Horses Help Heroes Challenge – Starting Tuesday 21 June 2011
Me & Andy T with heavy horses Horace & Billy
I’m about to embark on our Horses Help Heroes challenge. Starting on the Summer Solstice Tuesday 21 June 2011. Our aim is to raise over £1million to deliver direct, practical support to any wounded member of the Armed Forces who need it.
What’s it all about?
The challenge is for a team of us wounded servicemen and our support crew to raise £1million by driving a horse-drawn replica WWI ambulance along with outriders from Land’s End to John O’Groats travelling non-stop, day and night for an estimated 10 days. Funds raised will go to Help for Heroes and will be distributed to services charities including BLESMA – British Limbless Ex-Servicemen Association, Combat Stress and ABF – Army Benevolent Fund who will identify individual needs.
Jacks El Tawil
A Miniature Jacks El Tawil
The inspiration behind Horses Help Heroes is Jacks El Tawil who, as a NHS paramedic, helped to mentor members of the Forces in front line first aid. Jacks saw the growing number of personnel often sustaining physical and mental injuries and the enormous costs needed to support their long term recovery. Highly experienced with horses and carriage driving Jacks was inspired to raise funds through her love of horses in the hope that many of us who love, enjoy and admire horses will share her inspiration to give.
Come and join us on route………….
We will be passing through many towns and cities on the way so check out the route map and join us on route and to find out how you can get involved visit:
I will also be updating my blog hopefully on a daily basis or whenever I get a spare moment!
Monday 20 June 2011 16:20hrs – Just arrived in Newquay!
We’ve just checked in at a hotel in Newquay ready for our HHH challenge starting tomorrow morning. We have a team briefing in Lands End that I have to attend tonight along with a BBQ. Hope the weather brightens up it’s pouring with rain here!
Day 1 – Tuesday 21 June 2011 09:00hrs – Lands End
Me – Paul Burns riding Charlie & Mick Folds on Caz
Arrived at the start at Lands End for 9:00am. Had some photos taken and the ITV arrived to interview us all. Started the day in light rain but as the morning wore on it progressively got better and was brilliant sunshine. A few people turned up to see us on our way.
Next stop was Tesco’s in Penzance where we were greeted by lots of shoppers & light refreshments provided by Tesco’s. We were delayed here for a short while as we had to wait for the horses & ambulance carriage to arrive. Unfortunately the brake on the ambulance seized up and the poor horses had to pull a bit harder than normal, therefore we had to take water to them to drink and have a good refreshing rub down with it.
14:45hrs - Now back at the hotel in Newquay to get my head down for a bit before we join the others for a quick BBQ then I’m driving the carriage from 9:00pm-12:00pm.
Lyn with Kai along the roadside after a change over.
23:30hrs – Just arrived back at the hotel after quite a tiring evening. The time of me driving the carriage had changed and I was on earlier from approx. 7:00pm until 10:30pm while my girlfriend Lyn drove the escort car behind with the flashing light on the roof. Quite a successful evening although it did get a bit chilly late at night, therefore had to put the canvas flap down to stop the wind blowing through the carriage. The goretex army trousers were much appreciated with many thanks to Matthew. Going to get some much needed shut eye now.
Only just had time to update my blog after a very tiring day………………………….
Day 2 – Wednesday 22 June 2011 – 07:30hrs
Me & Lyn
Departed the Bristol Great Western Hotel, Newquay and headed off towards Launceston on the A30 ready to take over from the carriage driver Matt.
09:10hrs – Relieved Matt from his driver duties and pulled away in the carriage to quite a dismal day with the rain coming down very heavy at times. Lyn was back on escort duties driving the car right behind us. Felt a bit sorry for her as not only were we both tired but she also had a splitting headache just like the day before. But we had to plod on – literally! and not let anything stand in our way as we were already behind schedule by about 4 hrs.
We had two of John’s freesian stallions, pulling the carriage. The rain was pouring down at times but the traffic kept us going when they beeped their horns, cheered, smiled and waved us on. Changed the horses over after approx. 2 hrs. When they were changed over to the two bay hackneys – Solly & George and Charlie the owner. Did the change over in a lay by at the side of the service station. After a couple of hours we changed over the horses & owner to John with two of his other freesian stallions, who I cannot remember their names as John has brought along 6 of his freesian stallions and they all look the same to me! I also changed over carriage driver to Danny and I got in the escort car with Lyn and relieved her from the driving as her headache wasn’t getting any better and she was still feeling tired.
