A rider and her dog completed a daunting 150-mile walk from Burghley to Badminton to raise money for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity.
The pair arrived at the Gloucestershire event at 1pm on Friday (4 May) after the final 11-mile leg of their six-day trip.
Becky Stroud, who works as an Mctimoney chiropractor, and her six-year-old black Labrador Benson set out from their home near the Black Mountains in Wales for Burghley in Peterborough, where they started their trek on 29 April.
“I don’t think I’d do it again!” said Becky, who added that most people “thought they were nuts” to attempt the journey, the longest leg of which was 29 miles in one day.
“Somebody said maybe I could do Blair to Blenheim but I said no. If I raise money for Willberry again it will be a cake sale!” she joked.
Becky admitted to being “really nervous” before the trip, having “a rubbish sense of direction” — “I can come out of a shop and not know where I am going,” she said.
“I had to challenge myself beforehand. I got a friend to plot a route on a map and they dropped me off and I had to find my way home. I’ve had the OS map on phone and that’s been an absolute godsend.”
Although she trained in the weeks beforehand, Becky still found the long days gruelling.
“We have horses and I’m quite active, I walk with the dogs, but I’m not a marathon runner or an endurance athlete, so it was quite a challenge,” she said.
“I was a bit annoyed by my legs — after day one they were in agony. On Thursday I did an extra 10 miles to get here earlier so I could go shopping [round the trade stands]. I don’t know what happened to my left leg but my knee was absolute agony so I did what every equestrian does and covered it in vet wrap this morning and carried on! Touch wood it’s been all right — I packed it in case Benson needed it but in the end it was me.”
Benson finished the trip full of running, and would be “happy to do it again tomorrow”.
“He has endless energy, it’s quite remarkable,” Becky said. “I don’t see the point in walking without a dog, so I thought he might as well join me and then we could hopefully have a peaceful couple of days with him afterwards.”
Benson originally came over from Ireland when he was a year old for a two-week trial living with Becky and her husband, equestrian photographer Jon Stroud, as his owner had found him difficult to cope with.
“He managed to chase one of our horses, got kicked in the head and fractured and dislocated his jaw. It cost £3,500 to put him back together so we thought we better keep him,” she explained. “He’s enthusiasm and trouble mixed into one.”
The Labrador gave Becky one of the more troubling moments of the journey when he ran away across a ploughed field.
“On Wednesday in the torrential rain and gales I thought I’d let him off the lead for a runaround and he took off — I had to sprint after him screaming his name. I found him having hugs with a lorry driver!” she said. “That pretty much finished my legs off and meant he was on the lead for the rest of the walk.”
Becky has previously raised funds for Willberry completing the Black Mountain challenge and has also been involved with helping to grant the charity’s wishes.
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“My husband knew Hannah [Francis]. He met her through a friend and helped grant some of the things on her bucket list, so it was something that was close to us,” Becky explained. “He’s got quite a useful address book when it comes to wish-granting, so we occasionally call upon his contacts to make things happen.”
Having beaten the original fundraising target of £2k, Becky is now hoping to raise £2,500. Anyone wanting to make a donation can visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/beckyandbensongoburghleytobadminton
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