Weston woman hopes to complete 40 outdoor swims to celebrate her birthday

Anna at Clevedon's Marine Lake.

Anna at Clevedon's Marine Lake. - Credit: Archant

A woman who has vowed to complete 40 outdoor swims in her 40th year is just three challenges away from hitting her target.

Anna Southwell, who owns Loves Café in Weston, set herself the challenge to raise money for Above & Beyond after her partner Josh was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Anna said: “I was worried that I would have some sort of personal crisis this year about turning 40. I figured if I could set myself a challenge then I could focus on that instead. I know it’s only a number but people approach it in different ways.

“When Josh fell ill I didn’t think I would get the challenge done – his health was the most important thing – but then because of how amazing the hospital and all the staff were it gave me an incentive to keep going.”

More: Loves Café owner vows to complete 40 outdoor swims for charity.

Josh had five months of chemotherapy before getting the all clear in September.

Anna added: “When Josh was first taken into hospital I was able to stay with him for the first month. He had a room to himself thanks to a refurbishment funded by Above & Beyond. It was really helpful for Josh to have me there as it was a really scary time.

“He was having really hard-core chemotherapy and was at high risk of infection so we had to be at most an hour away from Bristol, which meant we had to change our plans slightly.

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“We still managed to get ourselves over to the Brecon Beacons which is where I did my highest swim. I’ve done some in the Avon and the River Frome, and we’ve been down to Cornwall and Dartmoor.”

Anna has raised more than £2,000 so far and her swims have inclided a two-and-a-half kilometre open swin in Dartmoor to the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Wales.

She said: “By forcing yourself into the cold water you’re retraining your body’s stress response and you can then cope with stress better. I feel like I wouldn’t have coped so well when Josh got ill if I hadn’t had this set up. It gave me a focus but also kept me healthy.

“Cold water swimming is great for people’s wellbeing and physical health. In the summer it’s really easy and you can stay in a really long time. Now I stay in until I feel parts of me going numb!”

You can sponsor Anna at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/anna40swims