England

Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh completes English Channel challenge

Lewis Pugh Image copyright PA
Image caption Lewis Pugh finally arrived in Dover on Wednesday lunchtime after swimming for 49 days

Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh has completed his challenge to swim the length of the English Channel in support of cleaning up the oceans.

The 48-year-old finished the 560km (348 mile) gruelling swim from Land's End in Cornwall to Dover in Kent in 49 days.

He was greeted at Shakespeare Beach by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The environmental campaigner and UN Patron of the Oceans began the challenge on 12 July, swimming 10 to 20km (six to 12 miles) every day.

Mr Pugh, from Plymouth, Devon, said he felt "relieved and exhilarated".

"It's been very, very long, we've been going for 49 days and I'm exhausted, physically exhausted, mentally exhausted, so delighted to be here."

He is estimated to have made 500,000 to 750,000 strokes along the journey.

Mr Pugh completed the challenge despite being told he had tendonitis just 10 days before the end and being advised to rest by his physiotherapist.

He said he was looking forward to "a really good sleep" after only getting three to four hours each day on the support boat.

Mr Gove described him as a "modern day hero" and a "brilliant champion for marine conservation zones".

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Mr Pugh described the challenge - the equivalent of swimming 16 English Channels back to back - as the "Everest of swims", and said it had been one of two halves.

"The first half from Land's End all the way to the Isle of Wight was wonderful. Warm seas, flat seas.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Pugh described the challenge as the "Everest of swims"

"The second half we've had storm after storm after storm," he said.

His campaign, called The Long Swim, aims to raise awareness of the threat to the UK's coastal waters from climate change, over-fishing and plastic pollution.

Image copyright Kelvin Trautman
Image caption Dodging the jellyfish added extra pressure on Mr Pugh

"What has really shocked me is just what I haven't seen - so I've seen a few fish," he said.

"I've seen a few dolphins, a few birds, lots of jellyfish, but virtually nothing else - the oceans around the United Kingdom are so badly over-fished.

"We have this one opportunity now to protect the waters around the UK.

"If we don't do that there simply won't be any fish left for our generation. Forget about future generations if we don't take action right now."

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Mr Pugh's swim has been observed and verified by the Channel Swimming Association.

"I swim according to Channel Swimming Association Rules... we swim with a cap, goggles, a pair of Speedo swimming trunks," he said.

"It's not that we want to be macho, but we want it to be tough. It's one of the toughest swims that you can do in the whole world.

"There's no reason why I should change those rules just because I'm swimming the full length."

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