A GROUP of swimmers swam nearly 8,000 lengths of Thornbury Leisure Centre’s pool at the weekend to raise funds for charity.

Thornbury Rotary Club’s annual swimathon took place from Friday, February 28 to Sunday, March 2 and was a huge success. It is the main fundraising drive each year for the rotary club.

Pledges amounted to exactly £12,000 after somebody generously donated £68 to round the figure off at the close of the three-day event.

It brings the total raised by the rotary club to over £300,000 in the past 28 years.

A total of 64 teams took part and completed 7,949 lengths, or 200 miles.

Thornbury Rotary Club press officer Colin Ingamells said: “We anticipate that the sum will rise significantly once we have received all the donations, plus some business sponsorship and gift-aiding. The principle charities that will benefit are The Alzheimer’s Society and Avon Riding Centre for the Disabled, plus other local charities and good causes.”

The atmosphere was electric inside the leisure centre for the start of the swimathon. Scores of people turned up to show their support and cheer on the swimmers. Rounds of applause echoed through the room as did exclamations of encouragement from the poolside.

“The Castle School’s steel band Panache played for four solid hours over the weekend. It was a great atmosphere,” said Colin.

Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb attended to officially start the swimathon.

He said: “Thornbury Rotary Club deserve huge credit for putting on this charity event every year. It was great to see so many young people involved, including lots of teams from local primary schools as well as the Castle School Steel Band giving the evening a real swing.”

Former Castle School student Giles Shepherd, 41, was a member of The Bricks team who raised £700. Giles and his friends Mark Bachelor, Chris Jenkins and Nick Watt have taken part every year since 2011.

Giles said: “Despite expanding waistlines and receding hairlines we managed to complete 164 lengths in 55 minutes.

“We must say thanks to our friends, families and colleagues who were very generous to us and to Thornbury Rotary for organsing it. We’ve been doing it for the last four years and we always look forward it.”

Team captains and coordinators are now being encouraged to return sponsorship donations to organiser Adrian Dennis. More information is available from Adrian on 07970 435520 or by email ardennis@blueyonder.co.uk. The rotary club have a Twitter account @ThornburyRotary and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThornburyRotary.

The club would like to thank all swimmers and their sponsors for the support they have given to this event.