Otters are still making a splash in Horncastle

All award and trophy winners with Club captain, Jackie Ross, resting at the front and Club president, Fiona Martin MBE, at the side.
All award and trophy winners with Club captain, Jackie Ross, resting at the front and Club president, Fiona Martin MBE, at the side.

It’s been serving Horncastle for almost 60 years, but presenting smiling children with prizes for their achievements is something that never gets old.

The young members of Horncastle Otters Swimming Club were presented with a total of 58 club cups, medals, trophies and certificates on Saturday, January 28.

The awards were presented by the club chair, Jackie Ross, who gave special commendations to long distance swimmers Jake Shrive and Kai Skinner, who swam 2,000 metres, Alex Dunkley who completed 3,000m, and Sam Baxter, who swam 4,000m.

The boys completed their distances as part of a sponsored swim - a doubly fantastic achievement.

Special mention was also given to Ruby Green, who was presented with the Teacher’s Award for the conscientious progress she had made during 2018.

One of the club’s teachers, John Fearon, estimates that perhaps as many as 1,000 Horncastle children have learned to swim at the club.

“I’m also the club’s unofficial historian,” he said, “I’ve got records of a swimming club in Horncastle dating back to 1875.”

The club is deeply embedded into the heart of the community, with a strong tradition of former Otters returning to the club with children of their own.

Mr Fearon said: “The present club Vice Captain, Matthew Brader, appears on several of our trophies as a child, and now he has three of his children swimming
with the club.

“His eldest, Will Tempest, has recently become a teacher with us.”

He said that, although the club usually has 100 active members at any one time, and also offers tuition in water polo and lifeguard training, swimming isn’t always as popular as one might hope - despite its multiple health benefits and numerous disciplines.

There are many resources, such as government funding, for swimming provision for younger children, but Mr Fearon said that for older children, academic studies can get in the way.

“The majority of our students start because parents want them to be safe in water and to be able to swim when on holiday, but some join with the ambition to be competitive swimmers.

“As the children mature and academic studies take more of their time, we tend to lose them.

“However, if they stay with us from five until in their early teens, they generally acquire sufficient skill in the four main strokes.”

The club also runs sessions for adults on a Monday night at 8pm, and parents are encouraged to get involved and help more nervous swimmers - with scope to progress to a qualified instructor.

Mr Fearon said: “I joined Otters several years ago now, having retired from the Armed Forces and needing a non-impact sport to keep me fit.

“I was encouraged to become a teacher, and am currently one of four ‘level 2’ teachers at the club.”

And for the future of Otters, the sky’s the limit.

Mr Fearon said: “This year, we’re looking to introduce electronic registration and progress tracking to give parents more of an idea of how their children are doing.”

“Plus, we’re looking to build on the past success in Open Water swimming, and confidence building aquatic activities with Activities Away at Wisby, during the 2019 summer holidays.”

Otters run classes for beginners on Sunday at 9am and Wednesday at 6.30pm, and for advanced swimmers on Sundays at 9.45am and Mondays at 7pm.