New Years Eve. 


Herne Bay – 31st October

November 22, 2010

I left the 10th swim a bit late to plan meaning we did it on the very last day in October. We were hoping to fit it in around a holiday but ended up going to the Peak District which was beautiful but a bit lacking in coastline. It was a really hard swim due to an injury which really hurt in the cold water and meant I couldn’t really swim to stay warm!

We got there at about midday and Nic needed one of her all-too-frequent toilet stops so we had a warm drink in a nice cafe on the front. Then we hit the beach and Ryan, wrapped in his full waterproof suit, managed to find the only bit of sand for some castle construction and demolition.

It was a gloomy autumnal day but thankfully it wasn’t too windy. I was glad as I got in that the slope of the shingle beach was pretty steep so I didn’t have to walk in too far getting colder [note to self, remember that for the 12th swim in December]. However this swim was a really hard one. The reason for this was that I had pulled a muscle in my chest a few days earlier swimming (in a pool for once) with Ryan. As soon as I was submerged it became really painful and when I tried swimming the pain increased. So I just bobbed around in very cold water for five minutes that seemed more like about half an hour!

Getting out wasn’t too bad as the outside temperature was fairly mild. I dressed then we had our sandwiches with some cheeky chips on the front and did some more playing on the beach before heading home. Once I had warmed up I actually think that the cold probably did my chest some good as it felt the best it had for days.

Herne Bay is worth a visit if you are looking for a day out in the summer.

There are lots of people who’ve said they will sponsor me and not gotten around to it yet. Please do so as you are running out of time. You can sponsor me online or give me cash or a cheque made out to Magpie Dance. It is for a really good cause, Magpie are an inclusive dance company for people with learning disabilities. They make a huge difference to people’s lives and every penny counts as they need to raise £250,000 per year to keep going. Find out more at the Magpie website.

Barry Island, Tidy! – 12th September

November 22, 2010

On the 19th of September I took a trip back to my childhood for my 9th swim and visited Barry Island, recently made famous by Gavin and Stacey. I was joined by several members of my family some of whom were even brave enough to join me for the swim.

My mum Jackie, dad Tony, nephew Thomas and son Ryan all took the plunge. I was also supported by my wife Nichola, sister Emma, uncle Clyde, Auntie Jackie, cousin (and god-daughter) Gabrielle and her boyfriend Richard. My mum Jackie said afterwards “I’m very proud of Russell and felt I should show my support by joining in for one of his swims. I can’t imagine how cold the water will be when he swims in December, it was freezing today!”

It was a pretty hot day for September, although it did rain while we were in the sea. Once we came out and dried out the sun came out and we stayed on the beach for several hours. It reminded me of childhood as we played beach bowls, football and Ryan had great fun making sand castles with Thomas.

At the end of the afternoon the relatives went home as we stayed so Ryan could have a few goes on the fair. Then we left Barry and had a nice meal in the Beefeater on the way out before driving home after a lovely day. 

I was keen to visit Wales during the challenge as I am quite patriotic and it meant that I would get a lot of support. I have fond memories of Barry Island from my childhood. We had a thoroughly enjoyable day and it was great to see my two and a half year old son Ryan have as much fun as I used to. I hope that lots of the people I know who live in Wales will sponsor me now. All of the money I raise will be used for a great cause. I have personally seen the huge difference that Magpie Dance can make to people’s lives. You can sponsor me online at www.justgiving.com/RCartwright

Although I currently live in Dartford in Kent I was born in Newport and lived in Caldicot until I was 23.  I have several childhood memories of great days out on the beach, at the fair and at Butlins in Barry. 
So far I’ve raised over £2,200 for Magpie Dance, an inclusive dance company for people with learning disabilities. My target is to raise £2,540 which will fund two members of Magpie’s Youth Group for a year. Magpie Dance receives no core funding so each year has to raise £250,000 annually to keep going. In 2010 this is proving to be harder than ever.

Thanks to everyone for their support during this swim and to Nichola who has been to every swim so far and taken the photos.

Camber Sands 30 August

September 2, 2010

For the 8th swim I enjoyed tremendous support. Around 20 Magpie supporters came to Camber Sands in Sussex, and  three brave dancers from Magpie’s Youth Group joined me in the swim (Annie Parsons and brothers Jack and Adam). Annie’s mother Lesley, Magpie’s General Manager Laura Riches and her husband to be Stuart Graham also joined in the fun. Click on the photos to see them bigger.

