13 Bridges Challenge – SSAFA Armed Forces Day

13 Bridge Montage

“Unprecedented times”. The never-ending quote that seems to have been running our lives for the last two years and counting. In such times, having a strong cause to support, can bring a ray of light to a lot of people’s lives. This year, we were fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the 13 Bridges Challenge for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. SSAFA have been working hard to carry on raising funds and supporting those in need during this difficult time, and we thought we would try and do our part to contribute.

In 2020 alone, in spite of all the difficulties we have all faced, SSAFA supported 79.558 people through their charitable and specialist services, 27,761 enquiries through their Forcesline support, supported over 1000 people with housing, 2353 Gurkha veterans and their families, and 1326 veterans in the Criminal Justice System. We were proud to take part and help to make that all possible.

The walk itself was scheduled for Saturday the 26th of June. The principal idea was to walk over every single bridge from Tower Bridge down to Chelsea Bridge. This amounted to 13 bridges. There was no clue in the event name. The team at SSAFA were also generous enough to send us T-shirts, water bottles and maps to get us through the day. The next obvious, and perhaps obligatory step was to order a flag. A must for any charity walk. With that finally in hand a few days later, we assembled our team at the meeting point by The Tower of London.

Team Image

Due to the delays in relieving the COVID restrictions at the time, we had specific set-off times and a few small changes to the original route. However, this didn’t hinder our enthusiasm one bit. We joined our group at the start line, connected with our two designated marshalls walking with us and set off into the sunshine for Tower Bridge! The walk couldn’t have started any better.

Emily with ML Banner

As we ploughed on through the bridges and neared Victoria Embankment, we could see the huge swathe of protestors marching on to parliament. We had to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge our way through varying placards of protest across a bewildering number of causes. It truly seemed like today was the day to shout at someone about something, regardless of what it was!

As we progressed through the day, the weather held well and we made good ground. Before we knew it we were well over halfway and in full swing. Personally, I have never had the pleasure to walk what could easily be the most exciting stretch of the Thames. Every time we crossed a bridge, there were activities to complete along with a fact-finding mission to discover hidden treasures along the way. Here’s a great example.

During the construction of these bridges, unexploded WW2 bombs were found in the riverbed, so some of the foundations had to be dug by hand. Which bridges are we talking about?

We pushed on to the more peaceful side of London where the buildings thinned, and the lush summer greenery came through in true abundance. We found hidden gems like the London Peace Pagoda, enjoyed wonderful breaks with gloriously refreshing ice creams, and had generous and kind company along the way making the whole day nothing but an absolute pleasure.

As we ploughed on through the bridges and neared Victoria Embankment, we could see the huge swathe of protestors marching on to parliament. We had to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge our way through varying placards of protest across a bewildering number of causes. It truly seemed like today was the day to shout at someone about something, regardless of what it was!

13 bridges, 23km, 6 bottles of water and 3 ice creams later, we arrived at the finish line at The Royal Chelsea Hospital, home of the Chelsea Pensioners. With all the teams and marshalls waiting for us at the finish line, we felt obliged to finish with a sprint! We were awarded medals, given goodie bags and congratulated for our efforts. As a collective, we raised over £70,000 that day and were so proud to have done so.

All in all, a wonderful day out for a great cause, filled with fun, laughter, friendly faces, and plenty of steps! We’d just also like to especially thank Kevin Mundy and the team from DRM for inviting us to take part.

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