A TRIO of hardy swimmers took the plunge on New Year’s Day to raise vital cash for a village church restoration project.

Church-goers Lois Gardner and Ann Johnson were joined by Rev Steven Poss as they went for a festive dip in the River Blackwater to raise hundreds of pounds for St Lawrence Church.

The historic church’s roof needs a major overhaul.

The Friends of St Lawrence Church group have undertaken the task of raising the funds to pay for a replacement roof.

Lois first hit on the idea of braving the chilly waters for a sponsored swim on New Year’s Day 2019 and decided to repeat the challenge this year.

Despite the persistent mist, the cold conditions didn’t deter the fundraisers from a 10am start, encouraged by crowds of enthusiastic spectators.

A church spokesman said: “The three hardy swimmers trotted on the scene to the cheers of the onlookers, shedding robes and towels as they made their way down to the water.

“The mist had lifted a little, so everything was clear to the supporters on the wall when the swimmers reached the quietly lapping waters at the bottom.

“Low water had been chosen in preference to high tide as there was the possibility that darkness would overtake proceedings.

“With Lois in the lead the three swimmers struck out and appeared to be enjoying themselves.”

“In order to take advantage of the firm area of beach which they had used on the way down, they turned and returned to their entry point, smiling and laughing as they made their way back to the warm shower awaiting them in Lois’s house, after a job well done.”

The spokesman added: “We sincerely thank Ann, Lois and Steven for their splendid effort this year.

“An encouraging start to the collection of sponsorship donations has already come in by bank transfer from Marseilles and we look forward to further contributions from far and near.

“The success of this year’s event has sparked more ideas so any keen open-water swimmers should watch for further news.”

So far, the swims have raised £500 for the church roof appeal.