Afghanistan veteran is moved by trip to China

Simon Poland, 33, stands proudly at one of the highest points of the Great Wall near Jinshanling
Simon Poland, 33, stands proudly at one of the highest points of the Great Wall near Jinshanling
From left, Jacob Kennard, Gavin Moon, Ian Doyle and Sarah Talboys-Smith with Shanon Rees and Rodney Watson at the front
 at the Southsea Village in Palmerston Road Picture: Habibur Rahman

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AN ARMY veteran from Fareham has told of his emotional journey to China to trek the Great Wall for a children’s hospice.

Simon Poland, who is now a public services lecturer at Highbury College, in Cosham, was one of 50 people to take on the nine-day adventure in the Orient.

It helped to raise more than £85,000 for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, which cares for youngsters with life-limiting illnesses from across Hampshire and Sussex.

Speaking of the adventure, he said: ‘It was an amazing and surreal experience. It’s one of those things you won’t ever forget.’

Simon, who served with The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment for about 12 years and is a veteran of Afghanistan, raised £3,000 for the trip.

He said he was backed by friends and family, as well as his colleagues at Highbury.

The dad-of-one added he was inspired to join the effort after seeing the work the children’s hospice does to care for seriously ill children.

Although, he admitted it was hard leaving his newborn baby girl, Sienna, son Tommy and partner Melanie King.

‘I did really miss her,’ he said of Sienna. ‘But seeing the work the hospice does it makes you appreciate more that you have got to live each day. The staff at the hospice are the real heroes.’

The adventure saw Simon and the team trekking about 22 miles over five days on the iconic Great Wall, as well as being able to visit the Chinese capital of Beijing.

They also had the rare opportunity to rebuild a small section of ancient battlement.

Simon added that he had managed to forge a special bond with one of the oldest fundraisers on the trip – a 73-year-old woman called Mary Goodchild, of Steyning.

He supported her throughout some of the most gruelling sections of the wall, encouraging her all the way.

‘She showed great determination and spirit. Even though at times it was tough she still managed to overcome it,’ he added.

Chestnut Tree House is based near Arundel, West Sussex and helps 300 children.