A swimmer’s take on Chesterfield. Or, there’s more to Chesterfield than that crooked spire.

When you’re ploughing up and down, and down and up, trying to clock up mileage on the Aspire Channel Swim Challenge it’s good to have something to focus on. Sometimes I try and unpick a problem, but this week I’ve been thinking back over our summertime swims. Today took me back to a tip top one in Chesterfield.

We had a week in the Peak District with my sister and her Labrador (stars of our Chatsworth expedition) filled with walking, eating Bakewell Pudding & Pies and all kinds of other pies, and needed to drop her back to the station. Round and round the roundabout we careered in the car, failing to find the right exit for the station. They made their train with seconds to spare no thanks to an unscheduled diversion up the wrong road…

Such is my dedication to (or obsession with) swimming when going round this roundabout in Chesterfield I spied one of those brown signs to a swimming pool / leisure centre I immediately googled it. The 13 year old competitive swimmer needed to notch up some ‘sets’ indoors, and so we discovered Queen’s Park Sports Centre. 

The centre is newly built and very, very well designed. From the sparkling clean pool village to the showers (where a 70 year old offered me his shampoo when I *gently* cursed leaving ours in the car – don’t get that in London do you) to the chat at the lockers (another 70 year old odd man who grimaced when I admitted we came from London after a bit of a chat about his workout – 90 mins in gym then swim!) to the 25m pool itself.

Oh, what a marvel, we had a lane EACH and swam for half an hour uninterrupted by anyone. What bliss. It’s an 8 laner and the two of us were in our own private heavens. The doors at the end of the pool were open, so fresh not chlorine-laden air was circulating, and it felt cool not sweltering. Thank you to the pool manager whose small gesture in keeping the doors open makes such a difference to the swimmers (and presumably his life guards too).

When we’d done our laps the Super Swimmer offered up some training tips. At the end of 3 lengths of fly under her instruction I stood in the shallow end, wheezing away, ‘Mummy, you look absolutely knackered!’ Too blooming right.

We had fun in the play pool – just next door – where there were a series of play showers squirting water at various intensities into the pool. Ace.

Afterwards overflowing with happy endorphins, grinning from ear to ear (and wondering if it was selfish to get such immense pleasure from an individual sport and not a shared activity on a family holiday…), I spotted the king of bakeries and pie shops in the town centre, Jacksons the Bakers, so time for a supermarket-style-sweep of their pie and scone section… Broccoli and stilton, pork pie, raisin scones, cranberry scones… Pie Fest Ruled OK on Holiday.


Today I swam at Parliament Hill Lido in London in skins in 18’C water – clocking up 26 lengths aka another mile on my Aspire Swim Challenge. So far I’ve done 6.13 miles. If you’re a fan of Chesterfield swimming pool, would like to support a charity which looks after people with spinal injuries, or like reading about pie-shopping trips, may I ask you to sponsor me please?

Thanks for joining me on my journey – and if you fancy finding out more about the church in Chesterfield with the crooked spire, photographed  by David Ross, visit Britain Express.


I’ve signed up to swim the length of the English Channel 22 miles in aid of Aspire. Why?

So why have I signed up to swim the length of the English Channel, 22 miles, in 12 weeks?

It’s a new challenge – and I like challenges

This one really caught my eye. I LOVE SWIMMING.

Aspire is a very special charity – it helps people paralysed by spinal cord injury. It gives them practical assistance, advice and support from injury to independence. There is currently no cure for spinal injury.

And they even filmed part of their enticing video at Parliament Hill Lido.

Parliament Hill Lido – where I’m hoping to swim much of my 22 miles

The Paralympics have just opened in Rio – and I’m being reminded how awesome our Paralympians are, and how many of the athletes have come back from terrible life changing injuries or paralysis and put their determination and talents to amazing use.

I’d like to achieve something big in the pool this year and have extra impetus to swim regularly through the winter

I will never, ever, swim the English Channel* 

I want to get into shape and look and feel on top form

I am a very lucky person, and sometimes that needs to be celebrated with a marker and a milestone – I can swim, I live close to London’s most beautiful shiny bottomed Parliament Hill Lido and a host of other pools, I am able bodied, I have the most motivating and supportive of husbands and 12 year old twins egging me on, and a flexible-ish work schedule – plus the desire to do this.

For my daddy – Some years ago my daddy was struck very low by a very serious illness. Part of his rehabilitation, which involved learning to walk again, also entailed water and access to special swimming sessions. So I am also doing this in recognition, and thanks, for the teams of medics at The Royal Berks Hospital intensive care unit who gave him back to us, the physios and carers at Linden Hill who run such brilliant water therapy sessions, and the lifeguards and staff at Wantage Rec Centre where he and mummy swam on Monday nights. This challenge from Aspire has reminded me how fortunate we were all those years ago.

*I have promised my 12 year old daughter I won’t. So I won’t. For now. And probably not for ever.

If you’d like to support Aspire and my challenge please may I ask you to head over to my Just Giving page. Or if you fancy taking on this quest to swim the English Channel in your local pool sign up here.

Thank you as ever for reading.