Swimmer and ecology graduate George Taplin swam 71km through the Lake District to raise money for Just a Drop, because he believes in their sustainable approach to water aid.

I’ve been a competitive pool swimmer for a while but my first big open water swim was in 2017, with my dad. We swam over Lake Geneva, from Lausanne in Switzerland to Évian-les-Bains in France.

After that I went off to Sheffield University to study conservation and ecology and that really woke me up to the staggering pace of climate change. We also studied temperature rises in equatorial Africa so I was acutely aware of the lack of clean water and this challenge of solving that problem sustainably. Just a Drop are really good at that. They don’t just tap into a finite source, they use technology to create sustainable water resources.

Last year lots of charities were suffering with a lack of funding due to the pandemic halting sporting events. I started to look for an open water swimming challenge I could use to raise money for Just a Drop and decided on the Lake District. Being both a beautiful place and a drinking water source made it perfect.

I was set on swimming Lake Windermere, the longest in the country at 18km, but then I 

Go with the flow

785 Million people globally don’t have access to safe water. Just a Drop brings sustainable and safe water, sanitation, and hygiene projects to communities. Click here to find out more.

noticed that Coniston Water was close by and I had memories of waling there as a kid. I also knew that Wastwater was the most stunning lake. Before I knew it I was googling what the cumulative distance was if I swam the length of all 13 lakes and it was 71km. I decided this was feasible in three days.

I started training in March but then we went into lockdown and the pools closed. I used lakes and rivers close to home in Suffolk, and had seals joining me in the River Deben. A local farmer farmer let me swim in his irrigation pond, but I did question the quality of that water!

Although the weather had been lovely leading up to the swim, just before there was a lot of rain and the lake temperature dropped sharply, Wastwater dropped to three degrees. I was a bit nervous that my body fat percentage wasn’t high as it needed to be but there was no time to fatten up.

On the first day I set out to tackle Windermere, I had no intention of finishing it that day but I was so aware of my core body

temperature that I did it in under four hours – ten minutes off the record! I also completed Lake Coniston, so I swam 26km in total. On day two I started out on a very cold Wastwater, overlooked by Scafell Pike, followed by four more lakes.

By day three I was in real pain from inflamed tendons in my arm and it didn’t help that I had to kayak to the start on Ullswater, the second longest lake. I’d lost all the the blood in my hands and feet but my dad and girlfriend kayaked alongside, cheering me on and offering hot drinks and bananas so my spirits were high. I finished on Derwentwater under a lovely sunset.

It was an amazing experience in a beautiful place and I had great support from the locals. I was lucky enough to be featured on BBC Breakfast, after which my fundraising total doubled to over £4,500. It made it all the more worth it for me and all the people who supported me.