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Bishop's Stortford adventurer Ben Cook to walk from Land's End to John o' Groats with friends' border collie Darcy




Ben Cook is about to embark on his next challenge – with a border collie called Darcy.

After the Bishop’s Stortford adventurer's planned 'Vagabonding Africa' trek – 7,455 miles (12,000km) from Cairo to Cape Town – was postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, the 25-year-old began looking for a new challenge.

Ben Cook and Darcy (36227133)
Ben Cook and Darcy (36227133)

He should have set off at the end of March, just after lockdown was imposed, and said: “It was a pretty huge blow. I put in a lot of planning and effort.

“But coronavirus has affected so many people in so many different ways and, in comparison, it’s not a big thing. It’s on ice – I can’t say now when I’ll be going.”

So later this month, Ben, a former student of Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth and The Bishop’s Stortford High School, will set off from Land’s End in Cornwall, the extreme southern point of mainland England, to John o’ Groats, the extreme northern point of mainland Scotland. The 876-mile (1,410km) journey is the longest distance between two inhabited points on the British mainland.

Akasha Wellness, Wickham Hall, Bishop's Stortford. Nuala Barrett and Jo Webster (white top)..Pic: Vikki Lince. (36053647)
Akasha Wellness, Wickham Hall, Bishop's Stortford. Nuala Barrett and Jo Webster (white top)..Pic: Vikki Lince. (36053647)

Ben will go on his extended dog walk with five-year-old Darcy, the pet of pals Annette and Brian McArthur-Muscroft.

Ben, who is a former captain in the Royal Marines Commandos, will be yomping with a 35lb (16kg) rucksack and camping with Darcy during the challenge, which he expects to complete in six weeks to two months, with the aim of covering around 30 miles (48km) a day – but Darcy will be setting the pace.

Ben said: “I don’t mind walking in the blazing sun, but obviously I’m looking after Darcy and need to make sure she’s okay.”

He and the collie already have a strong bond. Ben said: “I was planning to do the walk on my own when Brian and Annette mentioned I could take her.”

Castle Park Bandstand, Bishop's Stortford. Ben Cook and friends setting off for his 24hour walk. .Pic Vikki Lince. (36053612)
Castle Park Bandstand, Bishop's Stortford. Ben Cook and friends setting off for his 24hour walk. .Pic Vikki Lince. (36053612)

He previously walked solo from Kemble in Gloucestershire, the settlement closest to Thames Head, the source of the river, and spent four-and-a-half days covering 300km to Tower Bridge in London.

On February 29, he asked Bishop’s Stortford residents to join him for a 24-hour walk in the town and Ben completed24 laps – a total of 53 miles (85km).

The event raised £700 for One Tree Planted, a charity with a mission to help global reforestation efforts which was to be the beneficiary of his postponed Vagabonding Africa challenge, so Ben hopes his British walk will also swell its coffers.

George Cullen and Ben Cook, The Hairy Handlebars (36053605)
George Cullen and Ben Cook, The Hairy Handlebars (36053605)

Previously he and pal George Cullen, who plays for Bishop’s Stortford rugby club, raised £37,420.27 for Movember, which raises awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s suicide, and the Ian Williams Foundation, in memory of the 27-year-old who collapsed and died while training for English Championship club Doncaster Knights.

The friends, aka the Hairy Handlebars, cycled 8,700 miles (14,000km) from London to the Rugby World Cup in Tokyo in six months and arrived in the Japanese capital two days after the tournament kicked off in 2019.

After he has finished his latest challenge in John o’ Groats, Ben is planning a change of direction.

He has applied to study for a masters in international development at university and is waiting to hear if he has been awarded a place from September.

He said: “I want to work as a humanitarian. I like helping people and this is a career where I can use my skills best.”

To follow Ben and Darcy’s progress from June 21, see @adventure_cookie on Instagram and www.adventurecookie.co.uk.


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