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Sunday 4th June 2023. First of the last.

This morning I started my last leg of swims with swimmers from around the UK as part of my tour and touring blog for SWIM, which closes its doors on 24th June.

I was invited to join Ellie and her friends at Pickmere Lake. This swim represents the Manchester dates which kick the final tour off in less than 2 weeks time. I always want to swim somewhere I haven't before as part of my blog, and having swam at Salford Quays (but admittedly not at Sale Water Park) I was keen to join Ellie here as this is a popular spot for Manchester residents to get out of the city and into the country within 25 mins.

I was delighted to be able to swim with a man too! there's very few male swimmers who approach me to swim as part of my blog, so meeting Giles was great! Warm, friendly and open to conversation, Giles told me how he spends 6 weeks out at see working on the oil rigs and then 6 weeks mainly out at Pickmere keeping on top of his happiness. He told me how he encourages members of the Andy's Man Club that he regularly attends, to come try open water swimming out for their mental health; how it has helped him through times of change and difficult junctions in his life.

As Giles and I dodged the (apparently regular) water skier and his boat flying up and down this picturesque, nature-laden, reed-edged, bird-nesting, otherwise peaceful- lake, our conversation wandered into a general mild concern, or I should say, awareness of, selfsame newbie to Pickmere Lake Jen.

Jen is 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant. Like myself, has swam during pregnancy...although I admittedly stopped at 37 weeks as I didn't want to mess up my planned c-section date! Jen however, keen to get things moving, waded into the water with no problems but it was only when we were swimming back to shore that she had a couple of contractions. Reassuring us that her husband knew her whereabouts and had her hospital bag packed, Jen told us that she'd started early that morning with mild contractions and was keen to have this dip. I told her to enjoy the feeling of being held by something! She was happy to meet new people and a new swim area, having not long moved from Leicester to Manchester. Jen told me how she has slowly stopped engaging with her love of caving, climbing and now ending off with a swim before she prepares for her next adventure in life! Exciting times.

Catching up on the shore as we dressed, it was nice to hear a bit more about Ellie and her work and motherhood, telling me how she used to work in law but now runs a furniture business and part-time cares for a wheelchair user and is off to work after our swim. Ellie has one of those smiles that you can't help feel happy from and I could tell she was the glue for this growing group of swimmers, who have become friends over the past few years through swimming at Pickmere (some and been and gone already that morning).

I always come away from these swims having met new people and swam in new areas, with a big smile on my face and when asked 'how did your swim go?' my husband says I always reply with "It is so interesting meeting all these people, I love it." And it really is, it enriches, encourages and confirms in me how community supports, and is the backbone to, everything. There was a common care for each other despite their different walks in life, and the water brings these people together.

A beautiful place to swim today in the sun.

SWIM opens to a sold-out house on 15th June but there are still tickets available for Friday 16th June at Edge Theatre, Manchester.


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