Meet The Girls



Age: 44 | Home: Harpenden, Herts

I am a 44 year old woman, who likes to set herself a challenge each year, big or small.I have always enjoyed exercise, which has varied over the years mainly due to having problems with my back. Like many people my age, I learnt to swim with school and once I learnt to swim that was that. Over the years I didn’t continue to swim and lost so much confidence that I found myself missing out on family time in the sea, or even in the pool when my daughters were having fun swimming in the deep end.

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Age: 50 | Home: Ellwood, Gloucestershire

I work as an Accountant and live in the Forest of Dean with my husband, 3 (mad) rescue dogs and 2 horses. I’ve just turned 50 and I’m (very) fat and frumpy. I used to be fit – I’ve even survived the London marathon – but that all seems a lifetime ago. I love the outdoors and I love the idea of being active but too often I let work and other commitments get in the way. I also developed severe asthma a few years ago and sometimes I get very scared by this.

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Age: 48 | Home: Farnham, Surrey

Overweight, under height, and definitely unfit – what was I thinking? I’m never going to get a wetsuit to fit me! I’ve been calling myself 50 for some time but by the time the Henley Mile comes round I will be in the last year of my forties. After dedicating the last decade to work, kids, husband and home, I am now starting to panic and exercise is becoming something I can no longer afford to ignore.

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Age: 25 | Home: City, London

Chances are that the thought of swimming makes you shudder. A reminder of PE teachers barking from a chilly poolside, fingers like prunes and the constant threat of verrucas. Until a few years ago, I shuddered too. It was a sustained period of illness which pushed me back to the pool: an elemental escape from the clatter of life.

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Age: 35 | Home: Marlow, Bucks

I’m Mum to two beautiful girls (4 & 1) who are brimming with so much personality I sometimes wonder who is actually in charge! Since going back to work earlier this year I often joke about my days in the office as being my ‘days off’! Hang on a minute…days off used to be about having some ‘me’ time, if going to work is the only ‘me’ time I get then something must be wrong! Where did the career-minded, ‘sporty’ girl go? I’ve since joined a gym to swim and practice yoga regularly which has been incredible for my mental well-being, but I felt I actually wanted to achieve something for myself this year.

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Age: 36 | Home: Guildford, Surrey

Hello, I’m a 36 year old mother of 3, I work nights in the local Emergency Department, a demanding but very rewarding job!
My childhood summers were whiled away swimming at the local outdoor pool, but that soon gave way to a life of working and raising my family. Times spent in the pool since have been few and far between and consisting in mainly splashing around with the kids.

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Jacquie&MeganJacquie & Megan Yeoman

Age: 47 & 15 | Home: Swanley, Kent

Mother and daughter hoping to complete the Henley Mile! We started this year determined to take up some form of exercise together to relieve the pressures of work, and studying for GCSEs. We joined our local leisure centre and have been swimming regularly since February. Somehow, we stumbled upon the Henley Mile Swim, we never thought we would be swimming it! It is going to be a real challenge for both of us but we are ready and determined to give it a try.


joJo Henry

Age: 42 | Home: Newbury, Berks

I’m a 42-year-old, self-employed mum of two fantastic kids and a very bossy wife to the ever-tolerant Ben. I used to be a strong swimmer and a confident, career-minded girl but, like many other mums, I had a bit of an identity crisis once I’d had my children. That coupled with a dodgy thyroid and arthritic knees have given me the perfect excuse to turn into a bit of a sedentary blob!
This year it is my mission to circle back towards my more confident, driven, less-blobby self and, as I’ve always wanted to swim in open water, entering the Henley Mile seemed like the perfect way to publicly force myself into taking action!
It is time to dust off the (unused-but-half-eaten-by-the-dog) wetsuit that has been sitting in the cupboard for the last 5 years…


Kate-2017Kate Cobb

Age: 35 | Home: Buckingham

Full time 35 year old mum to two young and energetic girls, I’ve found it’s been really easy to put exercise on the back burner. Recently however, I decided enough was enough and to get some semblance of fitness back and it’s great to be feeling more energised. When I applied for this challenge (honestly not expecting to win), I had thought it sounded perfect as something different and fun to do. I’m an ok swimmer…but in a pool….so a mile in open water will be a completely new experience, but one I’m definitely looking forward to!


