Swim from Arran to Troon on Saturday, 1st October 2016 by the ArranTrooNautics.
Successful, dressed and ready for a party, swimmers left to right:
Back row: Whirly Marshall, Lorna Laidlaw, Barbara Johnston, Joanna Clapton, Annie Howie, Mark Johnston
Middle row: Team Doctor: Emily Farquhar, Vanessa Lawrence, Rhona Quarm, Caoimhe Hunter-Blair, Bea Bound
Front row (kneeling): Lucy Johnston, Katherine Self, Alice Vernon
Out of shot: Jade Perry who joined to be a coach for the other team but in true star fashion, also took to the water herself.
To see individuals' own perspectives of the swim please click on their names above to be taken to their write up.
So how on earth did a group of (in some cases really quite) amateur swimmers come together to swim 17 miles from Arran to Troon on the 1st of October? Well, like so many of the best things in life, one good thing inspired another: Annie Howie heard about the Peacock Salt charity row from Arran to Ayr in 2015, and thought she’d like to swim the same piece of water. She mentioned it to Lucy Johnston who had discussed open water swimming with a few other friends shortly beforehand, and quite quickly we found we had a team of 13 people who were all willing to give it a go. With ages ranging from 24 to 67, 12 women and 1 man, we were a diverse, but enthusiastic, bunch.
We then spent the following year practising! The things we each needed to practice were pretty much as diverse as the team. Some of the team were not particularly strong swimmers so spent a lot of time training in the pool to try to improve technique and fitness, making full use of the super sessions the Ayrodynamic triathlon club run in Troon every week. Others were (perhaps rightly!) more apprehensive about the cold. Again this is something that can be ‘practised’ as the body can learn to adjust to the cold, though it takes a lot of willpower to keep practising this. Others had fears of jellyfish and the deep water to overcome, not so much fun practising these.
Over the year, the team really started to come together. It was difficult, as with the team all trying to juggle jobs, small children, and one living in Northern Ireland, it was hard to make the time to all get together. We had many late night training sessions.
As the chosen week approached, however, the focus moved onto logistics. Our coach, Chris Sifleet from Swim4Miles, had informed us that each team would need a support boat, and that we would need 4 kayakers to paddle beside the swimmers, and a rib to provide an emergency support. We also needed somewhere to stay the night before on Arran. As the precise day on which we’d do the swim wasn’t known until the week itself, it was a big ask to anyone offering help to keep a whole week free. However, in the end we found some terrific people who offered their expertise, equipment and time to help us achieve our goal, and it was with them that on the 30th of September, after a anxious week of waiting through the gales, the 13 of us set off, on various vessels, to Arran.
After a brief night’s sleep, we were woken at 03.30 a.m to be on a bus at 0400 that the very helpful team from the Arran Outdoor Centre sent to collect us in Brodick and get us to Lamlash. Mark Johnston and Annie Howie were taking the first shift, and they kicked off from the beach in Lamlash bay at 05.18, in the dark, swimming through phosphorescence. From then, the swimmers rotated on the hour, and slowly we started to make progress across the sea.
The day itself was great fun. It was a glorious sunny day, though we were hampered by the swell that was left over from the gales of the preceding week. This made the sea pretty choppy, slowing down the swimmers, and causing them to swallow more water than they’d have liked. Everyone managed to maintain extremely high spirits throughout the entire day though, helped enormously by the superb catering provided by Alice Vernon and Rhona Quarm. The kayakers, skippers and rib drivers were so positive, and enthusiastic, and the team was really buoyed by the visits from supporters, and seeing the well wishes of people on social media. This support became increasingly important for keeping up morale as our hopes of finishing before dark evaporated when we got caught by the tide off Lady Isle, and essentially went nowhere for a couple of hours. This meant that several swimmers had to do a third hour in the water, in the dark, something we hadn’t really had a chance to practise. However, everyone continued to push incredibly hard, and all the swimmers jumped in the water at the end when it became too shallow for the boats and swam the final few hundred meters together in their teams.
The finish was incredibly moving, with many of us in tears as we waded from the sea. 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. Finesse Marquees had extremely kindly put up a marquee on the dunes beside the beach where we finished, and By Alice catering provided delicious food for the swimmers and supporters. Bread & Butter Marketing sponsored some liquid refreshment so a party was had, and it's fair to say it went on for considerably longer than you might expect from a team of people who had swum so hard and been up so long.
What was extremely clear as we got to know each other and discussed how we had changed through the experience of the swim was that every swimmer grew in different ways from doing the swim, but it is safe to say that we all feel absolutely thrilled to have completed it successfully.
