Swimmers plunge in for Shrewsbury's Severn Mile river challenge - with pictures

Despite debris, rising water levels and a strong current, more than 140 swimmers took to the waters of the River Severn.

The Severn Mile, which is now in its 10th year, attracts open water swimmers from all over the Midlands.

Aged between 17 and 78, the swarm of swimmers entered the water in waves at the Sabrina Boat pontoon on Victoria Quay, Shrewsbury at 11am yesterday.

Some were wearing wetsuits while others preferred to take the traditional option of swimming costumes and trucks to brave the 15° water.

Heavy rains over the past few days had brought debris downstream and strong currents meant organisers had to abandon plans to hold a 1,500m race. Instead swimmers covered a distance of 700m.

Shadowed by canoeists, from Drummonds' Canoes, the swimmers made their way from the Welsh Bridge to Pengwern Boat Club.

Winner of the men's race was Les Church from Chester. Despite a fit of the shivers he said: "I do a lot of open water swimming and have swum here for the past seven years. I had a really, really good swim and I am really pleased to have won, particularly as I am now in my 40s."

Organiser Kathryn Weaver, from Shrewsbury Masters, said that entrants needed to be confident in their own abilities and to have undertaken open water swims in the past.

"Despite cutting the course, because we wanted 140 happy swimmers rather than have anyone struggle, this is a challenging swim," she said. "It is not like swimming a distance in a pool. The challenge is in the river. There are no sides to push off from and you need the confidence to be able to keep going for the distance."

Other winners included Jennifer Devlin, from Mull Masters, Carloline Saxon from Birmingham Masters and Anais Carson-Mee. And it was something of a family affair for winner Howard Stringer, 24, from Shrewsbury who completed the swim by doing backstroke and whose mum Karen and dad Julian also took to the water.

Bernard Wills, chairman of Severn Masters, was delighted with how the event had gone. he said: "We made the right decision to shorten the course. We had some people in the water on Saturday and they were struggling against the current from Kingsland Bridge and more water came downstream overnight.

"It was a shame to have to keep it to 700m but we have to respect the water."

And this was the fifth time Bernard had competed."I really enjoyed it. People sometimes ask me if the river is clean but I have to say, I swim in it regularly and I have never picked anything up. There is a real community here and we all love to swim in the open water. This race goes to show how popular it has become."

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