Entries to the event are open now, for more information and to enter, visit: Greatswim.org

Olympic silver medallist and two-time world open water swimming champion Keri-anne Payne returned to Suffolk to help Great East Swim celebrate its tenth anniversary today.

The open water-swimming event will return to Alton Water Reservoir on Saturday 23 June for its tenth year having launched in 2009.

More than two thousand people of all ages and abilities regularly take the plunge at the Great East Swim, which offers the opportunity for everyone to take part – from first timers to experienced open water swimmers.

Distances range from the engaging Swim250 and 1/2 mile, up to the challenging marathon 10k swim, and also features the popular SwimRun events once more for 2018.

Keri-anne was at Crown Pools in Ipswich today alongside some of the event's more memorable participants, as well as the charities and good causes that have benefited from the event's fundraising efforts over the last decade.

Keri-anne, who was also on hand to give pupils from Springfield Junior School in Ipswich some swimming hints and tips, said: “I'm delighted to be back in Suffolk to celebrate 10 years of the Great East Swim.

“Over the years this event has been instrumental in inspiring a new generation to consider open water swimming.

“With the range of distances from the beginner's 250m to the marathon distance, there is something for everybody and I hope that many thousands more will be inspired to take on a new challenge over the coming years.”

Green Light Trust and St Elizabeth Hospice, two local charities who benefit greatly from the event's fundraisers, were in attendance.

Ashley Seabourne, from Green Light Trust, said: “This is the first year we have been involved in the Great East Swim. We are very much looking forward to it helping us raise the profile of our work and help raise the funding necessary to help our clients.”

Multi-discipline athlete Elliot Gladwell was also in attendance. The 12-year-old pupil at Ipswich School took on his first open water swim at the Great East Swim schools events in 2016, and has since represented Great Britain on the international stage in biathlon and triathlon.

He said: “Initially I really struggled with the open water swimming but with the patience of the coaches and team of the Great East swim as part of the schools programme, I have now managed to gain confidence in the open water.

“I would recommend every young person to give it a go and will be encouraging my fellow swimmers from Hadleigh Swimming Club and Ipswich Junior Triathlon club as it an amazing experience.”

Dawn Carson and Ruth Clark will also be marking an anniversary, having taken part in every Great East Swim to date – and both are also signed up for 2018's event.

Dawn said: Having been a regular swimmer I wanted the new challenge and experience of open water swimming in my home county.

"It means the continued challenge, as I get older, enjoying the nerves and anticipation of swimming in a wave with a few hundred other mad, determined swimmers all for our own benefit but collectively. It is well-organised and showcases our county so very well for the swimmers, onlookers and visitors alike."

Meanwhile, Robert Jenkins took part in 2017, his first ever open water swimming challenge in memory of his daughter Claire, who committed suicide after a brave battle with mental illness.

He said: “It has given me the confidence to overcome my fear of the sea, try river swimming and also to enter various swimming events. I have already registered for five events across the UK starting with the Great North Swim in June. My wife and I have already started planning events for 2019.”

The Great East Swim also includes an outreach programme, organised by Suffolk County Council, where people who are not confidently engaged in physical activity or a sport are provided with an opportunity to push themselves in a challenging environment.

Sarah Edwards and Saska Bierowiec are among those who have taken advantage of the programme and were also in attendance today.

Saska said of the event: “It presented a challenge and the chance to achieve when taken out of your comfort zone.  It is such a well-supported event and great fun with others entering for their own reasons - a great talking point whilst training and on the day.”

Councillor Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council's Cabinet Member for Health said: “We are delighted to be marking the event's ten-year celebration and hoping to see thousands more swimmers starting their journeys here in Suffolk for the next ten years or more.

“Mass participation events such as the Great East Swim play a significant part in our aspirations to make Suffolk the most active county in England, whilst providing a valuable boost to the local economy and tourism.”

For more information about applying for the Great East Swim Outreach Programme visit: www.suffolksport.com/greateastswim

Entries to the event are open now, for more information and to enter, visit: Greatswim.org