This swim would definitely not have been possible without an enormous amount of help from a collection of really wonderful people:
- Coach & support coach: Chris Sifleet and Jade Perry. Chris was fundamental to the entire project's success, providing her wealth of experience, qualifications and invaluable support and good humour from the very start of the project. She gave us the faith in ourselves that we could do the swim, and made it all seem possible. Jade came along at very short notice to support the team on Trumble Too, adding her knowledge, experience and huge energy to the team, even taking to the water and swimming so hard she earned the nickname 'Billy the Fish'.
- Skippers and support boats: Gavin Taylor with his boat Papa Westray and David Scott with his yacht Trumble Too who, at incredibly short notice, offered their boats and their own time to be support boats for the swimmers. This involved a very early start and long day, but both Gavin and David were absolutely brilliant, as were their lovely boats, providing endless patience, senses of humour and admirable spirits of adventure.
- Rib Drivers: Jonathan Laidlaw and Jamie Mason who drove Annie's rib, Pumpkin, toing and froing between the teams, always there in case of emergecny and even summoning up the Coastguard helicopter to buzz Katherine and Whirly while they swam. Huge thanks too to Gordon MacIntyre who used his own amazing ribs to bring various friends and family out to see the swimmers, something that really boosted morale.
- Kayakers: the team from the Arran Outdoor Centre and John from the Outward Bound Trust were completely brilliant, joining in the spirit of the swim with gusto, and providing a competent, effective and reassuring presence to each swimmer. We are indebted to all of them for providing such superb support, and would also like to thank the Arran Outdoor Centre for their help with transportation logistics and general advice which was invaluable.
- Team Doctor: Emily Farquhar provided a lot of reassurance as team doctor, and as she was fortunately not required for any major medical emergencies, she also provided a lot of practical help as domestic goddess on Papa Westray. Thank you Emily!
- PR: Tracey O'Sullivan extremely kindly volunteered to help the team with 'a little PR'. Little did we know that this would result in photos of the swimmers in their swimsuits appearing in the Daily Record! She did a phenomenal job, using her impressive PR knowledge to make sure people who were interested were able to find out more about the swim, liaising with everyone from the RNLI to the local, national and open water swimming press, and making sure the copy was ready to go to the press after the swim. This really helped with the fundraising and we are very grateful to Tracey for lending us her expertise.
The swim was not initially a fundraising exercise, but started off rather as a challenge for a team of people without any particular athletic aspirations, to do something a bit different, making use of the glorious coastline we are fortunate enough to live beside. Throughout the training, however, it turned into so much more than that as we realised how much our adventure was resonating with people. For those of us who knew Jo we were absolutely certain she would thoroguhly have approved of such a venture, and felt she was with us the whole way (perhaps laughing just a little?). Thanks to the huge amount of support the story of the swim garnered (see links below), the team has now raised more than £22,000 for the RNLI and the Jo Walters Trust. Some of the money raised for the Jo Walters Trust will be spent sending a group of young carers from Ayr on an outward bound course with the Outward Bound Trust. Fittingly, they had kindly sent one of their senior kayak instructors to help with the swim. The entire team is incredibly grateful for the support we received, both monetary and otherwise. It really did help to spur us on through the hard bits, thank you! If anyone would still like to donate, our fundraising page will be open for a while longer, you can find it here:
Laying down a marker:
Since the swim we have had confirmation from the British Long Distance Swimming Association that the swim qualified as one of their 'Recognised Swims' and they have listed it as an 'inaugural record'.
Social Media & Press Coverage:
If you'd like to see how the swim unfolded, the group had a Facebook page which is full of pictures and videos which we feel give a great flavour of what it was like, and you can see this here:
There was also quite a bit of press about the swim, some of which you can read at the links below (the group is quite proud of the Open Water Swimming one!)
Vicky Duke's North West 500
This epic adventure all stemmed from an inspiring talk by Mark Beaumont (global cyclist extraordinaire) who had just completed a top to bottom bike ride of Africa – the talk also showcased Scotland's equivalent of Route 66 around the North Coast – it looked stunning, suddenly it seemed do-able - I got carried away! So what better way to mark a major life-change than to hop on my bike and raise money for a fantastic wee charity set up for Joanna Walters who died tragically young at 28 in a bike accident in 2010. For me as I bowl along it's all about remembering Jo, who grew up with our children and how she made the very most out of life. As you will see from the JWT website they have supported manyprojects which would have been close to Jo's heart from Aberdeenshire to Madagascar and beyond.
