ONE man’s journey up the River Tyne and North Tyne spanned seven days and was peppered with rain, hail, fog and even some sunshine.

Fenwick Mark Ridley, of Corbridge, undertook a challenge of a lifetime as he swam upstream along the rivers before being given special permission to swim across Kielder Reservoir. In doing so, he logged 60 miles as he spent 12 hours a day in the water.

Chasing the tides and battling whatever crossed his path, the Corbridge man remained focused on achieving his end goal.

When he wasn’t in the water, he was receiving a massage, bathing in a salt bath, eating copious amounts of slow release foods or sleeping.

“There’s been a lot of peanut butter,” he said. Over the course of the seven days swimming up the rivers, he consumed peanut butter balls, honey, dates, oats and cereal bars on a constant cycle for hours on end.

“It was a solo food festival in the middle of the river,” he added, “It’s vital to keep on refuelling all the time to help the body, otherwise it’ll just fail on you.”

In between food fuelling sessions, he tried his best to take his mind off the physical pain he was inflicting on every inch of his body.

“Every day, all I felt on the muscles on my arms was burning. The strain on the muscles on my legs was so powerful.

“I was averaging around 0.5mph in the water.”

This challenge is nothing new to Fenwick. He’s been swimming in open water for 15 years, and simply describes this monumental challenge as an ‘open water, up river work out’.

“The last three years, I have been training in fast moving water, which helped me understand the conditions, the dangers and how I can develop my training.”

During this time, Fenwick also tailored his wetsuit to ensure it was suitable for the River Tyne conditions.

He added: “The Tyne is an extremely dangerous river to swim in, but the wetsuit protects me a lot. The adaptations to my equipment mean I am fully equipped in the safest way possible.

“I have a small raft attached to my back, which helps me in the water.”

He also carried a GoPro camera whilst in the water, which helped him capture the picturesque nature of the Tyne and its surrounding countryside.

“The whole area is absolutely beautiful,” he said.

This love of the local area was, in part, the reason why he has now decided to swim up the River South Tyne.

“Halfway through the swim up to Kielder, I realised I was able to and wanted to swim more,” he said. Every day I woke up, I was raring to get back into the water and swim closer to the finish line. It’s that drive that continues to spur me on.”

Fenwick will embark on his swim up the River South Tyne in the coming weeks.

The swim hasn’t just had an impact on Fenwick though. He said: “It’s been stressful for my family. One of the nicest things I have seen so far is the involvement of my dad. Having him on the river’s edge and keeping an eye on me along the way is special.”

Open water swimming has become a recurring extreme in the past year. In 2018, Ross Edgley spent 157 days swimming around the whole coastline of Britain. Fenwick said: “I have been inspired by Ross and it’s great how so many people are embracing and taking on challenging adventure swims.”

There’s a deeper meaning to Fenwick’s recent challenge, and he has raised £3,000 for Cancer Research UK in memory of his friend Keith Garvin.