A NORTH Berwick swimmer in her 60s has swum the English Channel to help support people with spinal cord injuries.

Meg Maitland, 64, was part of a team of six – called the Kangaroos relay team – who swam the 35 miles from Dover to the north of France.

Due to coronavirus, the swim was on and off all summer; Meg initially planned to complete it in June but had to cancel it due to restrictions.

However, the team eventually left Dover on the evening of August 31 and arrived in Wissant, about 20 kilometres south-west of Calais in the north of France, the next day.

The team left at 10.45pm and swam through the night, reaching their destination 14 hours and three minutes later.

Each swimmer had to complete a leg one hour long, going in rotation until the challenge was complete.

The swim ended up being as difficult as it sounded, with some challenging conditions experienced by all along the way.

Meg said: “It was a hard swim trying to beat the currents and waves; however, the sea temperature was 17 degrees, positively balmy for us North Sea swimmers used to anything from four degrees upwards!

“Along the way we passed tankers, ferries, fishing boats and porpoises.

“With teamwork and with a great boat leader, Laura, we made it!

“What an amazing experience.”

Due to coronavirus restrictions, only the last swimmer on the rota could approach the French shore and claim the swim done.

Completing the swim was something Meg had wanted to do for a very long time.

She said: “Since I was seven years old and crossed from Dover to Calais on a ferry, I’ve wanted to swim the Channel. Nearly 57 years later in 2019, I applied for a place on a relay organised by Aspire.”

Aspire, which Meg was raising money for, is a charity that supports people with spinal cord injuries and allows them to live independent lives. The charity often arranges Channel swims by putting teams together from across the UK.

Meg said that swimming played a huge part in rehabilitation thanks to its physical and mental benefits.

She had to go through a selection process before being offered a place on the team.

She trained for nearly one year, followed by the final qualifying swim, which saw her swim in water that was 16 degrees Celsius for two hours wearing just a swimsuit, hat and a pair of goggles.

She joked that “water at that temperature is easy to find in Scotland”.

She added: “It was a huge team effort to get there and we all felt as if we’d all swum into the beach.

“Without a doubt I wouldn’t have achieved this without the other Kangaroos, our boat leader Laura and the organisation from Aspire.

“Several people and things over the years have helped me achieve this dream. Swimming in the freezing water at Dunbar open-air pool in the ’60s and ’70s; the Salty Selkies and the Bass Rock Swimmers of North Berwick, who got me to ditch my wetsuit; the RNLI who rescued me and saved my life a few years ago; my friend Linda Malcolm, who’s swum with me in all weathers and temperatures; and finally Alistair Forbes and his dog Bentley.

“Alistair watched me swim for years early in the mornings when out walking Bentley. He looked out for me going in and coming back. Seeing him on the green at the anchor whilst I was out swimming was always a reassuring sight.

“He supported my dream... although thought I was mad!

“Sadly, both he and Bentley passed away this year before the swim was completed, but along with everyone who helped me get there and my long-suffering partner David, they were all with me whilst I was swimming. Thank you and for all the donations to Aspire.”

Meg has smashed her £3,000 target with nearly £4,000 raised so far.

Donate at justgiving.com/fundraising/channelswimmegmaitland