The defined 500 mile route seemed a step too far so my trusty roadie has refined this to 450 although sadly there are just as many hills! My route kicks off at the end of May in Inverness (see map), heading west past Achnasheen and Kinlochewe to Gairloch. Then north past Ullapool, Inverkirkaig and Lochinver, Stoer and Scourie to Durness on the NW corner. Along the north coast to John o'Groats then finally down the east coast past Wick, Brora and Golspie towards Inverness - phew! The distance, the mountains, the head winds not to mention the midges will be challenging but one thing’s for sure, it will be worth it! If you feel like sponsoring me (every penny of which will support the very worthy JWT) this would keep me going far more than any of Peter's acclaimed flapjacks and I honestly won’t be making a habit of it, this is a one-off!!
Here's a flavour of the journey with far too many unflattering photos - annoyingly you have to go to the 'i for info' tab for details:
Safely home! The strong head winds made for long days in the saddle combined with plenty of steep ascents, not to mention panniers full of equipment and clothing for every eventuality - this was the North of Scotland after all! So much for dawdling along stopping here and there for a spot of culture - just getting to our B & B (in time for supper) meant a good 9-hour day on the bikes!
However what kept us going was the backdrop of spectacular mountains and fabulous views over sea and lochs, constant birdsong and delicious smell of bog myrtle and heady aroma of coconut from the gorse but above all the encouragement of both friends and the strangers we met along the road. We couldn't help noticing we were the oldest ones doing this by some margin but we did earn respect!
Really happy to say that the total raised for the Jo Walters Trust thanks to everyone's generosity and including cash, cheques and pledges, is over £3,000. It meant so much to be doing this in Jo's footsteps.
Lots of love
Huge thanks to Vicky and Peter and all their friends and supporters for the generous sponsorship, the effort and organisation and the committment. Well done!
On 22nd May 2016, the Cuninghame family very generously agreed to allow the Jo Walters Trust to use the grounds of Caprington Castle, near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, to hold a day of family fun and activities.
The day was an enormous success, with over 500 people enjoying the stunning grounds in incredible weather, and making full use of all the activiities on offer. Around £1,500 was raised for the Jo Walters Trust, with a further £750 for Marie Curie, and more for various other charities involved on the day, including Feedback Madgascar.
Families were treated to a great range of activities including watching living history with William Wallace and his army in their training camp with The Swords of Dalriada. Miniature Shetland ponies Floyd and Johnnie were there giving rides to little pony lovers. Budding artists painted pictures of the castle with The Little Art School and sports fans played beat the goalie, joined in the race around the castle and participated in a treasure hunt. Owl Magic were there with their beautiful owls and there were many fun rides and games for all the family. Queen Elsa was also at the event providing a fabulous facepainting service!
Kincardine Cookery provided a delicious barbeque with Marie Curie hosting a ‘Blooming Great Tea Party’.
The organisers would like to say a huge thank you to all the locals who helped in so many ways, from donating raffle prizes, their time and to sponsors Peacock Salt/SaltHouse and PepperMongers and the Cuninghame Family of Caprington.
Photos from the event, by kind permission of Tom Cairns Photography:
- The Cuninghame Family of Caprington
- Peacock Salt
- Finesse Marquees
- Swords of Dalriada
- Owl Magic
- Rainbows & Puddles Forest Nursery
- Little Art School
- Bala Sport
- Floyd the pony, and his team!
- Queen Elsa
- Centre Stage Music Theatre
- Kincardine Cookery
- The Marie Curie committee for providing wonderful teas
- St Ninian's and Symington halls for lending chairs and tables
- All the kind people who helped out by running stalls, parking (and digging out!) cars, selling tickets, fielding children, providing plants, starting races, donating raffle prizes - we couldn't have done it without you!
- The fabulous committee who worked incredibly hard to make it all happen
And for donating raffle prizes:
- The Marine Hotel in Troon
- The Community team at Tesco, Kilmarnock
- The Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock
An Unofficial JWT Burns' Night in Bristol
Well, thank goodness the Kingswood Rotary Club is organising one on Saturday 23rd January, at BAWA in Filton, Bristol.
A mere £29 for a 3 course Burns' supper & a dance. Not a fundraiser for JWT, but a bit of fun! Full details to download here.
They'll need to know numbers fairly soon, so get in touch with Gilly Hanking-Evans ASAP to get your tickets and let's get a couple of tables together for the supporters of the JWT.
On Saturday the 6th of June 2015, the Jo Walters Trust held the Big Day Out at Caprington Castle, in the grounds of this gorgeous castle in Ayrshire, by kind permission of the Cuninghame family.
Gallery - 112 photos (click to expand)
- The Cuninghame family who threw open the stunning grounds of Caprington Castle for the event
- All the lovely people who turned out determined to enjoy themselves, despite the weather!
