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‘Doing our bit for fallen comrades’

Created on 28/09/2010 @ 14:35
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Like most grand plans, a chat over a few beers between two former frontline soldiers turned into a 116-mile trek in a bid to raise much needed funds for Help the Heroes.
Vince Davies (middle) and Michael Stokes (left) experienced the brutality of war first hand as serving soldiers; fighting insurgents in the Middle East while also undertaking tours of duty in countries as far afield as the Falklands to Belize.
And it was that fighting spirit and sense of adventure that prompted the lads to do their bit for the friends that are still serving their country on the frontline. They even managed to rope in well known local footballer Graeme McGill into the equation!
Mywelshpool caught up with Vince and the boys when they arrived back from their incredible walk at the Raven Inn, Welshpool, where the fund raising continued long into the night with a charity bash.
Here, Vince shares their three-day adventure where their biggest threat was not enemy bullets or IEDs, but avoiding angry farm animals!…….
"I served with the Royal Corps of Signals for just over eight years. I did a nine-month tour of Iraq and nine months in the Falkland Islands where I met my wife. I have also done a five-month tour of Afghanistan.

Mike served about the same, doing tours of Iraq, Northern Ireland, Belize and Cyprus.

Although Graeme (Guilsfield footballer) has never been in the military, he is a very highly motivated individual who enjoys all physical activities and just two days prior to our event he ran a 1h26m half marathon at lake Vyrnwy!

Basically, Mike and I fancied challenging ourselves so I came up with walking along Offa’s Dyke. Mike suggested we do it for Help for Heroes and Graeme was also keen for the challenge so we decided about four months ago to commit. The route followed the Offa’s dyke path from Chepstow to Welshpool following the English/Welsh border; total distance of 116 miles.

Day One
We travelled from Chepstow to Pandy on the first day which, by the book, is 34.2 miles. But, after losing our way and detouring for provisions, it was about 37 miles! The first day was going really well, Chepstow and the next 10 miles were very picturesque and we made good ground up to Monmouth. Unfortunately we all hit a pain barrier at about the 27-mile point and it became a mental battle, along with the fact that we had lost the path and had to take a detour along a country road which really played havoc on our joints. Fortunately we picked up the Dyke and came across an information point near a place called White Castle which informed us that we were only five miles from Pandy which really picked up our spirits.
Day Two
Day Two by the book its 32.3 miles but it was another 37-mile day for us due to our ability to not find the path when we first set out in the morning! We started early as we had a long stint before we came across any civilization at Hay-on-Wye. We had an 18-mile tab across the Beacons which at any time of the year can be bleak (which was more worrying due to the fact Graeme had forgotten his waterproof!). We made good time across the Beacons and arrived in Hay around lunchtime for a well-deserved baked potato. After lunch we set off for Kington where we arrived at approximately 19.30.

Day Three
We woke up on the final day full of optimism but our aching bodies soon brought us back to reality! We had a 42-mile day ahead of us which started well due to the fact we had managed to get a full English before setting off. The further we walked the more familiar the signposts became and we knew we were getting closer to home. Once we saw signs for Mellington Hall, we all managed to pick up the pace again and the leg to Forden went really quickly. Unfortunately, Forden to the finish line at the Raven was extremely slow going and painful, at this point we were all suffering with blisters and serious joint pain; even the painkillers stopped taking the edge off. We were happy to see the Raven sign as we came over the top of Mount Street and see our family and friends standing there waiting to congratulate us.

During the military, Mike and I have faced some very difficult challenges but this is by far the hardest thing we have done and we are extremely happy with our achievement considering we have struggled to get together more than once a week due to Mike working away and Graeme working shifts.

We would have completed the route quicker if we hadn’t have had to zigzag across all the fields due to Graeme’s fear of farm animals! The one animal he wasn’t scared of bit him on the shin!”

Donations towards the lads’ efforts are still being taken and can be done through:

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