New swimmer braves the Solent

One year after her first swimming lesson, Natalie Barton completes a 5km swim to the Isle of Wight

Hampshire swimmer Natalie Barton is thrilled to have completed her 5km swim to the Isle of Wight – one year after her first swimming lesson.

It was after moving to Lee-on-the-Solent in May 2021 that Nat decided to take up open water swimming. She had her first lesson in July 2021 and quickly fell in love with sea swimming, deciding to put her newfound passion and skills to the test with a swim across the Solent in August 2022.

In preparation for event, Nat trained at least twice a week, doing 2-hour sea swims at Hill Head.

A promising start

Nat began her swim to the Isle of Wight at 4pm on 8 August, waved off from Stokes Bay by friends and well-wishers. The first hour of the swim was the best of her life, she told us: “It all felt so natural, I had the biggest smile my face.”

Swimming with the easterly current, Nat found that she’d swum half the distance in the first hour and was thrilled with her progress: “I was so incredibly happy and this spurred me on.”

However, if Nat had continued swimming with the current, she would have ended up going around the Isle of Wight instead of to it. With the guidance of her support team, Nat began to swim west against the current.

Battling through

Compared with the first hour of her swim, this change of tack was extremely tiring. “Looking back at my data, this section was my slowest sea swim ever. It took me nearly five minutes just to swim 100m,” Nat told us. “I knew if I stopped for a break now, I’d be pushed further east and I didn’t want to swim further than necessary. So, I just kept swimming.”

Despite choppy, nauseating conditions in the middle of the Solent, and getting tangled up in seaweed, Nat made it to Ryde Pier on the Isle of Wight in just under three hours. She was greeted by her coach Deb Phillips and friends who’ve supported her through her incredible swimming journey.

Reflecting on her achievement, Nat told us: “This time last year I couldn’t swim the length of a pool. With hard work and determination, I’ve got to where I am today.”

Natalie’s fundraising page for her swim to the Isle of Wight is still open for donations, raising funds for the Ian Pratt MND Foundation.