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Physiotherapist and mother of two Ashleigh Bulcraig to swim the English Channel to raise funds for Aspire spinal cord injury charity

By Garry McCartney

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Ashleigh is acclimatising to the sea temperature at Findhorn and Nairn. Picture: Beth Taylor
Ashleigh is acclimatising to the sea temperature at Findhorn and Nairn. Picture: Beth Taylor

AN NHS PHYSIOTHERAPIST and mother-of-three is swimming the English Channel for a worthy cause.

This July, former Forres Bluefin, Ashleigh Bulcraig (43) - a pelvic health physiotherapist based in Invergordon but living in Nairn - will swim 22 miles from between Folkestone and Dover to between Boulogne and Calais as part of a relay team for a spinal cord injury charity.

She explained: “Around five years ago, I started open water swimming and set myself goals to compete in events.

“Last year, I took part in a three kilometre swim in Loch Morlich and came third in my age group.

“I realised I could take part in a relay swim across the channel!”

Ashleigh lives in Nairn but grew up in Findhorn and went to Forres Academy. She started competitive swimming aged seven and joined the Bluefins aged 10.

“I swam competitively, winning several medals and a few trophies until I left school,” she said.

“I joined my university swim team and continued to swim though all my pregnancies, eventually teaching our kids to swim.”

Ashleigh’s children Emily (14), Zoe (12) and Struan (9) and her husband Alan are very supportive of her efforts.

Training in Nairn Swimming Pool. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Training in Nairn Swimming Pool. Picture: James Mackenzie.

She said: “I recently organised a quiz - my husband was the quizmaster and my kids helped me organise the raffle and administration.

“Emily has joined me on training sessions and Alan bought me a wooden ice barrel for my Christmas!”

Ashleigh’s chosen charity Aspire offers practical support to people living with a spinal cord injury allowing them to lead fulfilled and independent lives. After initially chatting with them, Ashleigh attended a selection day in London.

“I like them,” she said. “I specialised in neurological rehabilitation for years.

“Also, prior to having a family, I worked in New Zealand on a spinal injuries unit so I know much rehabilitation, equipment and support patients require.”

The English Channel is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, the busiest shipping area in the world and the smallest of the shallow seas around Europe. Swimmers must contend with strong currents, unpredictable weather conditions, and the risk of hypothermia.

Before taking part in the event, each relay swimmer must show they can swim for 1.5 to 2 hours in 16 degree water and pass a medical. The average crossing takes 12-15 hours.

Ashleigh’s team - the rest are based in England - for her swim is called ‘The Aspire Alpacas’.

She is training in Nairn Leisure Centre to improve her fitness and stamina, as well as in the sea at Findhorn and Nairn to acclimatise to sea temperatures.

She said: “As part of the channel rules, you have to swim in a swimsuit with no neoprene.

“We’ll be numbered one to six, swimming for an hour-at-a-time until we get to France.

“Between May and June I will attend three training weekends in Dover with my teammates, getting some practice in!”

She is also returning to Findhorn to host a fundraising afternoon tea at the James Milne Institute.
She is also returning to Findhorn to host a fundraising afternoon tea at the James Milne Institute.

Ashleigh’s parents still live in Findhorn and, as part of her fundraising, she is organising afternoon tea at the James Milne Institute on Saturday, March 30 from1.30-3.30pm.

She finished: “It will be £3 entry with a raffle on the day.

“I would be grateful for any support as Aspire is a worthy charity!”

For more information, and to sponsor Ashleigh, visit https://www.justgiving.com/page/ashleigh-bulcraig-1701338960042?utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=page%2Fashleigh-bulcraig-1701338960042&utm_source=copyLink&utm_campaign=pfp-share

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