Back to news

Childbase conquer the English Channel for charity

Battered by high winds, tides and freezing temperatures, a four member Childbase Partnership team conquered the English Channel for charity in a marathon swim to the French coast.

While the majority of other challengers – only three relay teams have been successful so far this year – turned back due to the conditions, the Childbase team ploughed on through the night cheered on by their CEO Mike Thompson in the small support boat.

Messaging colleagues in 44 day nurseries in the South of England throughout the 16.42 hour ordeal, Mr. Thompson, founder of the Newport Pagnell-based Childbase Partnership, said:

“I am enormously proud and very emotional as I watch my colleagues battle against the elements. The waves are relentless and despite a big swell working against us, they are forging ahead. Their commitment is quite simply remarkable and this is the toughest challenge I have every witnessed.”

Mr. Thompson, who has conquered Kilimanjaro in Africa, run the London and New York Marathons and completed several ‘peak challenges’ in the UK, described each member of the team as amazing.

“I am sitting here watching as each of them prepares to swim. It is the early hours of the morning; cold, bitterly cold, and dark as each one slips into the water for their turn. It is a privilege to be allowed to share this awful boat with each and every one of them,” he said in another message.

Wracked by seasickness in and out of the boat and buffeted by tides and the wake of large ferries crossing to France, swimmer Melissa Hepden, practitioner at the Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ Field House Day Nursery in Buckingham, even managed a joke:

“If I felt this sick at work I would be sent home to recover; not encouraged to get back in the sea and swim. This is the hardest challenge and time of my life – I can’t imagine anything ever coming close to this,” she said, describing the effort of crawling on to a French beach and finding the energy to stand up as a surreal and incredibly emotional moment.

Jen Shipton, Manager of Greengables Day Nursery in Sandhurst described the intensity of each emotion experienced throughout the ordeal.

“Swimming at night with jelly fish glowing in the dark and appearing to taunt me was undoubtedly the scariest part of the challenge for me. At the other extreme there was the pure joy of reaching the coast. We all just hugged; drew ‘Childbase 2016’ and all of our names in the sand, and collected a rock as a keepsake to take home,” she said.

The team – Jen Shipton, Craig Gallagher, Chef, also from Greengables Day Nursery, Vicki Saunders, Quality and Training Advisor and Melissa Hepden – suffered two postponed starting times due to the weather before getting the go-ahead from the Channel Swimming Association.

Training in the sea and local lakes throughout the winter, the team is raising cash for the Children’s Air Ambulance which has been adopted in all 44 nurseries and at Head Office for a year-long fund-raising drive.

Support the swimmers by visiting


We are the only helicopter emergency transfer service in the country dedicated to children.

hlicopter image cloud image cloud image cloud image