VIDEO: Intrepid teams battle through to complete charity challenge

The County Times team, depleted to four by illness, set out before the sunrise for what we knew would be a mammoth trek.

Reporters Ollie McAteer, Berny Torre, Tim Harris and Harley Tamplin joined walkers of all ages at the starting line in the shadow of Arundel Castle at 7am.

An air of optimism and positivity accompanied the start of the walk, as Great Britain paralympic athlete Sophia Warner, who herself suffers from cerebral palsy, officially began the hike.

Striding confidently to the front, the reporters naïvely planned a sprint finish in several hours time - but talking to more experienced hikers, it soon became clear it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

The opening hour was a taste of things to come - some tricky terrain accompanied by stunning views of the West Sussex countryside.

The team reached the first checkpoint at the 12km mark without real difficulties, though by the second stop at 24km legs and feet were beginning to grow weary.

As bodies tired, a helpful marshal indicated that we had walked 29km, and the finishing line was in sight - only for the next helper, 45 minutes later, to correctly inform us we had walked 28km by that point. Not the news we were hoping for.

Uphill sections became battles but all four reporters finished the walk in good time - despite making a beeline for the pub at Devil’s Dyke rather than the suggested finish line.

Berny joined keen walker Martin Squires as the first two to finish in approximately six hours and 30 minutes, Tim finished shortly after, and Ollie and Harley were the fifth and sixth walkers through, just after the seven hour mark.

Richard Betts of Pied a Terre said: “Hopefully every person taking part achieved their own goal that they were hoping to get out of the day.

“We had people who had never done anything like that - some people were digging very deep and it was an honour to walk alongside them.”

Catherine Bristow, events fundraiser for the Dame Vera Lynn Trust, said: “What a fantastic job everybody has done to raise so much money - we just couldn’t do it without them.

“It means so much because without them we couldn’t raise this sort of money. It is going to do so much for the charity, we can buy so much equipment with what we have raised today.”

Guy Leonard and Company Estate Agents were a strong presence, entering a team of seven.

They said: “Some of the hills were a struggle and there were aches and pains along the way but the team really pulled together and helped each other through - whether with moral support, food or first aid.

“It was an amazing sense of achievement to reach the top of Devil’s Dyke and to be able to finally admire the views without focusing on just getting to the end of the 35km.”

Martin, who trekked for 100km across the South Downs a few years ago, added: “I think one of the biggest challenges was the long uphill walk to Chanctonbury Ring. It was pretty well organised, a good day out, good weather - I enjoyed it.”

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