All was going pretty well until we hit a town in Exeter when the stallions seemed to be a bit startled after stopping at the traffic lights, as they didn’t seem to want to move forward. I suggested to Lyn to get out of the car and give them a hand which she did. She managed to lead them forward and run along side of them for a bit just to get them going again. After successfully doing so she went to run back to me in the car when she unfortunately slipped over and fell flat on her face. She told me that she’s always been a bit clumsy!!! She cut her left hand on the gravel of the road, scrapped a bit of skin off her elbow and hurt her leg as she thudded down on the ground. Poor Lyn but I insisted that either I clean it up for her or we get someone else to look at it, as we had a couple of paramedics, a Doctor (one of the wounded soldiers which was Francis), or someone with a first aid background. I was concerned that if it wasn’t cleaned properly that she might get it infected, as you never know what’s been on the road. I said to the vet mucking about if Lyn pretends she’s a horse will you take a look at her. He said yes and was being serious…………..so good ole Marcus the vet (who I hasten to add had done the End to End Lands End to John O’Groats trip a few years prior to us with his pony Beauty & trap only he did it the other way around and published a book all about it). He cleaned up Lyn’s hand, put some cream on it and put a small bandage around it and did a very good job.
16:30hrs Approx. we checked into a Best Western Hotel called The Shrubbery in Illminster. Going to get our heads down here for the night when I will be needed again for driving the carriage at 06:00hrs tomorrow morning.
Day 3 – Thursday 23 June 2011 - 04:30hrs
Great Western Hotel – The Shrubbery, Illminster.
Woke up at 04:30hrs and got ourselves ready to depart the hotel at 05:15hrs. Things changed from last night and I was now needed in Bath with the horses & carriage in Victoria Park. Told to meet in Morrisons car park when we couldn’t see the rest of the crew and horses & carriage. Didn’t know whether we’d heard wrong or we were given the wrong place to meet. Turned out that we had been given the wrong details and we were supposed to meet in Sainsbury’s car park. Therefore Francis & I had to rush off and find Sainsbury’s and Lyn was given the duty of driving Danny over to Mr & Mrs Meakins house near to Malmesbury. Lucky for Lyn she was offered breakfast by the lovely Wendy when they turned up at their house. I informed Lyn that she needed to bring Matt back with her and to go to Chippenham as that was the next stop for all the horses.
The Lovely Wendy!
We got to Victoria Park with the horses and carriage and were greeted by the Mayor of Bath. The media turned up and lots of photos were taken and a few interviews were carried out for the TV & radio. Unfortunately because Lyn my girlfriend/PA/Photographer wasn’t there no photo’s were taken.
11:00hrs Approx. Next stop was Chippenham where I rode Charlie to the Ambulance Station from The Pheasant Pub car park and received a very warm welcome from lots of lovely people showing their support. There were also primary school children cheering us on and waving their union jack flags. We had some nice refreshments laid on for us by the staff that included clotted cream & jam scones. Felt a bit sorry for Charlie having to carry my extra weight around after stuffing my face with food! Only joking! I didn’t eat that much, honest! Lyn turned up with the other guys and a nice time was had by all.
Me riding Charlie inside Chippenham Ambulance Station
Outside Ambulance Station, Chippenham.
Next stop was Cirencester. I drove the car here as I wanted to give Lyn a bit of a break from driving as she was still quite tired. We arrived in Cirencester at approx. 15:00hrs but unfortunately couldn’t parade around the town with the horses & carriage & us four – me, Mark Todd, Mick & Francis because Bear Gryls was due to ride with us but he was running late. He turned up at about 5 (ish) and the crowds were pleased to see him join us for the ride.
John, Francis, Mark Todd, Mick & Me
Sue, Mark Todd & Lyn
Helping Bear Gryls onto his horse.
Me & Lyn on Bella.
Outside Town Hall, Cirencester.
After finishing in Cirencester checked into The Rectory Hotel, Chudwell to try and get some sleep before my shift for driving the carriage. Left hotel at 22:30hrs. Francis & I were picked up by Olly and taken to the ambulance carriage where I drove through Cheltenham & Gloucester. Very strange experience driving horses through the big towns in the middle of the night. As we made our way to Leominster the sun was rising over the fantastic countryside was amazing.
Day 4 – Friday 24 June 2011
The Rectory Hotel, Crudwell
05:15hrs Lyn left the hotel with Dan to bring him to the change over at Leominster. When they arrived I was driving the back escort car and Francis was driving the carriage with the owner of the horses which was Andy. Francis was going off duty for a couple of days as he had a wedding to attend. Therefore me & Lyn went for a quick coffee and pastry with him.
