SUFFOLK is preparing to take the plunge this weekend as the Great East Swim celebrates its tenth birthday.

The county’s biggest swimming event takes place at Alton Water, near Holbrook, on Saturday, for its tenth event since launching back in 2009.

To kick the weekend off, Suffolk schoolchildren took part in the Great East Swim Schools Challenge in Newmarket today (Friday) watched on by Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne.

The pupils, from All Saints CEVAP Primary School, Newmarket, Exning Primary School, Laureate CP School and St Louis Catholic Academy, took part in the challenge to see who could swim the furthest.

Afterwards, pupils from King Edward VI School were given a masterclass in swimming at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre from Keri-anne, who is Great Swim’s ambassador.

Keri-anne will be in attendance at the Great East Swim tomorrow and will be setting swimmers on their way at the event.

Around 2,000 people will take part in the event, which offers a range of distances from Swim250 through to the 10KM marathon distance. Also returning for 2018 is the popular Great SwimRun events which sees hundreds of runners combine running and swimming in an innovative and exciting challenge in and around Alton Water.

Alex Jackson, director of the Great Swim Series, said: “We’re all looking forward to being back at Alton Water for the Great East Swim which promises to be another great day of swimming as we prepare to celebrate our tenth birthday in Suffolk.

“As the event is part of the biggest and most established swim series in the UK, the Great East Swim offers an unparalleled open water event experience.

“We're impressed with the levels of interest in the newer Swim250 and SwimRun events which have given the Great East Swim even more choice for swimmers around the county and beyond.”

The event includes a separate 250 metre distance for school children as part of the Great East Swim’s School Outreach programme, which is run in partnership with Suffolk County Council and Suffolk NORSE, who deliver the county’s school swimming programme that aims to engage young children with swimming.

Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “The Great East Swim is one of the highlights of Suffolk’s mass participation events calendar and I am looking forward to supporting the thousands of swimmers who will be completing their own personal challenge.

“These events not only provide a unique opportunity to inspire more people to get active and help us achieve our ambition to become the most activity county in England, they also provide a boost to local business and the tourism economy creating a real and lasting legacy for the county.”