- The superb committee who worked incredibly hard to bring the entire event together
- Finesse Marquees - who made the entire event possible by providing their wonderful (and huge!) marquee and their invaluable expertise at an extremely generous rate
The attractions, many of whom did not charge us for their very valuable time and expertise:
- Rainbows and Puddles Forest School
- The Little Art School
- Jo Jingles Ayrshire
- Bala Sport - Beat the Goalie
- The Butterfly Conservation Trust
- Lucy Boyd and her team of face painters
- James Hopkins for playing entertaining us with his music during lunch
- Kilmarnock fire brigade
- Woodside Equestrian Centre
- East Ayrshire Active Schools
- East Ayrshire Circus Skills & Golf
Our sponsors, who so generously supported the event:
- Hill House Quarry Group
- Peacock Salt
- Frazer Coogan Solicitors
- Bala Sport
- Troon Yacht Haven
- The South Beach Hotel
- Alton Landscapes
- JC Morton Homes
- Casa Mancini
- J McAleese Garages
- Bread & Butter Marketing
- Tom Cairns Photography - Tommy took the gorgeous photos above
- Susie Smith: who donated all the strawberries and cream!
- Louisa and Rupert from Kincardine Cookery who cooked up the delicious barbeque and pudding
- The awesome team of volunteers who worked so hard on the day, making it all such a success, despite the weather!
- Everyone who generously donated raffle prizes, home baking, and equipment.
Edinburgh Art Weekend
A report in from one of the star auction lots from the Jo Walters Trust St Andrew's Ball in November:
Bernard (Flanagan) Williams, the head of Christie's in Scotland, gave David and Mary Parson and their friends, a fantastic week-end in Edinburgh, with a guided tour of Edinburgh's best art collections and two very hospitable nights at their house. Enormous thanks again to Louise and Flanagan for putting up this brilliant prize, and to the Parsons for buying it. Here's a photograph of them all at Jupiter Artland which they were able to visit despite it not officially being open yet, thanks to the owner being a friend of Flanagan's.
Vicky Duke, Mary Parson, David Parson, Louise Williams, Rupert Van der Horst, Flanagan, Verity, Peter Duke, Angela Van der Horst
A Talk at Tullynessle Village Hall
Friday 6th March, at 7pm
Tickets £10 includes a glass of wine
£5 for children under 16
Buy your tickets online now, here,
or telephone Verity Walters on 019755 62246 to pay by cheque.
Polly Murray: Antarctica, Everest and Beyond
At 26, Polly Murray became the first Scottish woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Three years earlier, she was the first person to Telemark ski off the summit of Mount McKinley. She has explored the heart of the Amazon rainforest and skied across remote Arctic islands; as well as taking part in major Antarctic and Arctic sailing expeditions. A truly inspirational speaker, whose stories are matched by her photographic skills.
All proceeds will go the Jo Walters Trust.
The Jo Walters Trust St Andrew's Ball, 2014
What a fantastic night we had at the Lansdowne Club in London, where 125 guests gathered on Saturday the 22nd of November to have a Scottish themed evening, raising money for the Jo Walters Trust. We started off with a champagne reception and then moved through to the ball room for a delicious supper. After supper, Jamie Spencer from Feedback Madagascar delivered a great talk explaining more about how Feedback Madagascar had used the grant the Jo Walters Trust had given them earlier in 2014. It was inspiring to hear how over 650 people had benefitted from the grant, and how the seed nurseries had provided so much value to the 21 communities involved.
Click a picture to start the slide show (44 photographs)
Bristol Burns' Supper
In January 2014 we had our Bristol Burns Night Supper at a new venue: the Marriott Royal on College Green. We piggybacked on a Prince's Trust fundraising dinner, and as such we were part of a much bigger party. As well as having a great meal (as always) and a dance (as always!) we raised some funds for the Jo Walters Trust AND the Prince's Trust, a charity that we are sure Jo would have been very pleased for us to support.
We managed a good Ceilidh, despite about 20% of the JWT guests being in various stages of pregnancy! (NB That's 20% of all the guests, so approximately 40% of the ladies present). Next year there could be a few babies under the table enjoying their first Burns Night... or even a dancing nursery...
The Square, at the top of Park Street, is our 2015 venue on the 26th January, and we're looking forward to yet another get-together, with people hopefully continuing to come from London, Scotland and beyond, for some January cheer.
Working Weekend 2014
The third edition of the wonderful Kincardine Working Weekend was held on 21-23 February 2014 at Kincardine Castle, Aberdeenshire. An enormous thank you is due to Andie and Nicky Bradford for running the event at their fabulous home, Kincardine Castle.
In all, 19 hard working folk took part in a wonderful mix of planting, chainsawing, bonfiring and wall (re)building. We think that the Bradford's got some fine labour in exchange for their generous and unfailing hospitality, but as usual the high standard of food and drink (thank you Bob!) and the relaxed atmosphere (after the labours of the day) contributed to the work rate and the longevity of the party on Saturday evening / Sunday morning.