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Sandhurst Day Nursery workers conquer the Pyrenees for charity


Intrepid Sandhurst day nursery workers took on the Pyrenees in a gruelling hike and climb to help raise £4,657.30 for charity.

Battling snow and sleet, which forced other teams off the mountains, and navigating tiny paths bounded by sheer drops, practitioner Oana Stamate of Greengables Day Nursery in Owlsmoor successfully completed the ‘Freedom Trail’ to Spain. Her colleague, Sylvia Bryant, was forced to abandon her attempt on day three due to worsening conditions.

Cheering staff and children, who had been following the pair’s progress via a special mobile app and text messages, gave the climbers a hero’s welcome at the day nursery in Yeovil Road complete with crafted banner incorporating photographs of the challenge.

“It was the most amazing and the hardest experience of my life. We knew it would be challenging but we didn’t expect some of the drops to be so vertical or the weather to be quite so bad in places,” said GreengablesTeam Leader Sylvia Bryant.

Her colleague, Oana, was part of the four member team who made it from France to Spain, out of a 40 strong expedition from Childbase Partnership, the UK’s 10 largest employee-owned organisation, which has 44 day nurseries, including Greengables, throughout the South of England.

Amid unexpected snow storms, which reduced visibility, and falls that resulted in a broken arm for one climber and a dislocated finger for a guide, only the very fittest were permitted to continue the challenge past the point of ‘no return’. Describing it as the toughest challenge of her life, Oana said an intensive training programme - which included carrying an 11 kilo rucksack with tent and supplies - in advance of the expedition did not prepare her for the conditions.

“I was focused on being physically ready it never occurred to me to that it would be a mental challenge as well. I was so scared on the third day that maybe I couldn’t do it but the wonderful support at home and on the mountain made me even more determined,” she said.

“I am in awe of the people who did this journey with little or no equipment, as they fled Nazi occupation during the war. When I reached the Spanish boarder I cried with joy,” she added.

Other hardships included walking and climbing in wet clothes; sleeping in tents and the last leg of the journey which involved clinging to a rock face rope, on a 12 inch wide path with a sheer drop on one side, while carrying a heavy rucksack.

Highlights for the duo were a three-minute shower in a mountain retreat; sleeping in a shepherd's hut, and the fact that, due to the conditions, their team set off early on day three ahead of 13 young army recruits who failed to catch them up.

The Freedom Trail, one of the toughest World War 2 escape routes from Nazi-occupied France, involves trekking and climbing through terrain of cirques, rocky ridges, beech forests and mountain lakes reaching heights of 2522m before the descent into Spain.

Special boards in nursery, explaining what the pair were doing, provided children with opportunities to learn about the geographical and historical significance of the terrain.

Fund-raising for the expedition was in aid of Children’s air ambulance - adopted by the nursery for a year-long fund-raising drive - which has just one helicopter covering the entire country and currently can only reach one in every three children and babies who need their life-saving help.

click here for more details or to contact Greengables Day Nursery (Owlsmoor)