Grateful daughter marks 60th birthday with 60 wild swims to raise money for hospice

Plunging into a pool in sub-zero temperatures has prepared a Ripley woman for a fundraising challenge to complete 60 swims in her 60th year.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 4:23 pm
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 10:20 am

Gaynor Bentley of Springhill Way, Codnor, is donating the proceeds of her sponsored wild swims to Treetops Hospice whose home service cared for her mum at the end of her life.

She’s on course to smash her target of £600, having raised more than half that amount after six swims. Gaynor’s employers at Futures Housing Group have pledged to match-fund when she reaches £500.

“I’m not the bravest or strongest swimmer,” said Gaynor, who resumes swimming lessons at Alfreton Leisure Centre next week after lockdown scuppered her training after just two sessions.

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Gaynor Bentley on one of her 60 wild swims in her 60th year. Photo by Steve Bentley.

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Twice a week she practises in the unheated outdoor pool at the New Bath Hotel in Matlock Bath. “It’s getting me used to swimming in cold water,” said Gaynor. “I swam in sub-zero temperatures there at the beginning of April. There was half an inch of snow on my dry robe when I got out of the pool.”

Gaynor spent her 60th birthday on April 18 swimming at Cayton Bay in Scarborough with her daughter Alice. She said: “We weren’t in the water very long – it was so cold that you felt like your skin was burning. “

Rivers, pools, lakes and seas in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk are among the locations where she has swum so far as part of her mission. Gaynor, who did just three wild swims before taking on the challenge, said: “The rivers aren’t always clear, you don’t know what's been thrown in and is at the bottom of them and the rocks are slippery with moss so you have to be careful. You have to check the sea’s tides to make sure it’s safe to swim.

Gaynor Bentley, of Codnor, has dived headfirst into a challenge to raise £600 for Treetops Hospice.

"My daughter and I are going to the Lake District for a week and we will do as many lakes as we can while we’re up there. She’s booked me a wild swimming day course for my Mother’s Day present.”

Gaynor is so grateful for the care which Treetops Hospice at Home service gave her mum, Ada Clayton, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 84. She said: “I want to be able to give back to this amazing charity, who provided us with nurses who would care for mum through the night.”

Ada contracted a chest infection and suffered multiple organ failure. She was given 72 hours to live but survived for four years. Gaynor said: “My dad and I cared for her. I’d come home from work, get changed, go to my parents’ home in Heanor to give my dad a break and then sleep over because my mum needed help in the night. Social services asked me whether I was coping and I said ‘barely’ so they arranged for night sitters from Treetops and Marie Curie. That one night a week let me recharge my batteries to have a decent night’s sleep and keep going.”

Treetops community relationships manager, Cheryl Morris, said: “A huge thank you to Gaynor. This is such an innovative and fabulous way to fundraise for the hospice."

To follow Gaynor’s swims or to donate to the cause, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christine-bentley1