AN ENVIRONMENTALIST took eco-friendly travel to a new level last week as he took to the Thames for a gruelling upstream swim along the famous Henley Regatta course he used to row.

Former GB rower Dave Hampton said celebrity training guru Professor Greg Whyte, who trained David Walliams to swim the length of the river in 2011, inspired him to take on the challenge.

Dave, also a DJ on Marlow FM, braved the freezing waters at 4.30am on Sunday alongside 900 others for the annual Henley Classic.

The 2.1km endurance race follows the stretch of river where the famous Regatta is taking place this weekend, with swimmers battling the current the whole way.

And the 55-year-old former rower, who is more used to completing the course from the dry haven of a rowing boat, said Professor Whyte’s words were enough to persuade him to take the plunge.

He said: “It’s a remarkable spectacle with 900 other people there at 4.30 in the morning, and registration was at 2.30am!

“It was difficult, but I reckon I enjoyed it once I got going. But it’s like going up a down escalator trying to swim against the stream.

"There’s so many top athletes that do it, but if you’re slightly slower like me it’s not quite so easy. My aim was not to be last and at least I achieved that!

“Greg Whyte is obviously a busy man, but he did me the honour of sitting down for a coffee with me and whatever he said tipped the balance and I decided to do it.

“I went along to Westhorpe and swam five or six times in the lakes there, they were excellent down there and really went the extra mile for me.”

Dave, an environmentalist by trade and also an eco-campaigner, rowed for Great Britain in the lightweight category in 1982 before retiring from the sport prematurely.

He was raising money for Vasculitis UK, and reached his target of £750 by the time he had pulled himself from the cold water, having completed the course in one hour, 23 minutes.