Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lucy's Arran Troon Swim Write Up

At the end of August, Scotland was still feeling pretty warm and summery. By the time we actually did the swim, on the 1st of October (brrr!) the leaves were starting to turn and there was a distinct Autumnal hint in the air. All of the swimmers though agreed that it was still summer until we'd done the swim. 

Actually getting the swim started ended up being touch and go. Our chosen week turned out to be non stop gales, and our intended support boats had to pull out at the last minute which threw all our plans into disarray. In the end we pushed our last possible day back a little, and we managed to get a small window of opportunity in the weather, and at the last minute some wonderful people stepped in with super boats and superb attitudes who came and helped make it all possible. 

We left from Troon on the 30th of September, some of us going with the support boats through what was still pretty much a full gale, and others on the ferry (one way ticket). We then stayed the night in a bunk house on Arran for a few hours until getting up at 03.15 to be given a lift down to Lamlash where the boats and kayaks were waiting for us.  Annie and Mark, the first swimmers on each team, took to the water at 05.18 in the dark from a beach in Lamlash bay, and struck out, aiming for a conveniently sited and well-lit mast on the hill beside where Granny lives. I was swimming 2nd and was so excited as I got in the water. It had been a pretty difficult week with endless logistics, changes, doubt, worry and anxiety, so the fact that we were actually getting to do the swim was completely wonderful. It was just as well I was excited as it was amazingly cold getting in while it was still dark, but the phosphorescence made me forget the cold, it was incredible. Poor Mark had got stung by a jellyfish almost as soon as he started but kept it quiet from everyone else.

Swimming in the dark was fairly surreal. We hadn't actually met the wonderful kayakers who accompanied us from the Outdoor Centre in Lamlash until we got in the water, so there was a quick chat as I started in which we introduced ourselves, and then I had my head in the sea, swimming, for most of the rest of the hour, though I was able to take in the wonderful sunrise. 

As I got out Katherine got in and took over, powering us along, and by the time we had rotated through Vanessa, Lorna and Alice we were doing really well, about half way across and morale was super high. The other boat which had Mark, Barbara, Bea, Whirly, Caoimhe, Joanna, and Rhona on board were also doing well so we started telling our shore teams to make sure they had the fizz on ice as we'd be home soon! Alice had victualled the boats superbly and so we ate lasagne, sang songs, swam with seals and generally had a lovely time, all buoyed with lots of lovely messages from people on the shore willing us on, and visits from our friends and family who were given lifts out on a super fast rib.

Alas we reckoned without the tide which really hampered us through the second half of the day. In the late afternoon, for a couple of hours we really made no ground at all, and as the sun set it dawned on us that our hope of only doing 2 hours each was futile. I have to say I found that 3rd hour pretty difficult. I got stung by a jellyfish early on in my hour, and as it got dark it seemed to get a lot colder again, and we still didn't seem to be getting any closer. 

However the kayakers were superb, motivating and encouraging us all the way, and somehow I kept going for the hour. Katherine then took over and all but got us to the shore, before Vanessa did the final few hundred meters. As they changed over, the rest of us got back in for one final swim and swam in behind them to finish together at just after 8.30 p.m. In the dark. 

What was wonderful was that both teams finished within 7 minutes of each other. The finish was incredibly moving, with many of us in tears as we waded from the sea after 15hrs 20mins 20secs of swimming, with our children, friends and relations cheering us home. It was fantastic that so many of our supporters had hung on in the dark for us to finish, and it was wonderful seeing the children still there on the beach too. After we'd staggered up the beach there was a marquee with food and drink on hand and so there was quite a party atmosphere once we'd got out of our swimsuits and it was just such a brilliant feeling to have done it. 

We all got involved in the swim for such varied reasons, but were all completely humbled by the support we got from so many people. I spent a lot of my time while training and on the actual day imagining how Jo would feel about it all. I definitely think she'd approve, and I like to think she'd have got involved too were she here now. Neither of us had ever been very strong swimmers (though we were always keen), so I hope she'd be proud that I've got so much better.  Thank you, thank you for your kind donations, messages and offers of help, they meant an awful lot to all of us and really helped keep us going through the difficult bits. 

