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Swimming all the lakes in the Lake District for EthiopiAid

Cover Image – Recceing Bassenthwaite Lake with views across to Skiddaw with my dad

From the 3rd to the 13th of September I plan to swim the length of all 13 of the swimmable lakes in the Lake District, a distance of almost 70km, with my dad in support of EthiopiAid. I don’t really know where I got the idea from. I’m not a swimmer and before April I had no experience of open water swimming. One day during lockdown I joined my dad for a swim in the Thames and loved it, I’ve been swimming ever since and thought it’d be cool to do a swimming challenge for a good cause.


Having spent a few years of my early childhood in Malawi, I was keen to find a charity that worked on the ground in Africa to provide social support through not only humanitarian means but also through sustainable development projects. The well known proverb of teaching a man to fish, rather than giving him a fish, so he can feed himself for a lifetime has always struck me. I believe in areas as desperate as the places I saw growing up, both are important in breaking the cycle of poverty.

That’s why, after doing a lot of research on various charities working in rural Africa, we settled on EthiopiAid. This is a charity that works on the ground with local communities in Ethiopia across a number of areas including education, the empowerment of women and the support of the vulnerable. Half of the money that we raise from this challenge will go to a relief fund for farmers affected by the recent locust swarms across East Africa, which the western media have been silent about for months. The other half will go towards two sustainable development projects, a water resilience scheme in order to help communities during the drought season and the provision of manageable farming start-ups for families with a disabled member.

The challenge

The Lake District is a place that’s pretty close to my heart. During my childhood most years my family would make the trip up to the Lakes and so I grew up hiking on the fells and sailing on the lakes of the national park. I never imagined I would swim the length of any of the lakes, let alone all thirteen over a period of ten days, covering a distance of almost 70 km. But doing something like this really allows you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and there’s something about that that is so appealing to me.

Having set the target at £5,000, we have now raised over £2,615 including Gift Aid from donations through our JustGiving page.

Getting some open water coaching from Colin Hill in the endless pool at Ullswater Swim Place

Training for this challenge hasn’t been easy. Finding the motivation to run through town to Shincliffe in my wetsuit every other day in order to slide into the cold water before swimming back round the river to Matriculation Bridge, my normal route on the Wear, can be difficult. From the strange looks I get as I run clutching my bright orange tow float, it seems the local community doesn’t see this very often!

My standard route whilst training on the River Wear

How to support my challenge

If you’d like to support this challenge, please visit my JustGiving page. Any donations are massively appreciated. And if you’d like to follow the progress I’ll be posting the Strava course for each lake on Facebook and Instagram every day during the challenge.

James Maclennan

Hi I'm James, a second year International Relations student at Grey College. Last year I got stuck into college and DU sport, representing Grey for football and the university for Fencing. Going into next year I hope to get involved with more charity events, particularly in helping organise challenges.
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