A Bideford woman has conquered her life-long fear of getting into water to become a regular aqua aerobics member.

Yvonne Watson, 67, was eight years old when a childish prank pulling her under the surface left her with an overwhelming fear of water.

She had not been able to enter a swimming pool or even go close to the water since, but after being diagnosed with a number of health conditions, she realised exercising in the pool could help her.

Yvonne approached staff at Torridge Pool in Northam and told them about her fears, in the hope they could help.

After much encouragement, Yvonne now attends four Aquafit sessions a week, and is even building up the courage to take swimming lessons.

She said: "For a long time I envied swimmers and wished I could do it. I was just so scared but now I have a number of health conditions including problems with my joints.

"I have arthritis as well as angina and I knew exercising in water could help me.

"The staff at Torridge Pool have been so encouraging and the instructors have been brilliant.

"I was very afraid of slipping, but they have allowed me to gain confidence gradually and eventually I made it out of the shallow end to be shoulder deep in the water."

Yvonne has found that exercising in water and the atmosphere in the pool has also helped her asthma.

She now aims to take up swimming lessons as her next personal challenge but she says she could not progress without the support of the staff and the other members of the Aquafit class.

"The friendship and support I have received has been amazing, I feel so energised after a class and it is great to exercise safely without risking any injury," she said.