West Sussex firefighters pushed to the limit on charity walk during days of flooding

Two West Sussex firefighters have been pushed to the limit on a 100-mile walk wearing full firefighting equipment and breathing apparatus.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 3:46 pm

Torrential rain and devastating flooding left Shaun Challis and Lee Smith ‘feeling smashed to pieces’ but they ended the walk from Winchester to Eastbourne with a smile on their faces.

The pair, both based at Shoreham Fire Station, have so far raised more than £3,000 for Martlets Hospice in Hove and The Fire Fighters Charity.

Neil Stocker, deputy chief fire officer, 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.”

On Friday, day four of the challenge, Shaun tweeted: “Feeling smashed to pieces now, we’ve got trenchfoot, a lot of blisters and skin is wearing away from our BA sets. We are so grateful for all the support from everyone today, lots of @WestSussexFire colleagues helping us out along the way.”

He and Lee wore kit weighing 2½ stones for the entire walk, which took them 4½ days.

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.

Shaun Challis and Lee Smith at the end of the South Downs Way. Picture: Dan Jessup

“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.”

The pair left Winchester early on Tuesday with a blue light escort out of the city and arrived into Eastbourne on Saturday afternoon, after battling heavy rain, strong winds and flooding.

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.”