A LOCAL resident has swum the length of the English Channel to raise money for Weymouth and Portland Recreational Gymnastics Club.

For Natalie Dodds, this meant swimming 1,416 lengths of her local swimming pool. Despite setting herself a target of 12 weeks, Natalie covered the 21 miles in just three.

"This was a huge challenge for me, but the club is very close to my heart," Natalie said. "My children attend and although it receives little money, a lot of work goes in to help and support these young people. The club builds confidence and self esteem, and teaches a range of basic life skills."

Weymouth and Portland Recreational Gymnastics Club invites children of all abilities between the ages of five and 14 to try a variety of moves and exercises, using a range of small apparatus such as hoola hoops, ribbons, skipping ropes and small balls. More experienced members are also able to use benches, vaulting boxes and springboards.

Natalie hopes the money raised in her charity swim will help the club buy new equipment for the children to use.

"We are all aware that this equipment is very expensive," Natalie explained. "But it will keep the club running and ensure it remains somewhere for our children to go."

Activities are organised and led by Don Whistance, a former teacher and experienced gymnastics coach, alongside Lisa Potter and junior helpers Sophie and Meredith. The welfare officer is Chris Harker, who previously taught at Wyke Regis Junior School.

All instructors are CRB/DBS checked and regularly attend sessions in safeguarding and providing emotional support.

"They're all fantastic with the children and a great asset to the club," Natalie added. "Without their loyalty to the children and their hard work, the club just wouldn't exist. I wanted to give something back."

Based at Wey Valley School, the club was founded in September 1996 and has been teaching youngsters ever since. Sessions take place every Saturday between 10.30am and 1pm, and the term runs for 15 weeks.

For more information about the club and to get involved, visit their Facebook page: Weymouth and Portland Recreational Gymnastics.