We caught up with the horses & horse box’s along a lay by after the new horses had been changed over. And we helped out for a bit with the horses. Jim Keating who used to be the National Welfare Officer of BLESMA turned up to greet us and we both had pictures taken. It was really nice seeing his friendly smiley face and having a quick catch up. After this we dropped Francis off at the train station. Think he was worried about being beaten up in his horsey clothes and riding boots!!
Jim Keating, me & Francis
Lyn having a nosey nosey kiss esp. for Nisha! (she will know what we mean)
John Davies Horse Box – check out the Number Plate!
We once again caught up with the carriage and tagged along with them for a bit then we decided to go on in front. On our way to Shrewsbury we spotted loads of primary school children waving their flags just outside there school. We stopped to tell them that the horses and carriage were just on their way. Poor little kids and teachers had been waiting for about one and a half hours bless them. Lyn went over to them and met their Head Teacher & Secretary who were very nice and welcoming. Lyn informed them that all depending on which horses were pulling the carriage that they might be able to stop for a little while to let the children see them. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible as John’s stallions were on at the time.
Next stop was Shrewsbury. We caught up with the horses at the next change over site and played with Paddy who was one of the horse box owners dogs. Lyn said to Phil mucking about can we take Paddy to Shrewsbury with us expecting him to say no, but he didn’t he said the change will good for him.
Lovely Little Paddy
We arrived at our stop off point in Shrewsbury at approx. 12:00 midday where we took the horses & carriage to the market square and I rode Charlie along with the other guys on their horses. We were greeted by the mayor of Shrewsbury and quite a few people turned out to see us. No sooner had we arrived and a band started playing. Poor little Paddy the dog was very scared so Lyn had to take him back to the car and calm him down. He soon calmed down and he was happy to be reunited with his owner at the next stopping point in Whitchurch. I was really feeling tired at this stage as I hadn’t had much sleep within about 36hrs! We left Whitchurch at approx. 18:00hrs to go to our hotel in Preston as we had to get some much needed sleep. Had some dinner when we got to the hotel and then went to bed.
Forgot to mention that Toby & Tony the farriers turned up today in Shrewsbury to travel with us part of the way, to shoe the horses when required. These guys work for Pene Grimshaw at Wayside stables where we go riding in Fifield.
Toby the Farrier with Mick’s horse Caz
Day 5 – Saturday 25 June 2011
Got up at 05:00hrs with Mick to join the others for the early morning shift. Didn’t need to use my car as Olly came and picked us up. It was my turn to drive the carriage where we went through Preston & Lancaster where we had a stop point.
Lyn & Sue left the hotel in Preston to go and pick up the riding horses at Haydock Park Racecourse where they had spent the night in very posh stables. They took them with Vince & Jane our new horse box driver to a lay by in Lancaster where they were tacked up, groomed and ready to go. For me it was straight off the carriage and straight onto Charlie where we rode through town and accompanied the carriage to a very nice Castle stop point. The vicar there blessed me & Lyn which was a nice touch and there I did another TV interview.
I gave Lyn the chance to ride Charlie back to the horse box as by this stage she was absolutely itching to ride.
Now back at the hotel for some rest and sleep for Lyn & Sue as they are on rear escort duties tonight and need to leave the hotel at 22:45hrs and head towards Penrith.
Best Western Hotel, Preston.
The Shuttle Car
23:00hrs Lyn left the hotel with Sue & Danny. Lyn & Sue were on rear escort duty and Danny was driving the carriage. They headed off to Penrith while I got some much needed sleep.
Day 6 – Sunday 26 June 2011
The horses & carriage had gone further than Penrith, so once they managed to find themselves out of the one way system and an alternative route was taken, as the A road into Carlisle was closed, therefore they had to take the motorway heading for Carlisle and then turn off 2 stops down taking an A road. Luckily they didn’t have to go too far when they came across the horses & carriage. They did a changeover and Lyn & Sue were in the rear escort car and escorted them through Gretna………………John & Melanie Horn came to meet me who was my old boss at Netheravon parachute centre.
Lyn with John Horn
06:45hrs I caught up with the guys to do a changeover with Danny and got on the carriage to drive the horses. I was a bit later than the time I was due because there were a heard of cows crossing the road for their morning milking!!!
Next I was on with Ken who brought his horses in to do the next two legs which took us up to Lockerbie.
