Swoosh report 2023

Photo: Jess Rose.

On Saturday the 8th of July, 800 swimmers got into the river Avon at Aveton Gifford and swam down to Bantham Beach to be greeted by hot chocolate, warm towels and hearty applause.

The Bantham Swoosh is such an important event for so many people and it simply wouldn’t happen without the support of the local Bantham, Thurlestone and Aveton Gifford residents and businesses.  On behalf of all of us at Level Water we would like to thank you very much for all your support this year.

All proceeds from the Bantham Swoosh swim go to the charity Level Water, providing 1-1 swimming lessons for children with disabilities. Hundreds of swimmers also chose to fundraise for the charity, raising £170,000 between them. This is the equivalent of over 11,000 swimming lessons, giving disabled children the chance to fall in love with the water. These lessons simply wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the Bantham Swoosh. 

As the swimmers gathered in Aveton Gifford, you could feel the excitement brewing. The Hive Pre School sold out of tea, coffee, and cakes, raising over £500, while swimmers shared stories of their past adventures. Swimmers with disabilities were first into the river, with volunteers taking responsibility for prosthetic limbs and crutches to be returned at the finish line. Then the rest followed, down the creek and out into the wider expanses of the river, swimming 6km surrounded by the most stunning views of the south Devon countryside. As the river widens and silt gives way to sand the visibility improves, with clear view of the seashells below, before seeing moored boats and Bantham village.  This is their sign that the Swoosh is coming, and as the river picks up speed many swimmers stop and watch the view go by. as they float past the iconic pink boathouse at Jenkins Quay before getting their feet onto Bantham’s sandy shore. 

Photo: Jess Rose.

Water safety teams were strategically positioned on boats and paddle boards along the way, giving assistance to any swimmers who needed it. The wind danced across the waves at the finish as hundreds of swimmers found themselves engulfed in a huge downpour.  They all stopped, looked up, and laughed together. Volunteers were on hand to help people out of the water and safely back onto dry land where they were given a cup of hot chocolate, a Bantham Swoosh commemorative towel and a big hug.  Cold swimmers huddled in the warm-up tent until they could feel their toes once more. 

The wind danced across the waves at the finish as hundreds of swimmers found themselves engulfed in a huge downpour.  They all stopped, looked up, and laughed together.

A new feature of the event this year was a guided walk, run by the Ramblers Association. To reduce traffic and give spectators the best of their trip to Devon, 150 people walked from Aveton Gifford to Bantham Beach. The route meanders through fields and woodlands; at certain points breaking out into views of the swimmers down in the estuary below. The trip attracted ramblers from all walks of life, children as young as five and older participants too. The guided walk was a huge success and it’s most definitely on the cards for future events. 

At Bantham, the Gastrobus was open for business as usual, as well as a few extra caterers brought in for the event. The swimmers and their supporters were spoilt for choice, from Thai to vegetarian street food and amazing coffee, there was something for everyone.  

After the main event was the children’s event, the ‘Mini-Swoosh’, where kids aged 8-15 got in the river to swim the Swooshiest last kilometre of the route. The children whooped and laughed as they got into the water – attracting the attention of many Bantham residents – and the swimmers included seven children with disabilities who learned to swim at Level Water lessons. Swimming outside with nature around them is something that wouldn’t have been imaginable for them before their 1:1 swimming lessons, and it’s incredible to have fundraisers, children and their families all finishing the same swim on the same beach together. 

Children with a range of conditions learn to swim with Level Water, from Cerebral Palsy to Autism. From physical development to social and emotional confidence, swimming is a vehicle to change their lives for the better. Level Water sees a future where all children benefit from physical health and experiences that build self-esteem and optimism, of going for it and seeing what’s possible in life.

Children with disabilities often aren’t able to learn in group lessons, and swimming teachers benefit from additional training to understand how best to support them. Strengthening their muscles and improving flexibility in the pool improves our children’s lives outside of the pool too. That’s why Level Water trains swimming teachers, working with pools and governing bodies all over the UK to provide 1:1 lessons to give kids the power of swimming.

Thanks again for playing your part to make this all happen. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

  • Keep up to date with future Level Water events here
Ian Thwaites