In the early hours of Saturday 11th March a group of colleagues from Wincanton’s Distribution Centre for Screwfix in Stafford met up for breakfast before taking on the daunting task of hiking across the whole of Staffordshire!
Led by Adam Paton, 37, the group was made up of fellow workers Andy Hughes, Wayne Measures, John Waldron, Hayley Cunningham, Dan Emery, and Phil Day. They were joined by Stephanie McQueen, partner of Robbie Forrester, a transport team member at the site who tragically died last year.
Adam, a family man originally from Ardrossan in North Ayrshire, is a keen walker and he recently set himself and his team the challenge of walking from the south to the north of Staffordshire within 24 hours! A total of over 60 miles!
The aim was to raise money for three causes – STING, Scotty’s little Soldiers, and also for the family of Robbie Forrester.
STING (Staffordshire Therapeutic Independent Neurological Group), Charity of the Year at the site, works to support anybody in the area with a neurological condition. The group operates out of a specially adapted unit on the Whitebridge Estate in Stone which allows members to attend regular activities and take part in exercise classes and neurological therapies.
Scotty’s Little Soldiers aims to provide relief from the effects of bereavement to young people up to and including the age of 18 years who have suffered the loss of a parent serving with the British Armed Forces. The charity provides its beneficiaries with support and guidance throughout their childhood and offers a respite, however from the daily ups and downs of coping with the loss of a parent.
Robbie Forrester was also a Transport Team Member at Wincanton, and a friend and colleague of Adam’s. His sudden tragic death last year left a family without a loving partner and father, and was a shock to all at the Stafford Distribution Centre.
After breakfast at the Wincanton warehouse, the group drove to their starting point on the Staffordshire county border just below Whittington. They were transported in two minibuses provided by Arnold Clark Ltd, which were support vehicles for the challenge driven by colleagues Hayden Clarke and Peter Marenghi.
Once dropped off at 8.00 am, the group started walking towards Wolverhampton along the A449. The idea was that the walkers could either attempt to walk the complete sixty plus miles of the route, or walk & ride as their stamina allowed.
To fuel the walkers for their ordeal Andy Keefe from Wincanton’s caterers, Thomas Franks Ltd, had not only provided their breakfast but had also generously packed meals & drinks for the whole 24 hour period.
The walkers spread out as they progressed to Wolverhampton, but re-grouped there for a ‘pit stop’ & running repairs, and again later at Dobbies Garden Centre on the route to Stafford.
The group reached Stafford more or less intact around late afternoon & gathered for a team photo in the centre of town before heading to McDonalds for dinner. Once refreshed, the walkers towards Stone and met up at Stone Cemetery for a solemn but vitally appropriate part of the journey.
Stone Cemetery is where Robbie Forrester was laid to rest, and Stephanie and rest of the group paid their respects at his graveside.
After this twilight pause, it was off through Stone and along the A520 until the group got back together at Meir where the conditions were becoming much darker and more testing. The main breaks of the journey were all finished, though some of the walkers were making the most of the chance of resting for a few miles in the minibuses before they planned to walk for the later miles.
One of the walkers keen to complete the entire route on foot was Andy Hughes who was impressing the rest of the team with his stamina and determination.
When the group had passed Cheddleton, it was a clear run through to Leek for the final stretch of the journey to the county border with Cheshire. However,
this last part was the most extreme of the route as the road from Leek was a continual climb up the A53 on the Buxton Road past Blackshaw Moor and The Roaches to the conclusion.
Unfortunately, the fog and mist descended rapidly to make the last few miles both demanding and unpleasant. While many of the walkers were determined to walk the final miles together, tragically Andy Hughes’ reserves of energy finally ran out less than 2 miles from the end. However, despite the dreadful conditions beyond Leek, the rest of the determined walkers made sure of a victorious conclusion and braved it out to the very end.
The group gathered together at the end of the route, and final photographs were attempted in the gloomy conditions. After twenty two hours of the challenge the celebrations were weary and muted, but considerable pride was rightly felt by all involved.
Despite of the exhausting ordeal, there were several light hearted and amusing moments along the way, including the time that Andy, after walking 54 miles and in an exhausted and light-headed state, approached one of the minibuses for a spare headlamp for his head torch thinking it was a police van! How he expected the police to have spare equipment for him shows the state he had sunk to!
As well as the satisfaction of achieving this challenge, it is expected that over £3000 will have been raised for the three causes from the efforts of Adam Paton and his brave team.
As well as a series of visits to various doctors by the group, and even two x-ray appointments, there has been a wide range of after effects from the hike, including torn tendons, locked hips, plantar fascilitis (a form of tendonitis) and the expected blisters, bruises, rashes and damage to knees, ankles, thighs, heels and calves! However, incredibly plans are already in hand for their next challenge once everyone has recovered fully!
Further donations to the causes will be gratefully received. Anyone wanting to support this marathon event, or learn more details of how Wincanton supports the local community or the work of the causes supported, should contact Peter Marenghi on email@example.com or phone him on 07736 522474.