Mermaids Record Breaking Swim Honoured With Plaque

The Henley Mermaids were surprised and honoured with another plaque on Red Lion Lawn for being the first ladies ever to swim the Bristol Channel in relay on 17 September 2022 in 12 hours and 18 mins.

The plaque was organised by the Herald and paid for by Henley Mayor, Councillor Michelle Thomas.  The original plaque was installed for Henley Mermaids swimming the English Channel in June 2020 and was installed nearer the Mermaid statue.  The two have now been installed together at the bottom of steps by Councillor Ken Arlett.  The Mermaids recorded the Bristol Channel record on their second attempt, after closely missing out in July 2021.

Henley Mayor, Councillor Michelle Thomas unveiled the new plaque on Saturday afternoon in front of Henley Mermaids; Laura Reineke, Joan Fennelly and Fiona Print.  Unfortunately Susan Barry was unable to attend due to recovering from an operation.  Michelle said, “I am so proud of the Henley Mermaids and so I am sure is the whole town.  You started this to raise money for Laura’s Henley Music School but actually it now has dual purpose which is to highlight the pollution in the river.  So for all that you do for your swims, the huge and brave achievements that you have made you have managed to accelerate and highlight this problem by a number of years.  I really do think it has helped put this high up on the agenda, not just in this region but all over the UK.  You set your course and when you don’t first succeed you try, try again.”

After the unveiling Joan said, “I’m overwhelmed as I wish my Mum was here to see it.  When we were small children we used to swam in a nearby river growing up and she was always terrified looking at us because she couldn’t swim.  She has followed us on all our swims.  I showed her the first plaque, she was over the moon but it is in a much better place now and I wish she was more mobile enough to visit Henley.  She used to come 2 or 3 times a year to Henley but she has lost her mobility and balance.  Thank you for organising in.”

Laura added,”It’s lovely to know that what we do does make a difference in some way.  We just get on with it and it’s quite hard sometimes and the swims aren’t always fun.  But we have a massive sense of achievement and we’ve raised a lot of money over the last few years something like £90,000.”

Talking about the Bristol Channel swim Fiona said, “It was tough on the last swim but the rest of it wasn’t too bad.  The last swim was very choppy and a real challenge.  Normally we would never have the chance to swim in such rough conditions and therefore because of the safety boat we did and it was quite exciting.  We had a great pilot.”

Laura is planning to swim the English Channel solo in 2023 and Joan, Susan, Fiona and Jo Robb will be swimming Loch Ness.