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A hero’s welcome home for fundraising walker

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FAMILY in Frome welcomed home Michael Burcombe after he spent 53 days walking 550 miles along the length of the Pyrenees, raising money for Special Needs Foundation Cayman. 

Michael, a former Frome Grammar School student who now lives in the Cayman Islands, along with his friend Dr Derek Haines, took on the challenge of walking the full length of the mountain range from the Atlantic ocean, to the Mediterranean. 

The pair’s efforts on their Coast 2 Coast Pyrenees Challenge was to raise awareness and raise funds for the Special Needs Foundation Cayman – a non-profit foundation set up to provide support for children with special needs, and to provide training for the teachers in main stream schools to enable  special needs to be included rather than excluded.

The trek involved walking in temperatures of 40c during the day, then using snow to fill their water bottles the next morning. They were also joined by the chair and director of Special Needs Foundation Cayman, Nik Tartakin, for the last section. 

They completed the challenge after 53 days and Michael returned home to Frome for a hero’s welcome from his mum, Julia Burcombe, with family and friends. 

Terry Burcombe,  Michael’s brother said, “This has been a stupendous effort both physically and mentally. The challenges, whether it be mosquitoes, blisters, painful ankles, crowded dorms, snoring, bell ringing cows, treacherous underfoot conditions, rain, cold, scorching heat, narrow paths with sheer drops and more, would have led to mere mortals throwing in the towel, but not Michael and Derek. 

“Everyone following their story is knocked out by their fortitude, physical and mental toughness and their ability to come through it with a great sense of humour. Most of us would not contemplate such a challenge, let alone take part in it and succeed. 

“To say we are all proud is an understatement. The word heroes is often used, in my opinion too liberally, but they both deserve the accolade.”

Michael’s mother Julia said, “Given that Derek is 70 and Michael will be 64 and suffers from vertigo, I think what they have done is remarkable. Most days have been something out of their comfort zone and I am very proud.”

Pictured: Michael Burcombe with his mum Julia at the welcome home party in Frome. 

Pictured: Michael Burcombe reaching Col De Riou in France. 

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