When a Hassocks woman nearly drowned aged nine she never thought she would step back into the water again, let alone swim more than a thousand lengths for charity.
But after seeing her grandchildren playing in the sea on holiday Judy Tilbury decided at the age of 69 to take the plunge.
After taking swimming lessons at The Triangle in Burgess Hill, the coach told her she was a natural so she decided to take on a swimming challenge to raise money for Headway, a charity close to her heart.
Headway, at Hurstwood Park, has helped Judy, 73, on two occasions in her life.
Her son Mathew, 24, spent the last nine days of his life there after he was attacked with a baseball bat when he tried to break up a fight in Brighton.
Her husband Roy was also treated there when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour but sadly died three years ago.
After swimming the ‘Loch Ness’ it was suggested that Judy should try to swim the distance of the Channel, 21 miles – roughly 1,642 lengths.
She said: “People are just amazed when I tell them what I am doing.
“I have a very strong back stroke and find that easier so I am doing most of the swim that way.”
Judy swims about 100-150 lengths and has about two weeks left before she completes the challenge.
“The Triangle have been really supportive putting up posters and keeping my sponsor sheets out,” she said. “When I started swimming I took to it like a duck to water and my coach said that if I had started when I was child I could have been a champion.”
Stuart Smith, Freedom Leisure Centre manager, said: “Judy is an inspiration and all the team at The Triangle are so proud of her.
“Her swimming has come on leaps and bounds under the expert tuition of our swimming instructor Phil Geary.
“She’s the perfect example that it’s never too late to learn to swim. She has overcome her fear and become a real water baby.”
Not content with swimming the Channel Judy is also planning to swim the equivalent of the Irish sea, which is more than 3,000 lengths of the pool.
To donate there is a sheet at the Triangle or you can visit: www.justgiving.com/ headwayhp