80-mile London-to-Portsmouth charity walk smashes Rugby Against Cancer fundraising target

A group of walkers arrived at Portsmouth RFC having completed a punishing 80-mile charity trek and smashing their fundraising target in the process.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 5:36 pm
Walkers Luke Povey, Harry Stark, Dean Oliver, James Summersett and Louis Mascarenhas at Rugby Camp. Picture: Sam Stephenson

Organiser Aaron Beesley was one of the 63-strong group who had begun their challenge - in aid of charity Rugby Against Cancer - in London on Saturday morning.

After walking non-stop through the night, via a host of rugby clubs, the party arrived at Portsmouth’s Rugby Camp home in Hilsea at around 5pm on Sunday afternoon.

Beesley had set an initial fundraising target of £30,000 for the walk, titled The Final Trek, which saw each fundraiser take around 180,000 steps. But - in a happy and heart-warming coincidence - the Just Giving fundraiser page had reached a stunning £63,000 at virtually the same time the 63 walkers had finished.

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Walkers nearing Rugby Camp at the end of their 80-mile charity trek from London to Portsmouth. Picture: Sam Stephenson

That figure - which has since topped £66,000, thanks to more than 2,500 different supporters - is a huge improvement on the figures of £9,000 and £19,000 raised via the charity’s first two (shorter) walks in 2019 and 2020.

In 2019, on the first walk, a group trekked from Portsmouth to Twickenham, where they rested their feet by sitting down to watch the Army v Navy rugby match.

Last year, a similar walk started at Twickenham and finished at Canoe Lake on Southsea seafront. Monies raised from that walk were split equally between Rugby Against Cancer and Breast Cancer Now.

‘Our fundraising target for the whole of this year was £50,000,’ revealed Beesley.

The 63-strong group of walkers in Portsmouth.

Members of Portsmouth, Havant and United Services rugby clubs were all among the walking party who set off from Guy’s Hospital in the capital. Present were members of the Guy’s Hospital RFC, the oldest rugby club in the world.

Though fundraising will carry on, Beesley admits this was the last of the big charity walks - hence The Final Trek name.

‘Logistically, this was a nightmare,’ he commented, ‘and physically it’s broken some people.

‘A few of the group were struggling with dehydration - it was very hot on Saturday walking through Richmond Park with no shade.’

Rugby Against Cancer founder Aaron Beesley at Rugby Camp. Picture: Sam Stephenson

Beesley, a Portsmouth RFC member who used to play for Southsea Nomads, founded Rugby Against Cancer in 2018 after a former school friend had passed away. Last November, it was granted charitable status.

‘Everyone (of the 63) had a reason to be on the walk,’ he continued.

‘What made it even more powerful is that in the last six or seven weeks, five of the walkers had either lost someone they knew to cancer or knew someone who had been diagnosed.’

Portsmouth RFC walkers: Aaron Beesley, Adam Parks, Luke Richardson, Dan Gates, Lee Chandler, Will Brock, Michael Bailey, Matt Davis, Gemma Skinner,Louise Morrow, Chris Morrow, Claire Harries, Jenny Rooker, Nat Kelly, Stephen Kelly, Dan Stoneham, Keeta Roelands, Sandy Newsham, Fred French, Ian French, Chris Wreford, Abi Moyse, Suzanne Bull, Matt Mitchell, Harry Hoddel, Amy Von Parks-Dare.

Charity walker Dan Stoneham is welcomed back to Rugby Camp with a banner. Picture: Sam Stephenson

Havant: Dom Francis, Tom Merret, Pete Living, Grant Morris.

The walkers near the finishing line in Rugby Camp. Picture: Sam Stephenson