CHILDREN who threw a message in a bottle overboard during a boat trip up the River Tees were delighted when it was picked up by an open water swimmer.

Members of the Darlington branch of the performing arts school Stagecoach left the message during a pirate-themed summer holiday pleasure cruise earlier this month.

It was picked up by Stockton teacher Amanda Bell, who was training for a cross-Channel charity swim.

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Mrs Bell was so intrigued by the bottle that she tucked it into her swimming costume and read the message when she got back to dry land.

Before setting off on her cross-Channel challenge on August 5, she got in touch with the group and is planning to go and speak to them about her adventures next month.

But the story doesn't end there, because Mrs Bell stowed the message in the bottle in her support boat for her swimming challenge and threw it in the sea near the French coast.

So the youngsters from the Darlington stage school could yet see someone else get in touch if the message is picked up again.

Mrs Bell, a teacher at Our Lady and St Bede's School, in Stockton, has been training for the cross-Channel swim for the past two years.

She is a former teacher of Georgina Anderson, the 15-year-old from Marske, who died last year after a battle with cancer.

Mrs Bell decided to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Cancer Research UK in memory of her former student.

Her initial £1,000 target has already been more than trebled, with funds raised now approaching £4,000.

Mrs Bell, 42, said: "The cross-Channel swim took 18 and a half hours because you have to go with the tides.

"When I found the bottle, it was on one of my last training swims before the Channel.

"I had set off from Yarm towards Preston Park and it was really strange when this bottle started to float towards me.

"I thought it was quite lucky to find the bottle in the water, I took it as a sign that things would go well."

Mrs Bell was supported in her cross-Channel swim by her children Joseph, 14, Adam, 12 and nine-year-old Emma.

Anyone who would like to sponsor her can still do so, at