To have such great support for the eighth of my twelve swims meant a lot to me. Everyone I spoke to said that they had turned up because they were so impressed with the Big Swim and the money I have raised. The water was surprisingly cold for August but the seven us of who swam did really well, particularly Youth Group Dancer Annie who didn’t want to get out at the end. Maybe I will invite Annie along for the December swim!  

We all went for a hot drink and a chat in the cafe afterwards and I think everybody had a great day at the seaside.

So far I have raised £2,175 which is brilliant. A big thankyou to everyone that has contributed. If you haven’t got around to it yet you can donate online at my justgiving page. I’m hoping to raise enough money to pay for two members of Magpie’s Youth Group for a year so all your donations will help Magpie continue to run sessions which mean so much to people like Annie, Adam and Jack. If you would like to find out more about Magpie Dance go to their website.

Southend 27 July

August 31, 2010

For the July swim we headed for a family day out to Southend in Essex. We had a really nice day, it was just a shame that the weather was so grey.

We spent an hour or so playing on the shingle beach a bit away from the main centre as Ryan collected shells and stones. Then the rain came so we hid in a shelter to eat our lunch. Following that we moved down along the promenade towards the centre for a bit more exploring.

Around 2pm I took the plunge. The water was a lovely temperature and it is a nice place to swim. There is quite a steep incline which means you are quickly submerged so it was quite nice not to have to wade out a long way to swim. I swam along the beach a fair way and then struggled to make it back against the tide. When I finally did, Ryan plucked up the courage and joined me for a dip. Good lad!

Southend is actually much nicer than we expected. Ryan enjoyed the fair which was much better value than some of the resorts we have been to.

Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far. I am raising money for Magpie Dance, a great charity for people with learning disabilities. You can sponsor me here.

Minnis Bay – 27 June

August 30, 2010

For the June swim an inevitable element of competition crept in as I was joined by my good mate Phil Lund who I have known since nursery school.  We went to the lovely Minnis Bay, near Margate in Kent and challenged each other to a race around a pole attached to a groyne and back. Phil beat me by miles but it was good fun. I have challenged him to a rematch in December but he has awarded that one to me. I’ll take a drawn series.

It was a beautiful day and Minnis Bay really is worth a visit. We all would have liked to have stayed longer but wanted to dash back to watch England get stuffed by Germany.

Thanks to Phil for coming (and the very generous donation you made just afterwards). Shame you have bottled the rematch!

Liverpool Bay – 22 May

June 7, 2010

Anyone who has read my previous posts will know that I started this Big Swim at Broadstairs in Kent on New Years Day in the hail and snow during one of the coldest spells on record. The cold spell was still in full swing in Brighton in February and Bognor Regis wasn’t much warmer in March. It was a real relief than that I found myself visiting the North West during a heatwave. I’ve been to Liverpool hundreds of times over the years and I can honestly say I have never witnessed it as hot as it was for this swim. About time too!

Liverpool is an area very close to my heart. I have lots of friends in the area following my time as a student at Edge Hill University and my frequent visits to Anfield. It was fitting that I chose to do this swim so close to the fifth anniversary of one of the best days of my life so far – my trip to Istanbul for the Champions League Final! I would love to say I had planned it that way but it was all due to Tracy and Dean’s do. Spending a great long weekend there helped me remember why I love the north west so much – the people are so friendly.

The swim itself was quite pleasurable although I must admit that going in I was a bit concerned when I started seeing lots of brown floaty things! Once I convinced myself that it was sand I was OK to carry on and swam for about 15 minutes. Because it was very shallow and so hot the sea was quite a pleasant temperature. It was quite bizarre to be swimming in Liverpool Bay and looking across to the city. The beaches on the Wirral were very pleasant and Ryan had a great time playing in the sand. I went in near Kings Parade by the North Wirral Coastal Park and North Brighton.

The fundraising is going well although it has slowed down a lot lately – I need to persuade the people who have said they will sponsor me and haven’t got around to doing so to do it. So, if you are reading this you know what to do! I was at a trustee meeting for Magpie recently and they are finding it extremely hard to raise funds this year and they need to raise £250K per year. The great news is that your donations have played a big part in Magpie being able to continue with the planned number of sessions for the Youth Group so you have helped make a real difference to people’s lives. Thanks. You can sponsor me at www.justgiving.com/RCartwright

If you need a reminder, Magpie Dance is an inclusive dance company for people with learning disabilities. They do brilliant work.

Bournemouth – 19 April – Don’t be fooled by the sun!

