for better mental health

Why we're swimming four rivers for Mind

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 George, Alex, Lisa and Luke

George, Alex, Lisa and Luke blog about doing the 4 Rivers Challenge to raise money for Mind.

We like to do everything in fours; Four swims, in four rivers, in four capital cities, in four seasons with four objectives to achieve. We're going to create awareness, reduce stigma, promote positive actions for mental health and importantly raise money. Oh and there are four of us.

"Each and every one of us has suffered or knows someone who has suffered with poor mental health."

Each and every one of us has suffered or knows someone who has suffered with poor mental health. It’s touched each of our lives in different ways and has spurred us on to take on a challenge that some have called mad and most have called cold!

At Volkswagen Group UK, each year as a group of employees we select a charity to support and this year Mind received a clear majority vote for us to focus our charity challenges on. It was the brainchild of George Gray who took up open water swimming four years ago. He was looking for a distraction and importantly a positive challenge following the heart breaking suicide of his son, James, aged only 20. George created the ‘4 Rivers Challenge’ and, following a plea for fellow swimmers, three of us were touched by his story and wanted to help support his campaign.

"No matter where you are in the country you could be affected by poor mental health."

Edinburgh:

Edinburgh was the first of our 4 Rivers Challenge on 25th May. It was a chilly but successful 2.2km swim along the Forth River in Edinburgh in May. It took us 43 minutes to complete the swim and although this was the spring section of the swims, the coldness of the water following the winter period was certainly a shock to us all!

Belfast:

The second swim took place in Belfast, as part of the summer season of the swims on the morning of 10th August. The 1.7km swim took just over 30 minutes, heading downstream in the river Lagan. The location of the swim was changed at the last minute due to water quality concerns at the Titanic Dock; closer to the mouth of the sea.


Cardiff:

Cardiff signalled three quarters of the way through our challenge. The swim took place in Wales on Saturday 12th October. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall had caused the water level in the Taff to rise to dangerous levels; causing excess debris in the water, making it risky to swim in. Luckily, a new spot was found in the open sea in the Severn estuary on the beach of Penarth, just outside of Cardiff. The 1.2km swim was complete in 34 minutes, starting from Penarth pier before heading back to swim against the strong current.

London:

The final swim in London is planned for 7th December in the Serpentine river in Hyde Park at the Serpentine Swimming Club. This is expected to be a very chilly one. We plan to swim 1km, 10 lengths of the section you can swim in as a nod to the £10,000 we are aiming to raise. Despite the cold, we’re all really excited to finish on a high and hopefully be surrounded by supporters and well-wishers.


The 4 Rivers Challenge is supporting three charities; Volkswagen Group's Charity of the Year, Mind, the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and Inspire in Northern Ireland. The aim is for us to reach our target of £10,000 without Gift Aid by the end of the final swim in London in December.

The four of us would like to thank everyone for their support so far. We are now at just over £9,000 fund raising without Gift Aid, but we still have a target to hit – and hopefully to beat. Please donate and pass the message on to others and encourage them to support this fantastic cause – the more money we raise, the more work Mind can do to boost the nation’s mental health.

Fancy dipping your own toe in the water? We have a number of swimming events that you can get involved in.

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