Saffron Walden grandfather takes the plunge for charity

Saffron Walden resident Pete Wagstaff will take part in a swimming relay across the Channel this Jul

Saffron Walden resident Pete Wagstaff will take part in a swimming relay across the Channel this July for spinal injuries charity Aspire. - Credit: Archant

You can set off on a Channel swim at 2am, because you always have to go with the tide, but that means you see the sunrise over the water.

So says Pete Wagstaff from Saffron Walden, who is hoping to bring his fundraising to £10,000 when he next takes the plunge into the chilly deep.

In July, the dad-of-three and grandfather-of-two will be tackling his third cross-channel swim. Not to mention clocking up a swim across to the Isle of Wight.

Pete will be swimming for Aspire, which supports people with spine injury, as part of the charity’s relay team of six swimmers. They swim for an hour each in turn. How long the swim will take depends on the weather.

He said: “Sometimes you can swim for hours, it’s dark and it’s lonely – all you see is jelly fish – and you don’t get very far.” In 2011, he was part of a team who tried to get to France but were forced to give up after 12 hours.

“It was dark and foggy. We were in the middle of a shipping lane. The water was so rough, the pilot couldn’t steer the boat.” He still made £2,755 for the charity though and the group made £12,000.

It could have been worse. If the tide isn’t right, you can wait for a week or not set off at all. After that, it will be someone else’s slot.

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The next year, 2012, it was a completely different story. “I was with a new team that time and it was a completely brilliant swim. We did it in 11 hours, 20 minutes, which is one of the best Aspire times ever.”

Pete, 57, an IT project manager, has been swimming since he was a teenager.

He became inspired by Aspire when he took part in a 22-mile “channel” swim (the same distance as the channel) in over a month at the Lord Butler Baths in Saffron Walden in 2008. After that, Aspire invited him to do the real thing in a team and he said yes.

This year, his team is made up of three men and three women, including a mother and daughter from Cirencester. Two others are from London and Pete practices in Jesus Green pool in Cambridge with his nearest team member, Dirk Gewert from Cambridge. Their ages range from 20s to 50s.

Pete is hoping to raise £2,000 in sponsorship. A fund-raising fancy dress 60s, 70s and Rhythm and Blues night with the band Out of Time is being held on Saturday, May 9, at Saffron Walden Baptist Church. Doors 7.30pm, 8pm start.

Bring your own food and drink. Tickets £7.50, £5 for 14s and under from Tourist Information or