A BENCH has been installed commemorating Karen Toole, a former cross Channel swimmer and Stroud District Council officer.

The bench has been installed at the Museum in the Park, in Stroud in memory.

Karen, former strategic head of community services for SDC, lost a bravely fought battle with cancer two years ago.

Since then, her life and swimming prowess have been celebrated each December by way of a ‘Charity Channel Swim Challenge’, with funds donated to the Pink Ribbon Foundation and Macmillan Cancer nurses.

This year, an added raffle raised enough money for Karen to be permanently remembered. Jane Bullows, a former colleague of Karen, explained: “She was a keen gardener and supporter of the Museum in The Park, so we decided that it would be fitting to place a commemorative bench in the walled garden.”

The walled garden project will bring back to life a long lost garden which adjoins the museum. Kevin Ward, the museum’s development manager added: “A large part of the work on the garden has been undertaken by volunteers with the help of local community groups. Karen was a strong advocate for not only the museum but the community of the Stroud district.”

The bench was officially unveiled by Cllr Dennis Andrewartha, chair of Stroud District Council. He said: ‘If any councillor wanted action, they knew that Karen was the person to see. She was a fantastic lady.”

Karen completed her cross Channel swim in 1982 at the age of 19.

In appalling weather, she completed the crossing in nine hours and six minutes – still the third-best time by a woman and the 11th fastest in history.

The official observer described it as one of the bravest swims he had ever seen.