One of the stars of Emmerdale has joined several blind veterans as they trained for the 100k Yorkshire challenge, a 24-hour walk organised by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Jonathan Wrather, 48 and currently starring as Pierce Harris in the long running soap-opera, joined blind veterans Roan Webb, Mike Johnson and Steve Thomas as they trained for the ultra-challenge in the Yorkshire Dales. A former Cadet in the Combined Cadet Forces, Jonathan has long been an admirer of the charity and is looking forward to taking on the mammoth challenge, which he’ll be competing in as part of a relay team with fellow Emmerdale actors, Chris Chitell and Liam Fox.
He says: “I’m aware of the fantastic work the charity does in helping blind veterans regain their independence after sight loss and I’m really just looking forward to helping raise awareness for their incredible cause. Just speaking to some of the beneficiaries they support has been incredible; their outlook on life is so inspiring and it’s clear what an enormous difference Blind Veterans UK has made to their lives. For them, adversity is just a barrier to be overcome and not a reason to give up, it truly is as motivating as it is humbling.”
The training day saw the team start off in Darley, before taking a scenic path along the River Judd en route to Brimham Rocks. It came in the middle of an intense four-day training schedule that was run by members of staff from the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno, North Wales.
Jonathan, who’s also had roles in Coronation Street, Waterloo Road and Casualty, says: “I like to keep a fit most of the time, but make no mistake about it, 100km is a completely different kettle of fish and is a big challenge, but I’m sure that between the stunning scenery of the Yorkshire Dales and the famous camaraderie that exists between participants during the event will help me get through it in one piece.”
Part of the 24-hour challenge, now in just its second year, will take place at night, presenting additional challenges, particularly for walkers with vision-impairment. To address this, the guides will be wearing flashing lights on their rucksacks, with the vision-impaired walkers themselves also having head torches. Despite this, the route will remain an exhaustive one, and Steve Thomas is all too aware of the difficulties they’ll experience come nightfall. He says: “We’ll be practicing night walks to make sure we’re ready for that. Even if we get to a point where we all have to hold onto a rope to be guided, we’ll do it – there’ll be no stopping us!”
For many of the blind veterans competing, it’ll be a welcome opportunity to give something back to the organisation which has helped them combat sight loss. Mike Johnson says: “After your sight begins to go, you can find yourself at rock bottom. But then you come to visit one of the centres and, no matter how bad you think your situation is, you always see people who are worse off than you. It puts everything into perspective and you just learn to get on with it. It works the other way round too, you see people who are struggling on their induction week, but by the end of their stay it’s like they’ve got a new lease of life.”
He concludes: “It’s a brilliant organisation, you just can’t fault it.”
Registration for the 100k is currently open with a registration fee of £62.50 for the 100k. For those not wanting to walk the full distance there is also a relay option available for teams of four walking 25k each. Teams taking part in the relay have a registration fee of £110. The all-inclusive entrance fee for participants includes lunch, dinner and breakfast at three rest stops, snacks and refreshments along the route and a free event t-shirt. You can find out more information and sign up at blindveterans.org.uk/100k.
The 100k Yorkshire challenge is a joint fundraising event between Blind Veterans UK and Guide Dogs. This year, it will follow a stunning new circular route, which starts and finishes in Darley in the beautiful Nidderdale. From there the route follows the River Nidd, goes onto Brimham Rocks, and past Ripley Castle. Trek through the dramatic rural Yorkshire landscape.
Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning WWII to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.
For all media enquiries please contact: Felix Arbenz-Caines, PR Assistant, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HD, E: Felix.Arbenz-Caines@blindveterans.org.uk, T: 020 7616 7941.
Notes to Editor
Blind Veterans UK
Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.