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Swimming for bells

17 October 2014

IT WAS harder than he expected. Ever since he had heard about it, the Vicar of St Stephen's, Rochester Row, Westminster, in London diocese, the Revd Graham Buckle, had been wanting to take part in the annual 10k swim down the River Dart in Devon.

This year he achieved his ambition, and, even though it was held on a Sunday because of the tide, he decided to do it because he was raising sponsorship money for his church's bell appeal.

For someone who runs marathons as frequently as Mr Buckle does, his friends thought the swim would be "as good as a crisp packet being dropped in the River Dart and floating down". But nothing could be further from the truth, he says. Although they were helped by the spring tide, the wind made the water very choppy.

About 600 swimmers were taking part, and, at 4k and 7k, on their way downriver, there were pontoons where volunteers were handing out drinks, gels, and jelly babies. At the first one, to his surprise, he saw his wife and friends on the bank, and swam over to have a chat, only to be waved on and told to get on with it.

He swam the 10k in, he says, "a respectable two hours and 27 minutes", and was greeted with a welcome cup of tea and a biscuit. Among the finishers were two former Olympians, and a number of 16-year-olds, which he thought amazing; and, apparently, a marriage proposal took place. In all, he raised about £3000 towards rehanging the bells of St Stephen's, which have been ringing out in Westminster for 150 years.

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