Mayor Completes Walk to Menin Gate

Horley’s daredevil mayor, David Powell - who has in recent years skydived and abseiled to support the Royal British Legion - has just finished the gruelling 165-mile walk after weeks of trekking laps of the town’s recreation ground in Brighton Road. It took the 84-year-old five weeks, walking every day through blistering heatwaves and gale-force winds, to complete the epic journey.

On Saturday, Cllr Powell and his team of walkers, finished to applause from fellow servicemen and women and the Borough’s Mayor Rosemary Absalom. Cllr Powell said: “It’s a bittersweet moment. Going back a few weeks I never thought I would be able to walk 165 miles, not in a million years. I started walking a mile and a half a day and by the end I was walking eight miles a day and I can’t believe how my health and breathing has dramatically improved. It’s turned me into a different person.”

Addressing a gathering of supporters in the memorial gardens, Event organiser and member of the walking team, Terry Boardman, said: “When David set off on this journey some people said ‘David is not going to make it’ but those who know David know he doesn’t give up and fair play to him, he made it.” Cllr Powell added: “It felt a bit like being a soldier again. I had all the aches and pains you feel getting up at the crack of dawn and meeting up with my fello comrades who have walked with me. We’ve laughed, we’ve talked and it’s been most uplifting for me to be with these guys.”

Cllr Absalom congratulated the team and added: “It has been a truly heroic enterprise, the team have continued to walk through rain and shine and they have done the most fantastic job.”She added: “David is a real trooper and I fully expect that he will dream up something that will top this before long.”

Inspired by the efforts of Captain Tom Moore, Cllr Powell decided to walk the distance from Horley to the wartime memorial in Ypres, Belgium, by completing daily laps of his local recreation ground. The mayor, who was recently appointed president of Horley’s branch of the Royal British Legion, was trying to garner support to raise cash to repair Horley’s Royal British Legion’s headquarters – based at The Earl Haig Sports and Social Club - in Albert Road after it was gutted by fire in May. Cllr Powell, along with local Royal British Legion secretary Tony Keay, 80, chairman Bob Jenkinson, 74, and event organiser Terry Boardman, 70, have been setting off from the town’s memorial gardens in Brighton Road each day at 11am to complete laps of the recreation ground. Each laps is approximately half a mile.Since they started the project on Saturday, August 8, they have walked every day, even during the recent blistering heatwave.

World War 1 legend, field marshal Earl Haig, helped establish the Royal British Legion and presented the Earl Haig club to them in 1923. For most of the war he commanded the western front in France and died in 1928. Tony Keay, secretary at the Royal British Legion, said: “The Earl Haig is our headquarters and without it we have nowhere we can hold our meetings. “It’s a lifeline to many of our members and a social gathering for us all.” He added: “We also run our Poppy Appeal from the club which is one of the main ways we raise money, last year we raised £23,000 for the appeal. If we don’t have a place to host the appeal, we may not be able to raise so much, which will be devastating.”

As a symbol to those who died in battle, Cllr Powell carried a wreath with him for the duration of the trek and has asked the Mayor of Ypres, in Belgium, to lay it at the Menin Gate in memory of the fundraising veterans. Cllr Powell was deployed to Vietnam in 1967 in an undercover operation heading up a security team to guard the British Embassy in Saigon against Viet Cong attacks.

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