back to all posts

Why We Swim - Kitty + Judie

My name is Sue Ashby (aged 53) and I swim outdoors at least three times per week with my BFF Debra Challis (aged 58). We are landlocked swimmers based in Daventry, Northants. Our nicknames are Kitty (me) and Judie (Debra). These are the names we would have chosen for ourselves…

Here is us at our favourite organised swimming hole called Stoney Cove half hour drive from our houses:

Judie is on the left and I am on the right… 

Our swimming journeys started in two very different ways. My story starts in 2009 so long before the writing of this in 2021! Judie’s swim story begins in 2017 on a motorcycle (?) Weird I know…

Way back in 2009 I was running, running badly although I didn’t know it... I was heavy and not quick – quick didn’t matter so much to me but heavy became a bad knee injury. Out on a run I tore my meniscus cartilage and it bucket tore into my right knee cap – one big operation later I gave up running and bought a bicycle…

Now, compared to me, Judie was an awesome runner – qualifying for the London Marathon with a time of 3hrs 15mins. In addition, her running was complemented by cycling frantically everywhere. It’s where she met her hubby and eventually, after she succumbed to an ankle injury from running, cycling became her main passion. So no swimming anywhere for either of us!

Fast forward to 2017 and me and Judie had made several social swimming trips to our local leisure centre. I had been advised not to breaststroke because of my knee so the pair of us huffed and puffed up and down the slow lane egging each other on trying to front crawl. We watched enviously a lady completing laps perfectly turning at each end.

Kitty and Jude in wetsuits smiling at the camera by the water's edge

I decided to have some lessons and booked with a coach called Keith at The Swimshed in Duncote. He specialises in teaching Total Immersion. I didn’t need a shoulder injury on top of other injuries so I signed up!

By late summer of 2017, out on my motorbike, me and Judie (alongside hubby on his) rode out to see Stoney Cove, a quarry and dive centre that I wanted to swim in. When I said to Judie I was going to swim there she exclaimed that I was mad and questioned my reasoning and sanity!!!

However, by July 2018 she had borrowed my hubby’s wetsuit (not used at all) and she excitedly stood by me waiting to get in. The water is silky smooth at Stoney Cove as it’s spring fed so, guess what? She loved it!

From swimming in a quarry we set out on other adventures discovering the River Nene for beautiful swims near Wadenhoe and Fotheringhay.

Sometimes the animals in the fields look shocked to see us !!


Landscape photo with a cow on the riverbank and Judie and Kitty in the water


In 2019 I completed the River Dart 10km swim. In 2020 we completed the 14km Virtual Thames Marathon together and also raised money for Cancer Research doing a 3km swim down the river.

So the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 finds us taking our swimming challenges very seriously (I have abandoned my wet suit) and [as we write this] we are in the middle of a Polar Bear challenge which includes icy dips in a paddling pool that Judie discovered during lockdown to keep herself acclimatised.

Judie and Kitty sitting next to their Turtleback outdoor swimming bags after a swim.

This is us socially distanced after a six degrees swim at Stoney Cove with our Turtleback bags. 

For our swim story I asked Judie why she swims:

“That’s a hard question to answer. I swim because it gives me precious time with you. I swim because it gives me a feeling of peace and tranquillity. I swim because it gives me a sense of achievement”

And me? I swim for exercise and to move by doing something without pain. I swim because I never imagined I could do it!! I swim for the beauty and sense of calmness that it gives me mentally. Finally, I swim to spend time with my friend, doing something wonderful together.

The End ...?



Our Why I Swim project aims to give voice to our untold swim stories and strengthen our fantastic community. If you would like to share your story, drop us an email at


If you are new to outdoor swimming and feel inspired to give it a go, please ensure you do so safely. 

Firstly, have a read of our tips for winter swimming here and familiarise yourself with what's useful to have in your wild swim kit.

We would strongly advise trying out your first swim with an experienced cold water swimmer until you are completely confident of your own abilities. 

The Outdoor Swimming Society has a great list of local swimming groups which is well worth checking out and a quick search on Facebook should provide results.

And if you have any questions, pop a post in the Swim Feral Facebook page and our fantastic community of swimmers will be sure to help. 

Happy swimming xx



Mailing List

Keep informed of future Swim Feral projects and products. We promise we will only contact you when we have something we are proud to share.