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Newbury woman swims 70 birthday lengths

Penny Henrion - who suffers from a rare neurological condition - hopes to raise over £1,000 for charity

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

Newbury woman swims 70 birthday lengths

A NEWBURY woman with a rare neurological disorder is aiming to mark her 70th birthday by defying the odds and swimming 70 lengths of a pool this month.

Penny Henrion is aiming to raise £1,000 for charity by completing the challenge at Northcroft Leisure Centre throughout August.

In 2015, Ms Henrion developed myasthenia gravis, a neurological condition that affects her eyesight and ability to breathe, talk, swallow and walk.

Since her diagnosis, she has spent a lot of time in hospital, where she had to have a tumour removed, fought off various infections and at one time had to be fed through a tube.

As a result, she has lost one-and-a-half stone and her mobility is affected by muscle weakness and fatigue, meaning she occasionally has to use a wheelchair.

But Ms Henrion, who once chaired Berkshire West Primary Care Trust, says she has received excellent care from the NHS and now wants to give something back – through swimming.

She is enjoying her new-found love of the sport so much since taking it up at Northcroft Leisure Centre that she has decided to raise £1,000 for Myaware, a charity that supports those with myasthenia gravis, as part of the charity’s Share our Strengths campaign.

Her £1,000 target will help Myaware with its research into the cause, cure and treatment for myasthenia.

Ms Henrion, who turns 70 at the end of August, said: “I have been trying to improve my core strength with some walking and yoga and the latest is swimming.

“Swimming is particularly good as I love it and it’s good for my breathing and that helps with everything else.

“At first I could barely complete one length, but I am gaining strength and stamina.”

Ms Henrion, who is originally from Pinner, Middlesex, has praised the accessible facilities at Northcroft, which include a wheelchair ‘pod’ to lower her into the water.

“I am grateful to the staff who have such a positive attitude in relation to disability and are always helpful, smiling and encouraging,” she said. 

“I also couldn’t do any of this without the help of my partner and carer, Madeleine, who accompanies me every time. 

“She has now also joined the gym and started rowing.”

Northcroft Leisure Centre manager Nigel Palmer,  said: “At the centre we are really impressed with how Penny has progressed.

“It is a great pleasure to have Penny using the facilities and also great to see what we have to offer at the centre helping somebody.”

West Berkshire Council leisure officer Jeanette Hodge said: “Penny’s motivation and determination is an inspiration to us all. 

“She has proved that exercise can assist with recovery and it’s wonderful that she is receiving support from one of West Berkshire Council’s leisure facilities.”

To sponsor Ms Henrion, visit   

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