Woman pledges to swim width of the Channel in paddling pool for charity

Harlow resident and local Salvation Army Major, Karen Sandford, has taken on the challenge of swimming the width of the English Channel (21 miles) in a paddling pool set up in her back garden, to raise funds for the Salvation Army during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Before lockdown, Karen regularly went cold-water swimming at Redricks Lake as a way to help manage her mental health and to keep fit.

But when the lockdown hit in March and Karen’s husband was diagnosed with coronavirus, she was forced to give up outdoor swimming.

Keen to find a new outlet to relieve stress and focus her mind on the key-work she and other members of the Salvation Army Corp provide in the area, Karen has decided to set up a small blow-up swimming pool in her garden, pledging to swim the equivalent 21-mile width of the Straight of Dover while attached to her washing line by a tether.

“I started off with a 10km challenge, but when I realised I was able to hit that fairly quickly, I began researching famous swims from around the world and their lengths before settling on the 21-mile Channel swim challenge,” she says.

“Swimming in the pool has certainly had its ups and downs – at some points the water has been as cold as 11 degrees and even when it gets warmed by the sun we have to change the water every few days meaning the temperature drops again.

However, I’m really glad to have found this challenge and I can’t wait to hit the distance and hopefully raise over £500 for the Salvation Army to continue its important work at the same time!”

While along the way, Karen has also been completing mini-challenges, such as swimming for 52 minutes on her 52nd birthday, and 32 minutes on her and husband Chris’ wedding anniversary.

Pool Photo

The Salvation Amy, which receives the majority of its funding from local charity shops and the hire of the hall spaces for local events – has had to stop during COVID-19 – works with some of the most vulnerable people in society.

From running food banks and checking up on people who live alone, to offering counselling and supporting NHS isolation units, Salvation Army churches all over the country are responding to the crisis in dozens of different ways but need support from people who are able to donate urgently.

Karen will continue to swim in her freezing cold paddling pool until she has completed her 21-mile challenge.

The distance is being monitored by her Fitbit fitness tracker as she goes.

To help Karen reach or even exceed her funding goal, please visit her JustGiving page:

To find out more about Karen’s daily experience, you can also read her blog which she started in order to share her experience with others:

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