A drowning woman was saved in a daring rescue by a local ferryman and members of the public out enjoying the Thames.

Francis Spencer, owner of Hammerton's Ferry, was alerted to a woman in the water by joggers on the bank of the Thames, near Ham House car park, on Monday afternoon.

Zoe Symington, of Mallard Place, Twickenham, had already leapt from her boat to the aid of the woman thought to be in her 50s who was face down in the water. "A friend and I were out in my boat and saw what I thought was was somebody swimming.

"As we passed her, we realised something was not right."

Ms Symington took off her shoes and jacket and leapt into the water, pulling the woman towards the bank. "She was slipping in and out and her breathing was rasping."

A lady jogger joined Ms Symington in the river along with Mr Spencer who swam over from his ferry. He said: "The river was flowing at about four knots - trying to help her was hard."

According to Mr Spencer, who has owned the Twickenham ferry and boat hire business for five years, the woman's clothing was pulling her down into the fast-moving water: "She was dressed for winter and was wearing a leather jacket and jeans.

"At one point I thought she was gone, but then she had a cough up of foam.

"So I took my t-shirt off and wiped her face."

The brave rescuers stood in the cold river for at least 20 minutes to keep the woman afloat. "It was getting very cold and I would say the river was flowing between three or four knots.

"The woman was white with cold and her eyes were rolling round in her head," said Mr Spencer.

Eye witness Brendan O'Sullivan, of St Margaret's, said: "It wasn't clear if she was alive at first."

But the current and the cold were not the only problems rescuers faced.

Rod Schmidt, helmsman of the Teddington lifeboat called to the scene, said: "They could not get her out because she was right near a steep 45 degree stone bank. "

The woman was pulled into the lifeboat and transferred to an ambulance where she was given oxygen and taken to hospital.

Mr Schmidt said: "The actions from members of the public saved her life - it was a sterling effort."

Ms Symington added that the lifeboat crew were the real saviours: "We would have lost her if they had not arrived then." Teddington RNLI are in need of volunteers - if you can help, call Malcolm Myatt on 89779978.