David Walliams swimming river for Sport Relief

Boat owners using the River Thames over the next week or so should take extra care as a new moving hazard to navigation progresses along the waterway…

Comedian and serial challenge fundraiser David Walliams is attempting to swim the river’s 140-mile length in aid of charity.

Having already conquered the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar and, in 2006, the mere 20-odd-mile English Channel (raising £1 million in the process), the star of Little Britain set out today on the first of an anticipated eight days of swimming up to eight hours a day.

The 40-year-old began his swim at Lechlade in Gloucestershire and anticipates finishing at Big Ben, having made his way through the river’s notorious currents and busy waterway traffic.

What Walliams was not anticipating was cold water. He was forced to don a wetsuit when his trainer noticed that the 15°C temperature was threatening to give him hypothermia. A normal English summer would have left the river a few significant degrees warmer by early September, but the last few months have not been cooperative and it was even colder than the water of the English Channel.

Walliams says he is inspired by trips he has made with Comic Relief and Sport Relief to Africa and the people he met who have been helped by the money raised, although he admits: ‘I must be a masochist’.

The watery epic is being filmed for a Sport Relief documentary to be broadcast next spring.

Image and video BBC

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