Laura-2017Laura Hope-Smith

Age: 39 | Home: Wallingford, Oxon

I’m a mother of two who feels that it’s about time I start doing things for myself again. I loved outdoor swimming as a kid when the cold didn’t seem an issue, so when this opportunity came up I grabbed the chance to take part and hope it will be the incentive I need for me to brave the cold and get back into the water.


rebeccaRebecca Chamberlain

Age: 40 Home: Camberley, Surrey

Mother, friend and mad old dog lady. My inspiration for taking part in This Girl Can Henley Mile is my daughter, Ava. She is a great swimmer, as is my son, who both most definitely take after my husband! I am more of a – learn to swim a few lengths and tread water in my pjs as a child, then stop lessons and handstand in the pool on holiday – kind of swimmer. My idea of the perfect swim would be head up breaststroke in a gloriously warm pool, preferably in the Mediterranean, with a book and cold drink waiting for me when I get out. Not quite the Thames! Hey ho. So why do this? Ava hugely enjoyed open water swimming with my husband last year, however my husband has stopped swimming due to injury. It seemed a shame that Ava wouldn’t be able to enjoy open swimming again this year, so here I am, pretty apprehensive, but motivated to take the murky plunge so that we can enjoy a new sport together. Seems silly to let my fear stop our fun, family days out with our dogs at the lakes seems all pretty blissful, I just have to get in the lake while we’re there!?! So here we go on a watery adventure – and you never know, I think I may even love it.





alisonAlison Baker

Age: 60 | Home: Guildford

I am 60, a part time librarian, mother of two grown up sons and about to become a granny. I really do like my food, and am not a sporty type, being built for comfort rather than speed.  Three years ago I decided to move on from swimming Old Lady Breaststroke once a week, and learn to swim properly.  It is time to take my brand new front crawl out into the open and become the eccentric Wild Swimming Gran, not the Too Timid To Try Gran.  A friend sent me the link to This Girl Can at the Henley Mile, so here goes, challenge accepted!


barboraBarbora Walderova

Age: 37 | Home: Wokingham

Spending most working days in the office, I’ve been trying to keep fit with varying levels of success. There have been excuses – too much work, not enough time, feeling tired or unwell, until I realised I needed a purpose to keep me on the right track. I often used to talk myself out of doing something because I lacked self-confidence. By signing up for the Henley Mile I’m getting out of my comfort zone (I’m very anxious being in open water) and want to prove to myself that I can do it.


katieKatie Potter

Age: 40 | Home: Newbury

I’m a nurse, part-time student and new mummy – all of which conspire to give me multiple excuses for not exercising! With broken sleep and in a new mummy haze the majority of my recent contact with water has been sitting by the canal drinking coffee. Entering the Henley Mile seems the perfect opportunity to help me begin to be a fit and healthy mummy. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with exercise, so I’m hoping this experience will teach me to enjoy the journey and realise that being a novice doesn’t stop you achieving your goals.


leanneLeanne Hughes

Age: 28 | Home: Keyworth, Nottinghamshire

Geologist, Brown Owl and chicken keeper. Team sport has never really been my thing but swimming always felt fun rather than a chore. After a bout of insomnia last year when exercise became a distant memory, swimming was the first thing to get me back on track. At first it was a real effort but now it’s my favourite hour of the week. In my work I get to visit many parts of Britain and often think how inviting the streams, pools and lakes can look which got me thinking about outdoor swimming. Then suddenly I’d signed up for this. The person who complains if the room temperature drops below a balmy 22 degrees signed up for a cold water swim. Excited and scared in equal measure I need to get training


julietteJuliette Sheldon

Age: 42 | Home: Kedleston, Debyshire

I am the mother of a 7 year old busy boy and 9 year old gorgeous girl, full
time School Registrar, wife of 11 years and house-building
-slightly-worn-out 42 year old. I thought it high time I challenged myself
to fall back in love with swimming and give myself a fitness goal. Henley
Mile – nervous and excited just about sums it up!!!






