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You are in: Somerset > People > Your Stories > Swimming and able

Mendip Mallards swimming club at Strode Swimming Pool, Street.

The Mallards have run for over 25 years

Swimming and able

A swimming group for disabled people in Mendip has been running for over 25 years helping people with mental and physical conditions keep fit and healthy - we meet some of the members on how it's changed their lives.

Mendip Mallards runs every Sunday from 12.30 to 1.30pm at Strode Pool in Street where the pool is closed off to the general public so its members can enjoy a sheltered swim.

Norman Purcell, chairman, said: "I lost my leg when I was 18 and I'm now 60-plus. We moved down to Somerset from the Midlands 30 years ago and I joined the Mallards on and off and I've sort of grown up with the Mallards.

"I don't feel self-conscious although I used to at first. Now I tend to feel what will other people will be thinking and I don't want to upset them. I swam in the sea at Bournemouth many years ago.

"We got there early and when we came out the water the beach was absolutely full; it was a Bank Holiday. When I came hopping out the water, there were shocked faces all round so I tried to make a joke of it and said 'Shark! Shark! Shark!' and that really went down the wrong way!"

'Rollercoaster'

The club currently has over 100 members and is open to people in Mendip and south Somerset, although people from Dorset and Wiltshire have also joined.

Sarah Atkins, 26, from Street, has suffered with cancer for 18 years which has left her with mobility problems.

"My health goes up and down like a rollercoaster. It's a pretty rare cancer, it comes in tumours so it's in various places. I've had it in various tissues and organs and bones.

"Because of the chemotherapy I've got osteoporosis so there isn't a lot of exercise that I could do that's safe but as soon as I get in the water I can push myself as much as I want to do without doing any damage.

"If you haven't been for a few weeks someone will ring up and check that you are alright. There's no pressure to do anything but we all sort of look out for each other."

Marcia has had multiple sclerosis (MS) for nearly 27 years and has been a member for 20 years after her health visitor told her about the Mendip Mallards.

"Since then my MS has deteriorated. I've got two crutches and outside the home I use a scooter or wheelchair but I think the fact that I've got plenty of confidence and I've been able to keep mobile is due to the fact that every Sunday I come and I have a swim.

"I don't use my legs now for swimming but keep going and I think it's all part of maintaining health, just because you have a disability it doesn't mean to say that you can't keep everything else ticking over."

'Very fit'

Although the club is a chance for people to exercise and keep fit, the club has seen its fair share of success in swimming galas winning gold medals in competitions held by the British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA).

Angela Friend, one of the club's stars, said: "I was diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). It's not life-threatening but it's very debilitating, the muscles get very sore and hard and very, very painful and you also suffer from a lot of sleep problems.

"There are people who, like me, look very fit but they think they don't qualify for something like this but when I was diagnosed the consultant said to me that swimming was the best exercise. I said I couldn't swim and he said 'well learn, what's stopping you from learning?' So I was about 52 when I started learning.

"I knew the Mallards existed and had to go through the right channels to find them, but it's the best thing I ever did."

last updated: 06/05/2009 at 13:02
created: 06/05/2009

You are in: Somerset > People > Your Stories > Swimming and able

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