Leeds dad’s English Channel swin challenge

Pete Windridge-France and son Archie relax at home in Horsforth.
Pete Windridge-France and son Archie relax at home in Horsforth.
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PETE Windridge-France was devastated when a back injury and a bout of glandular fever meant he had to abandon his plans to swim the English Channel.

But nearly a year on from the postponed challenge, the 37-year-old has made a full recovery – and his attempt to swim the 21 miles from Dover to Calais is back on.

Pete, from Horsforth, Leeds, will take on the feat in September in the hope of raising more than £8,000 for Penny Field School in Meanwood, where his son Archie, seven, is a pupil.

As a baby, Archie suffered up to 100 seizures a day caused by a rare medical condition, which has left him severely disabled and unable to walk and talk.

The youngster, who suffers from what doctors call Global Developmental Delay, has endured a series of health problems and underwent major heart surgery aged 10 months and a stomach operation aged two.

Pete, who works as a business analyst and project manager for Marshall’s Plc in Halifax, said: “Penny Field has had a great effect on Archie and we’re so grateful for what they’ve done for us.

“Swimming the Channel is something I’ve always wanted to do and it was frustrating that the first attempt had to be postponed.

“But I always knew I would go back and do it. I’d committed myself to it. Lots of people have supported us and donated money, so I couldn’t let them down.

“Going back to the training regime was really tough; it was like starting from scratch. But now I’m back in the pool most evenings and it’s going really well.”

Pete was initially due to swim from Dover to Calais in July last year but was diagnosed with glandular fever in 2009.

He then injured a disc in his back while lifting Archie and had to undergo an operation on his spine, which meant he had to postpone the attempt.

Pete is now training at Virgin Active gyms and open lakes around Yorkshire; and plans to head to Dover most weekends during the summer to practice for the big swim.

He will be cheered along on the day by Archie, his wife Sarah-Jayne, 38, and their other two children, son Jem, five, and daughter Scarlett, two.

Pete added: “I honestly think that Sarah’s challenge is bigger than mine. She is so supportive and is looking after the three kids on her own a lot of the time while I’m off swimming at the pool or in a lake somewhere.

“My colleagues at work have also been great and raised money for me by doing all sorts of things. Everybody has been fantastic.”

Only around 800 people have ever completed the daring feat, which involves braving the cold sea with just a hat, goggles and trunks. Past swimmers include comedian David Walliams, who raised more than £1m for Sport Relief in 2006.

Pete hopes to complete the swim in under 18 hours and has set up a blog, www.peteswims.com.

To make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/peteswims

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