Knebworth grandfather attempts 147-mile swim to France after neck break

Andy Nation outside his pool house at his Knebworth home

Andy Nation outside his pool house at his Knebworth home - Credit: Archant

A GRANDFATHER whose bid to swim along the River Thames and across the English Channel last June was denied after he broke his neck is attempting the feat a year on.

Andy Nation has been backed by Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent

Andy Nation has been backed by Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent - Credit: Archant

Andy Nation’s dream to swim 147 miles from Teddington in Middlesex to Calais in France was dealt a major blow when he fell in his garden in Knebworth and broke his neck three weeks before the challenge.

But after undergoing an operation the 63-year-old returned to training and, after completing 246 miles of swimming since his accident, will take to the water at Teddington Lock at midday on July 19.

Andy, who now has a metal plate in his neck, hopes to complete the swim in about a week by spending six hours in the water a day when the tide is in his favour.

Wearing just goggles, a swim cap and trunks, the father-of-three and grandfather-of-five will be accompanied along the route by two rigid inflatable boats, as well as his wife Leiva who will be tracking Andy’s progress.

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“I’m still taking lots of tablets – about 10 a day – for the pain in my neck, arms and my left leg in particular but I am at about 95 per cent of what I was before the accident,” said Andy, who has swum about 900 miles in preparation for the challenge, including his training prior to June 2012.

“I won’t be as fast as I have been but it’s an endurance test not a race.”

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The serial fundraiser has already swum 147 miles along the non-tidal Thames, taking 12 days to complete the route in 2005.

This time Andy has set himself a £1million fundraising target for the swim, which is in aid of the Hertfordshire Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in Letchworth GC and the Herts Air Ambulance.

Andy’s friend Marilyn Cook died last year at the age of 60 after suffering from MS for a number of years and Andy has kept a promise to her husband Trevor when he said his next challenge would be in her honour.

As well as collecting sponsorship, Andy is putting together an autograph book with signatures of ‘people of our time’ in which businesses and individuals can have their names set alongside the rich and famous in return for a £1,000 donation. An auction is also going to be held, with donations welcome.

For more information about Andy’s swim or to sponsor him visit

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