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Family pair Swim Serpentine to raise funds for special school

A family duo are taking on the first ever Swim Serpentine to raise funds for new technology equipment for pupils at a special school in Chelmsford.

Alan Rayner, 53, and his nephew Andy, 37, will swim a mile of the iconic Serpentine lake alongside thousands of other swimmers on Saturday 24 September.

The pair have been supporters of Columbus Special School in Oliver Way, Chelmsford, for many years and want to raise enough money to buy new, special tablets for the children.

Alan said: “We have set the bar quite high and are aiming to raise £5,000 which would buy 10 iPads for the school, but anything we can raise would be a big help.

“The children at the school have a range of complex disabilities so the equipment needs to be specialised for them to be able to use it.”

Ginny Bellard, principal of Columbus Special School, said: “Alan and Andy have been supporters and champions of Columbus Special School for many years now; raising awareness of complex disability as well as funds to ensure the young people who attend the school receive the specialist support and intervention they need to thrive.

“They have been training hard to begin to provide Columbus's very special children and young people with the vital support services they need.”

As well as raising funds for charity, Swim Serpentine has been something of a personal goal for Alan who has lost nearly three stone during training for the event.

“I went fishing on holiday last year and caught a big old pike,” recalled Alan who suffers from Type 2 diabetes. “But when I looked back at the pictures I didn’t know who was bigger, me or the pike!

“So I started swimming to try to get fit. Then I read about Swim Serpentine and thought that would be a challenge I could push myself towards and roped in Andy to do it with me and it’s been great.

“Since I started swimming I’ve lost three stone and we did our first open-water mile last week, so it’s been great from a personal point of view as well as raising money for an important project.”

To sponsor Alan and Andy, log on to

Entries for Swim Serpentine are open until 17:00 on Thursday 25 August. Entry is £39. Find out more about how to enter here.

All swimmers in the mass participation mile must wear either a wetsuit or use a tow-float. Both wetsuit and tow-float hire will be available at the Serpentine on the day.

On Sunday 25 September, following the mass participation one-mile event the day before, the British Open Water Swimming Championships will take place with a programme that will include an elite invitation 5km swim. The British Open Water Swimming Championships events will be held over a 3.2km course.