Warm-hearted swimmers take on ‘coldest’ loch for Rowan’s Trust

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It started with a New Year chat – but nine months on Richard Minnikin and 16 other swimmers handed over a £2,000 cheque to the Rowan Boland Memorial Trust.

The team took on the five-kilometre length of St Mary’s Loch in August in aid of the charity.

And former Braw Lad Roddy Gladstone donned the wetsuit twice to swim what is reputed to be the coldest loch in Scotland.

Richard said: “Sandy Blacklock and myself had a chat at New Year and I said swimming the length of St Mary’s Loch was something I have always wanted to do.

“So we began training in Galashiels Swimming Pool in January and people would ask us what we were doing and wanted to join us. It grew arms and legs from there and we ended up getting more and more people joining us.

“We took to training in St Mary’s Loch in May and you noticed straight away it was cold and choppier than the pool – but it was also a fantastic feeling.”

The darkness of the loch water took a bit of getting used to, but the swimmers were given guidance by Charlie Roberts, who was part of the team.

“There is a special technique for swimming in open water and Charlie helped us with that,” said Richard, adding: “He kept saying, ‘Get your head under the water’, which was so hard to begin with, but eventually you just had to do it.”

As for helping the Rowan Boland Memorial Trust, Richard said it was a perfect fit for added motivation for the challenge.

He added: “It is such a worthwhile cause and was a privilege to raise money for the trust.

“It was a great experience and we hope to do it again next year, but hopefully make it more organised and get more people involved.”

The full team of 17 swimmers to tackle St Mary’s Loch was: Richard Minnikin, Gemma and Charlie Roberts, Gillian Bryson, Graham Pogson, Donald McNeill, Alasdair Clipston, Rachel Fagan, Rachel Lawrie, Stuart Barrie, Lauren Cameron, Jonathan Taylor, Roddy Gladstone, Sandy Blacklock, Matthew Bushell, and Toby and Neil Vint.