INCLEMENT weather, cold waters, a travel ban, closed swimming pools - he's faced it all.

But nothing deters self-confessed swimming addict, Mark Harvey, from continuing Swim22 and raising funds for Diabetes UK this year.

Mr Harvey lives outside Chepstow and swims in Wales and the South West in lakes, rivers, seas, wherever and whenever he can.

“My father-in-law, Brian, is my main inspiration for Swim 22," he said. "He really was a lovely man - the ideal father-in-law.


"Brian battled diabetes throughout his later life.

"He was a big tough man who worked hard all of his life – his hands were rough and his grip was like iron.

"But diabetes damaged him badly and was a major contributing factor in his eventual death.”

Mr Harvey is making things a little more testing.

For this year’s event he decided to swim the full distance outdoors under the clothing rules of the International Ice Swimming Association and the Channel Swimming Association.

This means he was only allowed to wear a standard swimsuit, a single swim cap, goggles, and ear plugs.

Outdoor water temperatures at the start of the challenge in February are between three and five degrees, and February to April are the coldest months for swimming outdoors.

Mr Harvey decided to do the challenge outdoors because he has become “addicted” to open water swimming.

“Being outside, in the wild, in freezing cold water, with the world and nature around you, it’s just fantastic," he said.

"You can swim from dawn to dark seven days a week.

"There isn’t that dreadful smell of chlorine, or hundreds of other swimmers, or the horrible heat of a leisure centre.

"I could wax lyrical forever, but I can sum it up in just a line: it puts a smile on your face that lasts the whole day.”

The first obstacle Mr Harvey faced was the storms and floods early in the year.

“The cold is tough, but the hardest struggle was finding water to swim in," he said. "My usual rivers for swims are the Wye, Usk, and the Monnow, but these were in a dreadful state, not safe to swim in and were a horrible manky colour.”

Until the rivers improved, he took to the sea and the lakes in the Brecon Beacons to begin this year’s challenge.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak put paid to all of his plans, particularly as accessing open water of any type was impossible because of the ban on unnecessary travel.

He said: “I was so happy when Wales at last lifted the travel ban on July 6.

"My wife and I were so excited, we went for a sunrise swim in the Brecons to celebrate on the very day the restrictions were lifted.”

Mr Harvey swims in Wales in places, such as Barry, the Brecons, Blue Lagoon, and Harlech and in other locations, as far North as the Outer Hebrides in Scotland and Loch Ness.

“I love swimming at Barry," he said. "My wife and I often hire a beach hut for the day and take a heater, a kettle, and a toaster - fab fun."