By Andy Hirst

A wild water swimmer invited people to join her to raise money for the Eden Smith appeal and expected around only half a dozen to turn up.

But more than 45 took the plunge in the cold waters at Sparth reservoir near Marsden – so many that they had to form an orderly queue up to get in.

The idea came from Frances Brook from Slaithwaite and Josee Laliberte-Dyer from Crosland Moor who are both members at Northern Fitness Gym in Linthwaite (both pictured above)

Gym owner Kev Bower has challenged 100 members to help him raise £50,000 towards a major appeal to send seven-year-old Eden Smith from Holmfirth to the USA for vital cancer treatment.

So Frances and Josee decided to go wild water swimming in the reservoir for 30 consecutive days and decided to invite anyone who fancied having a go to join them on their 30th day.

Frances, a mum-of-six and stepmum with two grandchildren, said: “We put it out on Facebook and thought only a handful of people would turn up – perhaps six or so but no more than 12.

“As it was we had almost 50. Many hadn’t done wild water swimming before so were nervous. Some took to it like the proverbial duck to water while others went in and came straight out again. Those who stayed in and swam around loved it and said they’d give it another go.”

Frances, 50, swims regularly in the reservoir in a normal swimming costume rather than a wet suit.

She swims in all weathers from the icy depths of winter when the water is freezing, in rain, hail, snow and sun and in summer the temperature can soar to just a plain cold 13°C.

“It’s really invigorating,” she said. “I tend to go first thing in the morning and it sets me up for the day. It’s good for mental health, it’s excellent for fat burning and gives your immune system a real boost. I never seem to get coughs and colds anymore.”

Sparth is owned by the Canal and River Trust and is the only reservoir around here where people can legally swim. The reservoir has steps all the way down into it, along with a small sandy beach.

“Lots of people regularly swim in Sparth,” said Frances. “In summer there can be around 50 – sometimes many more – in the water throughout the day. It would be great if Yorkshire Water allowed people to swim in their reservoirs.”

In 2011 the Canal and River Trust tried to prevent people swimming in Sparth but backed down after a public outcry with swimmers openly defying the ban and proving that people had been swimming in Sparth for decades.

Frances collected donations from the newbie wild water swimmers and, along with sponsorship for her and Josee, the two swimmers have raised £1,350 for the Eden appeal.

Eden, of Wooldale, was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma in April 2021, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer that has a 40% to 50% chance of long-term survival at diagnosis and affects fewer than 100 children in the UK every year. Scans and tests showed the cancer was located in seven places around Eden’s body.

She has completed gruelling chemotherapy, undergone a major operation and had stem cell treatment with radiotherapy and her immunotherapy treatment starts on May 16 when she has to go into hospital for 10 days.

To prevent the cancer returning Eden will then need Bivalent Vaccine treatment which is now only available in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York and the earliest she’d probably be able to go to would be this summer.

So far £400,000 has been raised as Eden will need around 12 trips to the USA for treatment over the next three years.

* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.