A daring former Blairgowrie resident has recently become a world record holder.
Lesley Serpell (44) who lived in the East Perthshire town until she was 17, was one of six inspirational ladies who swam the length of Loch Lomond this summer – without wetsuits.
The group, who called themselves the Maids of the Loch, completed the relay mission in just over 14 hours, setting a record for the first time any relay team has swam the 24-mile length of the loch without wetsuits.
Lesley, Emma Cummings, Linda Wilson, Morag Scott, Mary Connolly and Maria Dye all achieved the British Long Distance Swimming Association World Record.
They also raised an incredible £6000 for the Childrens Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) through their efforts.
Speaking to the Blairie, Lesley said: “It feels amazing, almost unbelievable when people mention that we are world record holders now!”
The idea initially came about when two of the women wanted to do something extraordinary to celebrate their milestone 40th and 50th birthdays.
School nurse Lesley explained: “Lots of us have running backgrounds so we decided to something a bit different that would be more of a challenge to us.
“We talked about it and came up with the idea of a long distance swim in open water.
“The swim in Loch Lomond is actually more of a challenge than swimming the English channel due to the temperatures and everything.”
The training schedule proved gruelling, with Lesley admitting she committed to the challenge despite only being able to swim “two lengths of front crawl”.
She added: “We did nine months of intensive training, six months in Loch Lomond – we first went in the loch in February when it was just six degrees.”
A group of Marines completed the swim about five years ago but that they wore wetsuits.
Lesley’s group faced choppy conditions in the water, particularly during the second half of the swim due to the wind but, describing themselves as “tough ladies”, still managed to complete the challenge and bag the world record.
The Maids of the Loch chose to raise money for CHAS as they are all mums and grandmothers and heavily involved with children.
Lesley said: “We are all so fortunate that out children are fit and healthy.
“The work they do at CHAS to support children and families at what is a very, very sad time in their lives is absolutely incredible and we wanted to do something for them.”
She added that the ladies are already thinking about doing something for CHAS next year as well, and are considering cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats or competing in an Iron Man test of endurance.
Grace Wilson from CHAS thanked and congratulated the new world record holders after their extraordinary feat.
He said: “We’re so proud of all six ladies for braving the extremely cold open water and for choosing to support CHAS in this way.
“We would like to extend our thanks to the support team who helped the ladies plan and prepare for their swim and also to all their friends and family who supported them and contributed towards their amazing £6486 total.”