Tuesday 15th December, 2009
Keen to get a few more 'pleasant paddles' under his belt before things get serious, Robson Green travels to Cambridge where he meets Jordan Savage and Gloria Dawson – both committed wild swimmers. They take Robson swimming at Grantchester Meadows, which is described as 'the most beautiful place to swim in Cambridge'. Robson then has a lone swim in the River Cam in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm that he joyfully describes as the "bonniest sight!"
Robson travels to Dover to meet Freda Streeter, also known as 'the general'. Freda has trained hundreds of cross channel swimmers and Robson joins a group of her students for a swim across Dover Harbour. He insists on wearing his wetsuit – which Freda describes as a 'wimp' suit.
Freda's years of experience make her the perfect person for Robson to confide his worries to. He asks her: "How do I get over the fatigue, the anxiety, the fear that I am going to have a heart attack?" She tells him: "You are a fit man. Think positive thoughts. You are not going to have a heart attack. When you hit a brick wall push through it."
Robson's next stop on his journey is a location that is surrounded by myths and legends – Loch Ness. Robson sets up camp at the side of the Loch as evening falls, but decides against a swim in the dark because "that's when the beasties come out!"
After an unsettled night he wakes to a beautiful morning and dives in naked because "there's only one way to enter the water that's going to make you feel alive, awake and liberated". However, he swiftly changes from birthday suit to wetsuit – a more sensible option in the cold, murky waters of the Loch.
Robson’s next challenge is a big one – to swim across the mighty Corryvreckan whirlpool located between the islands of Scarba and Jura in Scotland. He meets with Simon Murie who has spent years discovering and realising swims. His greatest accomplishment has been to plot a swimming route across Corryvreckan, the world's third largest whirlpool.
Robson Green in the Binocular Lounge of the Loch Melfort Hotel
Robson and Simon take a boat trip to see the whirlpool before they attempt swimming across it. After seeing the raging waters, Robson comments: "That was some serious piece of wild water, I have never seen anything like that in my life. I think you can admire the beauty of the ocean, the biggest swimming pool in the world, but my goodness, ignore its ferocity at your peril."
As the day of the swim arrives, Robson is prepared but the boat taking them out has mechanical problems, and there is a chance they won’t be able to get out to the whirlpool. The boat is repaired at the last minute and Robson now has only thirty minutes to swim the whirlpool before the tides turn it from tame to treacherous. The pair complete the swim, despite encountering some massive jellyfish on the way.
An emotional Robson tells Simon: "There are only a few things I've been proud of in my life and I'll tell you what, that is one of them. Honest. I cannot believe what I've just done. If I can do that - I can do Holy Island."
Simon tells the programme: "He did fantastically. He swum one of the toughest crossings in the British Isles and he did it on a spring tide – one of the toughest tides. All I can say is '’m in awe of what he did today."
Robson reflects: "Everything seems to be progressing to one defining moment. It's all taking shape. There's a sort of story here, this isn't just about coming across the idyllic and the beautiful of Britain. It's about dealing with self-doubt; it's dealing with achievement, endurance, human endeavour - bordering on life changing actually.
Robson is reaching the end of his wild swimming adventure and he faces his final challenge. The previous swim has taken its toll as he explains: "I'm in a lot of pain actually, elbows hurting, knees are really shot, I think not only has the ocean been talking to me, my body's talking to me as well."
Holy Island will be a challenge, as Olly Jay, Robson's pilot for the swim, tells the programme: "I hear he's not wearing a wetsuit which I'm a little bit surprised about. It's a tough swim. I think if it takes much more than 40 minutes the cold will start hitting him."
Olly has kayaked the sea around Holy Island for 11 years and tells Robson he has never seen anyone swim to it. "Good, it's a first!" Robson replies.
As Robson sets off on the 10 mile swim the current keeps taking him off course. He says: "Thank goodness Olly was there – he kept saying the current will take you eventually, go with it. Don't fight it. let the current take you. And it did." As Robson reaches the rocks of Holy Island he can hardly stand as he completes what he describes as "one of the biggest things I've ever done."
The swim has taken its toll on Robson's body and he collapses as his body goes into shock. He tells the programme: "I was in trouble, I didn't think I was in trouble, I was in trouble." The Holy Island swim was incredibly tough for Robson and he tells the programme that there was one person in particular who helped him achieve the challenge. "All the way through this I've had people helping me. But I kept saying at Holy Island I'm going to be on my own. But I wasn't. Immediately you start hearing the voices. There was so much imagery during that swim but there was one overriding one – and it was my dad, the person who taught me to swim. Father, teacher and protector, and he was protecting me out there."
Robson has one more swim he wants to do.
He returns to Seaton Sluice with his son, to swim together at the place his father first taught him to swim.
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