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 man-made reservoir, with temperatures in the lake hitting 20 degrees Celsius.

This weekend's event was the tenth of its kind in Suffolk, having launched back in 2009 – with more than 20,000 taking part over its decade-long history.

The event has grown from a one-mile swim to a full range of distances from the beginner-focused Swim250 right through to the marathon 10KM distance, with the innovative SwimRun events returning following a successful launch in 2017.

Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne got swimmers under way throughout the day, with Keri-anne taking part in a one-mile swim later in the day.

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

“We were especially delighted to see the Swim250 and SwimRun events grow this year as they have certainly established themselves as an integral part of the Great East Swim weekend.

“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 75 people taking part.

A group of 50 school pupils also experienced the thrill of the open water in a 250-metre challenge, also as part of the programme.

Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “It was fantastic to see so many people of all ages and ability coming together to take part in what is a fantastic event for Suffolk.

“The sense of achievement on the faces of the individuals who cross the finish line and complete their challenge is evident for everyone to see.

“I am in no doubt that events of this nature play a significant part in inspiring more people to get active across the county and have a very positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents of Suffolk.”

Swimmers and spectators enjoyed entertainment from the Children Theatre Company who put on two performances during the day.

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

A reminder service for the 2019 Great East Swim is now open. Sign up at Greatswim.org/East