A GUTSY Kingswinford woman has achieved an ambition of a lifetime to swim the English Channel.

Yvonne Sidaway was part of a relay team of six people who took on the gruelling challenge on Sunday September 5 and 6 to raise money for Aspire which supports people with spinal cord injuries.

It took the team 13 hours 31 minutes to swim their way across the 21-mile channel, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, which has an average water temperature of around 18 degrees.

Stourbridge News: The team started the swim in darkness starting out at Calais at 10.30pm on September 5. Yvonne Sidaway is pictured left with her team matesThe team started the swim in darkness starting out at Calais at 10.30pm on September 5. Yvonne Sidaway is pictured left with her team mates

They swam from Dover to Cap Blanc - starting out from UK shores in darkness at 10.30pm on September 5 - and in the water they had to share the sea with jellyfish, contend with diesel pollution and try to stay away from large shipping vessels.

Yvonne, aged 53, said it was hugely "scary" swimming in darkness but she said: "It went really well, we had perfect weather and it went smoothly with no hiccups."

She was even joined by a curious seal on her last hour-long swim as she headed towards the French mainland and she said after her adventure: "I'm really proud. It's such an achievement."

Stourbridge News: Yvonne Sidaway, centre, and her Channel swim team matesYvonne Sidaway, centre, and her Channel swim team mates

Sport-loving Yvonne, who previously completed the Way of the Roses coast to coast cycle challenge, decided to take on the epic swim for Aspire after breaking her ankle in 2016 which made her reflect on how life would have been if she hadn't fully recovered.

She wanted to support the charity as she said: "Without Aspire people with a spinal cord injury wouldn’t have access to rehabilitation or gain the independence and confidence to face the challenges they find themselves up against.

"I don’t personally know anyone with a spinal cord injury, but it's an honour to be able to contribute towards the immense work that Aspire does so that they continue to help people with spinal cord injury."

Yvonne took up open water swimming around three years ago and swims regularly at local reservoirs and she said: "I enjoy the challenge open water swimming brings, with the cold and the different climates and each swim is never the same. I signed up to do a relay channel swim because, although I enjoy open water swimming, I wanted to challenge myself and have something to aim for. I have always been inspired by seeing others swim the channel and so I began researching how I could do this too."

She'd been in training for the big challenge for the last 12 months and during the lockdowns had to improvise by using equipment at home and having a regular running routine.

When restrictions started to lift she began doing cardio, indoor and outdoor swimming and taking fitness classes to get into tip top condition. She also worked with a personal trainer and swim coach.

Bosses at family-run business Precision Plumbing, Heating and Bathrooms in Brierley Hill were among those who sponsored Yvonne to complete her challenge.

To date she has raised more than £4,440 for Aspire and collectively the team has raised £24,500 but people can still donate online on the JustGiving website by clicking here.

She said: "I’d like to say a massive thank you to all those that have sponsored me and thank you to everyone who has supported me and helped with my achievements in training and staying focussed during lockdown and the months leading up to the challenge."

Although looking forward to a well-earned rest after the challenge, Yvonne is now setting her sights on a 100km trek across the Sahara desert in aid of Walking with the Wounded.