Thousands of people donned their wetsuits and goggles and took the plunge at the Great East Swim, when it returned to Alton Water on Saturday.

Around 2,000 swimmers of all ages and abilities took on a variety of challenges in the county's biggest open water swim event in the picturesque surroundings of the manmade reservoir.

The swimmers raised hundreds of pounds for their chosen charities after conquering distances from the introductory 250-metre swim to the marathon 10k challenge.

Also new to this year was the inaugural Great East SwimRun, which featured a 11km adventure on both land and water, where teams of two got to experience a tour of the scenic 400 acres around Alton Water.

Alex Jackson, Director of the Great Swim Series, said: “It was another fantastic day in Suffolk and we would like to say a huge well done to all the swimmers who took part.

“We're really pleased with the introduction of the new Swim250 and SwimRun distances, making the Great East Swim an event for a huge range of ages and abilities.

“We would also like to say thank you to all of our staff, safety team and volunteers, as well as our partners Suffolk County Council, who make this such a brilliant event every year.”

The Great East Swim was once again staged in partnership with Suffolk County Council as part of their ambition to become the most active county in England.

The council's outreach programme, aimed at targeting physically inactive adults and those with long term health conditions was a huge success with 84 people taking part.

Among those that took part in the programme was first time swimmer Rob Jenkins, who swam in memory of his daughter Claire, who he lost to suicide age 15.

He said: “It was a challenge as I haven't swam in open water before. “But I have been training on a regular basis and managed to take part in the training day, so I thought it was a great opportunity to swim a mile for a charity very close to my heart.

“The atmosphere was great and I will never forget the day. “It was a great achievement to swim with my daughter and wife and I feel proud that I have done it. I hope to raise awareness and funds for PAPYUS to help prevent young suicide.”

A group of 50 school pupils also experienced the thrill of the open water in a 250-metre challenge, as part of Suffolk County Council's school outreach programme.

Swimmers and spectators enjoyed entertainment from a variety of groups, which hosted music from Suffolk choirs.

They also had the chance to reward themselves with a wide selection of Suffolk food and produce at the farmers market.

Councillor Tony Goldson, Cabinet Member for Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “It's great that so many people of all ages and ability can come together and take part in what is a fantastic event for Suffolk.

"You only have to see the sense of achievement felt by those who cross the finish line and complete their challenge to understand the impact and contribution that events such as these can have on health and wellbeing. I am in no doubt that events of this nature will help Suffolk achieve its ambition to become the most active county in England and I very much look forward to the Simplyhealth Great East Run in September.”

The Great East Swim is one of five Great Swim events that make up Europe's biggest open water swimming series; more than 20,000 people are expected to take part in 2016.

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