Poppy Henley Swim Festival

Poppy set for fifth mile at Henley Swim Festival

Poppy the 7-year-old labrador retriever will be taking on her fifth Henley Mile in July, raising funds for swimming charity SwimTayka

It’s not unusual for swimmers to enter the Henley Swim Festival year after year – after all, it is one of the biggest events in the UK swim calendar.

What makes Poppy’s fifth consecutive entry a little different, however, is that Poppy is only seven-years-old – and she’s a Labrador Retriever. Regulars to the Henley Swim Festival will know that when Poppy swims, she draws a crowd. She takes part in the last wave, and usually completes her mile in about 30 minutes. She might be able to swim a little faster, but often gets distracted by the supportive crowd, waving and cheering her on from the bank.

Of course, Poppy doesn’t swim alone. She has a human companion with her, in the shape of the almost equally well-known Bryan Avery. Bryan founded swimming charity SwimTayka six years ago, just a year before Poppy started joining in at Henley. The charity runs swimming and drowning prevention programmes around the world, for children living in waterside locations, where there is little or no access to swimming lessons.

Every year some 236,000 people drown – and the majority are children. By providing access to safe swimming, SwimTayka and Bryan (and no doubt Poppy) hope to drive down this alarming statistic. Essential to the success of SwimTayka are the volunteers, many of them swim instructors, who give up their time to spend a couple of weeks on the programmes, helping to teach swimming. The charity needs funds to cover its running costs, which is why Poppy is looking for sponsors for her Henley mile. A big part of the charity’s income also comes via fundraising from keen swimmers who take part in SwimTayka’s annual English Channel Relay swim.

“Henley Swim Festival is an important event in the swim calendar, and we’re very grateful to the organisers for letting Poppy join in once again,” said Bryan. “As usual, we will take part in the last wave, so we don’t get in the way of other swimmers. We take it at a fairly leisurely place, as Poppy enjoys the attention she gets from people lining the bank who usually cheer her on. Not only does she raise much needed funds, we also raise awareness about SwimTayka. It’s our mission to teach swimming and water safety to children in countries where learning to swim isn’t part of the local culture, yet they are at risk because they live near water.”

Poppy will swim behind Bryan, wearing her special dog float jacket. Bryan himself is a keen open water swimmer, who swims regularly at Lake 32 on Cotswold Water Park, and is often accompanied by Poppy.

Will you be there to cheer Poppy along? Be sure to pop by and say hello to us at the Outdoor Swimmer stand, too!

If you would like to support SwimTayka, you can sponsor Poppy’s swim at justgiving.com/campaign/poppyswimsamile

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