As I write, we've reached over £22,000 of sponsorship which all of the swimmers find absolutely astounding. This is being split between the RNLI and the Jo Walters Trust. and the JWT will use some of its share of the money to send a group of young carers (children who have to care for their parents) from Ayr on a residential project with the Outward Bound Trust up at Loch Eil. We have partnered with the OBT before and were so impressed with what they achieved. It also seems very fitting that the young carers will no doubt have to brave some cold water as part of it too! In case anyone would still like to donate, the online site is still open: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/arrantotroonswim

The swim generated some interest from the press and for those of you who are interested I've pasted a few links to articles below as some of them are quite fun. We also had a Facebook page for the swim which was great, and captured the spirit of the day quite well and has loads of photos, videos etc. I've also added a few photos of the day below.


Thanks again for all your support, it's been an amazing venture of which to be part.


Me with my mother - who doesn't look quite sure she thinks I'm warm or dry enough to hug, but is doing her best!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Arran Troon Swim - Barbara Johnston's write up

The good friends  I have
You're mad to consider
A swim in September.
The sea's cold and remember
You are not in the first flush of youth.

I'm not quite decrepit
I protested and told them
For a cause and a chance
that will not be repeated
I won't be defeated.

As training progressed though
My confidence ebbed
As  team members moved onwards with speed
But  their encouragement cheered me, helped to assure me
While jellyfish danced in my 'heed'

The morning came ...early
We were suited and booted
I was nervous but anxious to go
For skippers, kayakers, coaches and sponsors
Supporters and mainly for Jo
We just had to swim..and did so.

Barbara Johnston

Barbara starting one of her swims

Monday, July 18, 2016

Grant to St Fergus Primary School for Leavers' Legacy Wall Bars

Grant to St Fergus Primary School for Leavers' Legacy Wall Bars

Update from Louisa Bradford:

I had the opportunity today to go and visit the result of one of last year’s grants.  We agreed to grant match a school in St. Fergus, near Peterhead, who wanted to raise money to buy an indoor climbing frame for the gym in their school as part of their Leavers’ Legacy.  The Primary 7 students who were leaving and moving to ‘Big School’ would be passing something on to the future students.  Previous projects for the school included revamping the school’s library and buying some playground games.  The children were incredibly excited about it, and rumour has it that the current batch of Primary 6 students are already brainstorming for what they’d like to do.

In order to raise the money for their climbing frame, the students had to work out what they were going to do, and settled on a family Ceilidh evening in March.  They planned the evening, organised posters, table decorations, had a stovies tasting session and even arranged for the local radio station to give them publicity.  I have to say, I was seriously impressed with their entrepreneurship.  All told, they raised £1250, which is a phenomenal effort.  Coupled with the £1000 that we had agreed to provide meant they could get the climbing frame they wanted, and I’m told that each extra bit of money meant a slightly improved climbing frame.  They chose the beautiful apparatus, thoughtfully bearing in mind that the littlest pupils wouldn’t be able to manage it if it was too difficult.

The climbing frame arrived on Friday, and the children only had yesterday to practice a brilliant 5 minute routine for display today.  Everyone took part, and managed to show off their skills, and it was genuinely wonderful to see the happy faces and the result of one of our grants.  Well done, St. Fergus P7s!
Monday, June 27, 2016

Skillforce Aberdeenshire Grant Follow Up

By Louisa Bradford, who visited Skillforce, a project the Jo Walters Trust supported with one of the Aberdeenshire grants in 2014. 

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Skillforce at a school in Aberdeen towards the end of last year. The students, aged 13 and 14, were practising for their ‘It’s a Knockout’ tournament, a fun day for primary school children where teams would come and play games for points.  The Skillforce students would have to introduce their game, explain the rules and how points would be scored, and then adjudicate.  This session, they were focussing on the introduction - and you’ve never seen a group of chatty teenagers go so quiet…  By the end of the session, coached by teachers AJ and Michelle, they had all managed to stand up in front of  a group of their peers, introduce themselves, explain the rules of their game and how points would be scored.  It was brilliant to see, even in one session, how these children’s confidence developed, and how they encouraged each other to succeed.

Some photos of the session are below. In the photos, they are doing press ups.  They had to do press ups if they were late/naughty.  I had to do press ups on the day, as I didn’t win the game to get ping pong balls in the bucket. Just in case you were wondering.