Cat Whitehouse

Age: 30 | Home: London

Back-of-the-pack runner and coffee-addicted neuroscience nerd, always looking for ways to grow and challenge myself. Haven’t been swimming in years, so for me the Henley Mile is about breaking out of my usual fitness routine, getting a little uncomfortable and proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. But first – to buy a swimming costume!


justineJustine Flower

Age: 44 | Home: Naseby

I love wild swimming and have always been attracted to water. It reminds me of my childhood and it still makes me feel free. I have 3 children and an amazing husband all of which love water but not when it is cold! I live just about as far from the sea as you can get in Britain, and chlorine irritates my skin so I will be looking for rivers that I can train in.



Helen Rayner

Age: 32 | Home: Oxford

By day I’m a consultant, and the rest of the time I can generally be found swimming, knitting or sewing. I learnt to swim as a child but in November 2014, I took up swimming to regain muscle tone after a neurological illness left me with muscle weakness in my legs. My legs are better now, but I decided to carry on swimming because I enjoyed it so much. My long-term goal is to complete a 10km open water swim.



Claire Bennett

Age: 43 | Home: Swindon

A few years ago I was given a copy of the book ‘Wild Swim’ by Kate Rew and was completely captivated by it. The idea of swimming in open water just really appealed to me but I lacked the confidence to give it a go. The team at Henley Swim and the ‘This Girl Can’ initiative has spurred me into action. I look forward to completing my first open water swim and hope that it will be the first of many.


FrancesFrances Butler

Age: 56 | Home: London

I’m good at facing challenges  – the ones I can’t avoid like single motherhood, tight work deadlines, boarding rush-hour trains –  but when it comes to challenging myself,  my inner saboteur speaks up – the little voice persuades me not to try because it’s too hard and I’ll fail anyway.   The thing is, those challenges are always the ones that would lead to me having serious fun.  I aim to banish my inner saboteur forever, when, with a huge grin on my face I’ll look back at the Henley course and say ‘I did it, for myself and I had FUN’.


nicolaNicola Wilson

Age: 36 | Home: Reading

There are two little reasons I am taking part in this challenge; my children Luke and Pippa. Pippa was born 11 weeks premature back in June 2013. Luke kept me battling through the sadness with his smiles and “huggles” and Pippa showed me every day in the NICU that battles you thought were too hard can be conquered if you just keep fighting. I want to show them that Mummy doesn’t give up either. So here I am, the 36 year old who can’t put their face in the water, signing up to swim half a mile in the River Thames this summer. What can possibly go wrong?!


emilyEmily Chomicz

Age: 26 | Home: Finchampstead

I work for young people with Special Educational Needs and am also a competitive horse rider. I like to keep fit and try everything once. If faced with a new challenge or adventure, I have to have a go. I would like to attempt the challenge of swimming in the Thames and to inspire others to try new things even if they seem difficult or a bit scary.


kellyKelly Meuleman

Age: 42 | Home: Oxford

I am a mum of two teenagers, full time teacher and part time student. I often tell my children and my students to ‘have a go’ at all the things that are offered to them. This is my way of taking on a challenge myself and showing them rather than telling them. I am not ‘a swimmer’ but I enjoy swimming – by this I really mean a gentle swim (very slow breast stroke!) or sitting in the water with the kids while on holiday, preferably somewhere warm. Swimming one mile of the Thames will be a proper challenge but I am determined to do it.