No Surprises Living In Devizes: Chris has Channel in his sights

Chris Astill-Smith prepares to swim the English Channel

SO, pompous doubtfully future king, Prince Charles dropped by on Friday to visit our eminent ale industry and pat some shire horses. Next door, diligent car-cleaning folk had a numpty sniper on a roof, irritating them with an air rifle, and members of the Devizes Issue Facebook Page took to debating dog poo again. I think it’s best if I steer clear of local affairs this week don’t you?

I’d rather not comment, fear of being pointed in the direction of Calais, and chucked in the channel. Think I could freestyle it? Knee-high to a grasshopper I was inspired by the story of Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the channel in 1875; these days I struggle the length of the bathtub.

So I hooked up with world explorer and dream chaser, Chris Astill-Smith, who lives in Acton but came from our humble Wiltshire town. Here’s a hero spreading a video openly taking a Boris bike around the world.

“We visited seven cities, five countries,” Chris informed me. “I docked the bike back at Westminster where I took it from. I got fined £300, the maximum you can get for taking a Boris Bike for longer than 48 hours.”

That cannot be the most durable and lightweight bike to cart across the world; I asked him if he wished he taken a 6kg Canyon Ultimate… “I absolutely wish I had a lighter bike ha-ha! But that wasn’t the point.”

A cross between Bradley Wiggins and Artful Dodger you might ask, but it was to promote his enduring channel swim to raise funds for Dreams Come True, a UK charity enriching the lives of children with serious and life-limiting conditions. As the name suggests, for 25 years they’ve been fulfilling the dreams of over five thousand children and young people, as well as their friends, family and carers.

“I’ve raised almost £6,500 towards my £25,000 goal for Dreams Come True,” Chris proudly informed me.

Dreams Come True helped people such as 19-year-old Joel, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma and dreamt of cooking in London’s restaurants. The charity arranged for Joel to cook alongside award-winning chefs at Galvin HOP and The Ritz.

Huge Disney princess fan, six-year-old Sophie from Essex was born with muscular dystrophy and Dreams Come True organised her a holiday to Disneyland, Paris. Or 22-year-old Karla from Wiltshire, fighting a brain and spinal tumour whose dream to see the Royal Variety Performance came true thanks to this wonderful organisation.

With his brother, Adam Hutchin, Chris launched the natural lifestyle nutrition brand; Nutristrength a year ago, their manufacturing facility is in Devizes. Still nobody cared to mention to Chris that they built a channel tunnel.

“Yeah, I heard about the tunnel but I didn’t believe it!” he jests.

“I’ve always been a good swimmer, I used to swim for Devizes when I was younger. I wanted a challenge; something I thought was crazy, but achievable. The reason why I chose DCT is because I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot of things in my life, open a business, study abroad and travel the world.

“Having a dream is such a great thing to work towards; it gives you positivity and the strength to keep moving forward in life.”

So does Chris plan a schedule and finish time or just pencil-dive in and go for it?

“The main target is just to finish the crossing. I’ve heard that it’s only got a 40% success rate, and you have to qualify for the swim too.”

David Walliams swam it in 10 hours and 34 minutes. The record time is held by Trent Grimsey, 6 hours and 55 minutes.

“I met Trent last year; he works with my coach Tim Denyer. Trent gave me a few tips and some positive advice. That said, I would like to finish it within 14 hours – I’m not sure my body could handle the cold water after that long.”

On his money-giving-webpage Chris states, “I’m not allowed to wear a wetsuit because apparently that’s cheating, instead I’ll be getting fat to help insulate me along the way!”

This intrigued me, being from Wiltshire, will they be feeding him lardy cake or did he mean he’ll be greased up like John Travolta working in a chip shop?

“Ha-ha! A bit of both really!” he answered, “I’ve gained 10kgs of extra weight since last year which is supposed to help keep me warm. I also grease myself up with goose fat or Vaseline on the day, a lot of people say it helps with insulation, but quite a few people say it makes no difference. Its main purpose is to help avoid friction on your skin.”

Chris puts his armbands on in August for the challenge, I wish him the best luck, and asked if he could pick me up some duty free too. Please show him your support from his home county and donate to Dreams Come True here





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