April 23, 2010

I went in earlier than usual this time – before 11am as I was keen to return to our hotel to shower before we had to check out. I didn’t feel great before the swim as I have a bit of a stomach bug that I am struggling to shrug off  and my problematic shoulders were playing up. So, as my wife Nichola pointed out, I really wasn’t keen to get in this time. Eventually I plucked up the courage and straight away I knew why I wasn’t keen. Because it was so much warmer outside jumping into almost freezing water was a huge shock! Once again it felt like someone was sticking pins into my fingers and toes and my whole body seemed to freeze. Weirdly this time my right wrist became extremely painful, like I had broken or cracked a bone. The pain was so intense that I came close to getting out after just two minutes.  

I managed to stick it out and my body got over the shock, the pain in my wrist eased off and I was able to actually enjoy a bit of a swim. In fact I probably could have stayed in for longer when Nichola called me in after about 13 minutes (she was concerned about me needing to shower and check out of the hotel). Ryan very sweetly ran down the beach and passed me my towel as he said the usual “Daddy’s cold, Daddy’s mad!” In fact since I started the Big Swim every time we have seen the sea he says his new catchphrase!

This time I really did feel a great positive sensation afterwards. I think it was a true endorphin rush. Although my muscles felt tired they also felt great. Even my shoulder pain disappeared.

I fancied a trip to Bournemouth as it is a traditional English resort that I had never been to. In fact it is the first of the swims so far that has been somewhere completely new to me. I was really pleasantly surprised – the two days that we spent there were thoroughly enjoyable. Sure, the weather helped and Nichola and Ryan were great company but Bournemouth is a really nice place that I will definitely return to and would recommend anyone visits. There has been quite a bit of money spent on the place recently and it is clear that this has been a good investment. The beach itself is a huge long stretch of beautiful golden sand which reminded me of the Caribbean.

I’ve realised that sea swimming in the spring can be harder than in the winter because the warmer outside temperatures make the freezing cold water more of a shock. However getting out is a much more pleasant experience and I think my body is getting used to the cold so I am able to handle it for longer. The May swim will be somewhere in the North West as we are going to a do in Liverpool and I love to kill two birds with one stone.

Once again if there is anyone reading this that hasn’t sponsored me yet, please do so. I’m doing this for a brilliant charity, Magpie Dance who make a huge difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities. They need to raise £250K each year to keep doing this and the recession is really hitting them hard as raising funds is much harder than ever before. You can sponsor me at my Justgiving page or by sending a cheque made out to Magpie Dance at the following address: Laura Riches, Magpie Dance, The Churchill, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA.

Big Swim Map

April 14, 2010

Thanks to Steve Cooksley for your help with the map.

Bognor Regis – 27 March

April 5, 2010

For the third swim we decided to head down to Bognor Regis in Sussex on Saturday 27 March. It was the hardest of the three swims so far because I had convinced myself that the water would be a little bit warmer. It wasn’t! Although I did get used to it and managed to stay in for eight minutes – the longest yet. Sorry there is no film of this swim but there are some great photos thanks to Nichola. 

A small bemused crowd gathered as I ran into the water. I was thinking that this time it wouldn’t be too bad as the recent good weather would mean the sea was warmer. It was a harsh lesson but I now know that it takes a long time for the sea to warm up! This meant that the swim was really hard psychologically – I spent the first three or four minutes desperately wanting to get out as my body was burning from the icy water.

I think the thing that kept me going was the feeling that I would let people down by getting out early. In fact once I got over the shock of the water I  managed to get used to it a bit and stayed in for eight minutes in total. A full three minutes more than the previous two swims.

My wife Nichola did a wonderful job of taking lots of photos whilst also looking after our two year old Ryan who was paddling with his wellies on and having a whale of a time. Just before I got out Ryan slipped and fell over in the water, soaking himself so he shared Daddy’s experience!

This time we decided to make a weekend of it and booked a short break in a camp site in Bognor Regis. Bognor itself is a little bit dated but it is nice enough and nearby Chichester and Arundel are both well worth a visit. After the swim on the Saturday we had a leisurely wander around the shops of Chichester to work up an appetite for a lovely dinner at Prezzo. On the Sunday we visited the beautiful town of Arundel. Unfortunately we were a week too early to visit the magnificent castle however we did have a nice walk around its grounds.

If you are reading this and you haven’t already, please sponsor me! I am doing this for a brilliant charity for people with a learning disability. I have seen first-hand the huge difference that Magpie Dance make to people’s lives. Unfortunately they receive no ongoing funding so each year have to raise £250,000. This year this is proving harder than ever.  To find out more about Magpie go their website.