Durham Otters has been running for more than 30 years and caters for people of all ages who would find a traditional swimming club unsuitable or inaccessible. 

Chairman John Chamberlayne, who lives in Belmont, explained: “We would love more swimmers and volunteers to join our little community and our special priority is to find a volunteer who can drive one of our would-be members to our sessions.
“They don’t have transport and need a car lift so they can put their wheelchair in the back. “They are terribly keen to come and it’s such a shame that they are stopped through a transport issue. The lift would be from Newton Hall to Durham and back.”

The club was recently awarded £1,950 from the Durham City AAP Grants Scheme, through the County Durham Community Foundation. The money will be used to pay for the hire of the swimming pool each week. The pool where the club meets is at Freeman’s Quay, in Durham, and is four foot deep with easy access and a hoist.

John said: “The aim of our sessions is to enjoy yourself and get some exercise without even realising it. “It means so much to the people who come here. We cater for disabled adults, some living in supported accommodation who don’t get out much, and the club is a major part of their social life.“In the last 10 years we’ve been joined by several children with autism who might struggle in a traditional swimming club. Here they can let of steam, have fun and get some exercise. “I think the club helps them to increase their confidence.”

John Chamberlayne joined the club 30 years ago after moving to the area and took over the running of it when the former chairman retired. At present, the club has 11 members and a range of volunteers, many from Durham University. Members can access two parts of the pool.

John said: “We divide the pool into two separate sections, one for the more dedicated swimmers, which is often quieter and where you can have a good old chat with someone in a corner, and one for those more interested in the art of throwing balls into nets, balancing on floats and playing lots of other games. Last week we even attempted a spot of water based highland dancing! “Where possible we try to provide one-to-one support for those who need it.”

The club meets every Monday evening during school term time, between 7pm and 8pm, at Freeman’s Quay Learner Pool. The cost is £2 a session for swimmers. To find out more, call 0191 386 2146 or email otters@durham-otters.org.uk