Cross Channel Swimming
At St Margaret’s the Dover Strait measures approximately 21 miles making this the narrowest part of the English Channel. The fact that you can, (sometimes!), see the coast of France so clearly has drawn people to try and swim across for centuries. The first recorded successful crossing from Dover was made by Captain Matthew Webb in 1875 in a time of 21 hours 45 minutes.
St Margaret’s has featured as the start or end point of over 30 attempts to cross the Channel. Thanks to Joe Smith, a former swimmer himself, we have a list of those recorded as having used St Margaret’s Bay at either end of their attempt. Some people liked the place so much they started or ended here more than once!
When the French banned swimmers starting from France in 1993 the use of St Margaret's as a regular start or finish point ended.
Brenda Fisher landed here and set a new Women’s record of 12 hours 42 minutes on 16 August 1951. She completed another successful swim on 21 August 1954, in a time of 14 hours 25 minutes.
American swimmer Florence Chadwick started from St Margaret’s on 10 September 1951 and arrived in Sangatte at 13:45 the following day, taking 16 hours 19 minutes for the crossing. She came back in 1953 and managed to complete another swim in the same direction in 14 hours 42 minutes, this time coming ashore at Cap Blanc-Nez. Obviously a glutton for punishment, she completed a third swim, back to Sangatte, on 10 October 1955 in a time of 13 hours 55 minutes.