Ken’s horses who I’m afraid I’ve forgotten their names!
Danny fast asleep!!!
Lyn & Danny went on to the hotel in Glasgow as they had been up all night. And as you can see from the photo above Dan was very tired and slept all the way to the hotel. They both had to have a few hours sleep ready for the night shift.
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow
View from Hotel
Lyn slept most of the day in the hotel. Jacks took over from us with her horses Molly & Rosie and Mick got on the carriage to be the driver. I was then on rear escort duty until midday. We were supposed to meet in Glasgow to take part in the veterans day parade, but unfortunately we were a couple of hours behind and didn’t make it.
Next stop was the Crowne Plaza Hotel where I joined Lyn and again had some much needed sleep. The hotel was situated next to the river and opposite BBC Scotland. It didn’t really seem to get dark for long here and didn’t get dark until at least 11:00pm. Dawn was roughly about 3:00am.
Lyn left the hotel with Dan at 23:00hrs to be on rear escort duty. They met up with the rest of the crew & horses & carriage in Dumbarton which was on the A82 up the west coast highway and into the beautiful Scottish countryside. Believe it or not but they met up in an Esso petrol station as below:
Day 7 – Monday 27 June 2011
06:00hrs Met up with Lyn for a change over in a place near Tyndrum. It was here where we all got eaten alive by midges. The Shemaghs came in very handy (thanks to Matthew) at this stage as we wrapped them around our heads to protect ourselves. Then the rain came down and we were all thankful once again to Matthew for the waterproof jackets & trousers.
The weather soon started to brighten up with the sun in our faces and glistening off the lock surface as we were riding alongside lakes and mountains. It was there where I spotted a sea plane.
Lyn with Sox & Torriden & Anne
The BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Servicemen Association) coach brought the folks from the home in Creif to meet us at Taynuilt. Was lovely to see so many of them to welcome us here.
Myself and Lyn finished here and went to a hostel to sleep for a few hours until I went on the night shift with Francis. Swapped with Lyn & Danny so they could get their heads down for the night. We stayed in a place at the bottom of Ben Nevis with stunning views. This made up for having to sleep in a bunk bed!!
Day 8 – Tuesday 28 June 2011
At approx. 08:00hrs we met up with Lyn & Danny after working throughout the night. They found us a good changeover point at the Lockness Lodge where we stopped and had breakfast and some photos taken with Nessie………….it had to be done!
From here Lyn was the rear escort driver and Danny was on the carriage driving. I followed on in my car with Francis as we were going to be riding the horses escorting the ambulance in Inverness. Lyn & Sue had already groomed the outrider horses and tacked them up at our meeting point ready for us to ride straight away. Unfortunately when we arrived there Rosie one of Jacks horses threw a shoe and therefore we had to get the farrier to shoe her. This had put us behind on time by quite a bit, however there were still plenty of people to greet us in Inverness at our stopping point in the town square. We arrived to bagpipes playing and the guys from Pizza Express brought us out tea & coffee.
After finishing here we went to our accommodation which was a beautiful manor house where Lyn wanted to be addressed as Lady Linda! Think it went to her head a bit
Lady Linda outside her Manor!
The beautiful Manor House
We both got a couple of hours sleep in here as Lyn was on night duty again with Danny. I got to sleep here for a bit longer until 04:00hrs! Lyn left with Dan at 23:00hrs whereby it was only just starting to get dark!
Day 9 – Wednesday 29 June 2011 – Nearly There!!!
A Beautiful Sunrise!
Filling up at the Petrol Station!
At this changeover point where the heavies – lovely Billy & Horrice, were put on the carriage it was decided because of the steep hills that it was better to have Lyn on the carriage with the driver as she is as light as a feather. So lucky for Lyn that she was able to have a little go in the carriage as they got nearer to John O’Groats.
The lovely lovely Billy & Horrice!
Andy T driving Billy & Horrice
Andy T & Lyn
A very exhausted Andy with Charlie & Beano after their shift
Me & Francis caught up with Lyn at a changeover point at approx. 10:00hrs ready to do my driving the carriage & rear escort duties.
A few ponies running over to see our horses pulling the carriage
We did it!!!!! At approx. 16:58hrs we arrived at John O’Groats! After a very long & amazing Journey!!!
Me on Charlie with my parachute regiment flag on my back!
The Mayor greeting us at John O’Groats
Me & Lyn on Charlie
Jacks with all the boys!
L A N D S E N D T O J O H N O ‘ G R O A T S – T H E E N D !