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Firefighters’ South Downs Way hike raises more than £3,000 for charity in less than a week

A pair of West Sussex firefighters have successfully completed a 100 mile trek along the South Downs Way in aid of charity while wearing full firefighting equipment and breathing apparatus.

Shaun Challis and Lee Smith completed the 100 mile walk from Winchester to Eastbourne in four-and-a-half days while wearing around two-and-a-half-stones worth of firefighting kit.

The firefighters, from Shoreham Fire Station, took on the challenge in aid of The Fire Fighters Charity and The Martlets Hospice, having both lost someone to cancer.

They left Winchester early on Tuesday morning after being given a blue light escort out of the city by a crew from Winchester Fire Station who came to see them off. Since then they have raised more than £3,000 for the charities.

They arrived into Eastbourne on Saturday afternoon after combating heavy rain, strong winds and flooding. Despite a number of yellow weather warnings for rain being in place, the pair didn’t allow this to dampen their spirits.

Shaun said: “It has been an incredible week, and we have both been really pushed to the limit, both physically and emotionally. When you are out on the downs and it’s cold, wet and miserable it can be really difficult to keep your spirits up and keep going. There were times when the footpath disappeared entirely under water and we had to negotiate our way around it.

“But we had these two incredible charities in the back of our mind the whole way, and we both spurred each other on, despite all of the blisters.”

Lee said: “The amount of support we have received has blown us away. We never imagined we would raise as much money as we have – people have been so generous. We had other firefighters come out to meet us on the downs with hot drinks to keep us going, and our colleagues at Arundel and Shoreham fire stations played host to us overnight too.

“We would both like to say a big thank you to everyone who supported us and kept us going, which has allowed us to raise a fantastic amount of money for these two very worthy charities.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Neil Stocker, said: “Taking on the South Downs Way is a challenge at the best of times, let alone in the middle of winter when we are experiencing exceptionally heavy rainfall and high winds.

“For Shaun and Lee to complete the walk without it denting their spirits is real testament to them both, and all of us at West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service are exceptionally proud of them and what they have achieved.”

To make a donation towards their fundraising efforts visit: http://ow.ly/ogE050xBej5

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