JOANNA Lumley and Des Lynam are among the celebrity well-wishers for East Preston’s Steve White, dubbed “The Swimming Gardener”, as he prepares for a gruelling 15-mile swim for charity today (Saturday, August 13).
Steve, 43, aims to swim from Littlehampton to Worthing Pier and back, with the target of raising more than £20,000 for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice at Poling.
Since he started training for the huge challenge 20 months ago, Steve has swum more than 1,000 km in a lake at Chichester and at Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre.
He has timed his arrival at Worthing Pier to coincide with the Worthing Birdman event, which is expected to attract a crowd of 20,000 spectators.
Among his sponsors, who have so far pledged more than £10,000, is one who has arranged an accumulator, doubling his donation for every mile Steve swims. Starting at 3.125p for the first mile, it means that if he manages to cross the 15-mile mark at the East Beach Café on Littlehampton seafront, more than £1,000 will go into the charity coffers.
Steve has also agreed to give 20 per cent of any donations to lifeboat charity the RNLI.
Said Steve: “I never was an athlete! I am a married father of two girls, and run a garden construction business. I have lived in Sussex for most of my life, and have been a sufferer of chronic back pain for nearly 20 years.
“After an unsuccessful spinal operation in 2007, I took up swimming as a form of pain relief and just started going further and further, raising over £3,000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care with my two daughters also swimming.
“Many people have suggested I swim the Channel, but I prefer to organise a local event, for local charities and easy for local people to be involved and spectate.”
Steve will be setting off just after dawn on Saturday and hopes to arrive at Worthing Pier between 10 and 10.30am, returning to Littlehampton at about 2.45pm.
During the swim, there will be live Twitter feed and photo updates as well as GPS tracker to plot Steve’s progress on his website, www.swimminggardener.org.uk which also has a link for making donations.