Written by our Friday studio volunteer and Swim Serpentine champion, Kate
“Would you like to take part in a sponsored swim for Artbox?” Madeline asked me one lovely summer’s day last July. I had a quick look at the details: a one mile outdoor swim round the Serpentine pond in Hyde Park. I vaguely recalled a one mile swim in the school pool about 35 years earlier and found myself agreeing to take part: anything for a good cause!
After signing up to the swim and receiving a lot of information and advice from the organisers, the reality sank in: I needed to practise swimming the distance outdoors! I live within a cycle ride of Hampstead Ladies Pond, so that became my training ground: a gorgeous secluded pond on the Heath, frequented by ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes. I began by swimming a few lengths of the pond, gradually building up to a mile. The worst part for me was putting my face in the murky pond water (and wondering what was in it!), so I could do proper swimming strokes. I practised with front crawl, but couldn’t keep a straight line, so decided to stick with breast stroke. The organisers of the event recommended a wetsuit, so I borrowed one from a friend. The hardy old ladies at the pond must have thought I was a lightweight, wearing a wetsuit in September, but it did keep me warm! By the middle of September, the autumn leaves were falling into the pond, the sky was grey and I marvelled at Madeline’s powers of persuasion for getting me to sign up for the event.
Eventually, the day of the swim dawned on 24 September. We were exceptionally lucky, as it was a beautiful sunny autumn day, about as warm as it could be at that time of year and a bright blue sky. Huge numbers of people were taking part in the event throughout the day for a variety of different causes and it was incredibly well-organised. I met up with Madeline, Emma and Paul who were also doing the swim and we lined up with the other swimmers for the start. Suddenly we were off! The route took us round the pond with onlookers cheering us on, large floats marking the way and rescuers in dinghies if we needed them. The trick was to avoid the other swimmers and to stick to the most direct route around the course. The Serpentine swans kept a safe and dignified distance.
At last, the finishing line loomed into view and we clambered out of the pond to be presented with a large gold medal and a goody bag. We all swam at varying speeds, so there was a slight delay in reconvening at the end of the swim, but we celebrated with hot tea and coffee when we were all counted safely home! I think we all had a sense of achievement that we had completed the course and had managed to raise lots of funds for Artbox.
We've got lots of fundraising events planned this year. For more information or to get involved see our events page: