Local residents in training for 110-mile cancer charity walk

Photo of Matt Baggott (centre, with dog) and friends.

A group of twelve Bradley Stoke residents have been wearing out their shoe leather at an alarming rate as they train for a marathon five-day charity walk in aid of cancer research.

They are part of a team of 20 fundraisers, led by local man Matt Baggott, who are planning to walk the 110 miles from the British Gypsum works in East Leake, Leicestershire (head office of Matt’s employer) to the Clifton Suspension Bridge in just five days, starting out on Wednesday 4th March.

By completing their marathon walk, the local fundraisers are aiming to raise at least £5,000 for Cancer Research UK.

The challenge was inspired by the 1985 John O’Groats to Land’s End charity walk undertaken by Matt’s hero Sir Ian Botham, which raised more than £1 million for Leukaemia Research.

Matt says he was moved to embark on a fundraising walk of his own after seeing the lives of his mother and several close friends being affected by cancer.

When Matt first announced his plan to raise money for cancer research by taking on the walk, he envisaged it being a solo challenge. However, family and friends soon decided they wanted to support the cause and they signed up to join him on the walk or help out with planning and preparation (although this may have been after a glass of wine or two, says Matt).

Many of the walkers involved have either suffered from cancer or have a family member who has cancer or is going through a recovery period. Some will be walking the whole 110 miles, with others joining to give support along the route.

Over the past few months the group has embarked on training walks of between 10 and 20 miles at weekends and have really begun to understand the challenge which lays ahead. Portishead, Clevedon, Yate and the Strawberry Line in Yatton are just some of the locations they have visited to date.

The group includes Matt’s wife Jayne and her business partner Nicky Pontin, who jointly run the town’s Abacus Pre-School. They report that walking an average of 22 miles a day for five consecutive days now sounds a harder task than they had initially imagined!

Ross Ashford, who is also completing the five-day trek with the team, has himself suffered with Hodgkin lymphoma back in 2018. He said:

“I’ve relied on life-saving research, which has made great progress over the last 15 years – particularly with blood cancers. I’m doing the walk in aid of this charity so that they can continue their progress.”

Another team member, Neil Short, who has known Matt for many years, said:

“As soon as I heard about Matt’s walk, it was an easy decision to say: ‘Yes I want to take part,’ as my wife, Ali, has battled cancer on three separate occasions and is still having treatment. Cancer is an awful disease and taking part in this walk is the least I can do to help raise money towards essential research which, we all hope, will someday find a cure.”

Neil’s wife Ali, whose cancer is now ‘stage 4’, writes about her journey with breast cancer on her blog at www.memyselfandbreastcancer.com

Photo of Ali Short and Matt Baggott.

Challenge leader Matt said:

“I’m really overwhelmed with how the initial idea has gathered pace and the support I have received from family and friends. Everybody has become really committed to the cause with regards to the training and we’ve even managed to walk past more pubs than I expected we would do! Ultimately the work that Cancer Research UK does is vital in finding new treatments and medicines to fight this vile disease and if we could surpass the £5,000 target to support its work, that would be absolutely fantastic.”

If you would like to help the group reach its target, please visit fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/matts-giving-page-397

Photos: 1 Matt Baggott (front, centre) pictured with other fundraisers at the Willow Brook Centre before they set out on another long training walk. [View hi-res version on Facebook; Flickr; Google Photos] 2 Matt Baggott with friend and cancer patient Ali Short.

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 18 & 19). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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