A GWENT swimming club is appealing for donations to keep its head above water. The qualified teachers and coaches of the voluntary organisation Cwmbran Otters have taught thousands to swim since the group was established in 1974. The group caters to everyone from age three.

Many have gone on to a bigger stage, including Mike Watkins, who went on to represent Wales in the butterfly swimming section of the Commonwealth Games in the early 1990s. Officials say the club has fallen on hard times because it has had to find other venues while Cwmbran Stadium, its usual base, is being restored.

The stadium is undergoing a £5.1m refurbishment to bring it up to International World Ath-letics Foundation standard and the new-look arena is due to reopen on June 1. The club, subsidised by Torfaen council while at the stadium, had budgeted to make alternative arrangements for its 150-plus members until November - the original target date for the stadium's re-opening.

As a result of the delay the club claims its running costs have doubled because it has had to hire private sector venues to swim in.

Otters chairman Tim Kretschmer told the Argus: "We saw the original November opening date for which we'd budgeted had moved to June.

"While the stadium has been closed we have run a weekly Sunday session from 4pm to 6pm at Llantarnam leisure centre and our training sessions for squad members on a Tuesday, Wednes-day and Friday at the police training centre at Greenmeadow.

"Our coffers are at an all-time low as while we are using these alternative venues we are not being subsidised by the council and have seen our costs double.

"We are still alive but we are appealing for donations and more members to join in our time of need.

"If we do not get help we may have to restrict our operations and reduce the number of hours we provide."

Anyone who would like to join the club or make a donation should contact Tim Kretschmer on 01633 862605 or chief coach Gerald Simms on 01633 864172.

*PICTURED: Restoration work at Cwmbran Stadium has led to its pool being closed, causing problems for the Cwmbran Otters swimming club.