Primary head's mammoth trek for children's cancer charity

By Barrie Hudson - 23 July 2020

  • The head teacher covered well over two marathon distances

    The head teacher covered well over two marathon distances

A Swindon primary school head teacher walked 100km - 62 miles - in a little over 17 hours for a children's cancer charity.

  • Frances Billinge, right, with Morrisons Community Champion Sandra Graver

    Frances Billinge, right, with Morrisons Community Champion Sandra Graver

Haydonleigh Primary School head Frances Billinge covered well over two marathon distances during her trek in school grounds - or the equivalent of a walk to Windsor or Hereford.

The money raised will go to the CLIC Sargent charity.

Frances was joined for the last 10km of the walk by Morrisons Community Champion Sandra Graver.

The supermarket's local branch has also teamed up with the school for other events in aid of the charity, and Sandra said the total raised was about £2,000.

Frances said: "I have close family - an adult - who has been through cancer treatment, so when as a head teacher you hear that a six-year-old at your school is going to have to go through the same, and you know what that was like for an adult, you can't begin to imagine how horrific that is for the child and their family.

"That's why I do it." 

Frances became involved in distance walking after taking part in the 2018 Bristol Half-Marathon.

She said: "I sort of loved it but absolutely hated it! Then, in 2019 for my 50th - to mark the milestone - I persuaded my sister and two friends to walk 106km around the Isle of Wight with me for Cancer Research.

"It took us just under 26 hours.

"For me, charity walking and hundred k walking has become my thing. Last year I did two hundred k walks for charity and this year I had signed up for four, but all four, obviously, were cancelled - at the time that I most need stress relief!

"So I said to my assistant head, Vanessa Mace, who is a marathon runner and was due to walk a hundred k on the Isle of Wight with me, that I couldn't motivate myself to walk without a goal.

"Because of covid, I really needed the release that walking brought. On Saturday I was due to have walked from Minehead to Dawlish Warren, and that one was cancelled, so I said, 'Let's just do it as near to the weekend as I can.'"

The MInehead to Dawlish Warren walk was also going to be for CLIC Sargent.

Frances began her walk on Tuesday afternoon and reached 100km the following morning.

For sustenance she relied on the culinary skills of deputy head Sharon Peapell, who provided dishes including shepherds pie, pizza and - at 4am - Victoria sponge and custard.

Frances said: "I don't do any of this chemical rubbish - it was just proper food!"

By the end of the walk she admitted to a few aches and pains but mostly felt tired. There were no blisters.

She added: "I'll be fine - I'll go to bed and have a good kip. I just seem to bounce back."

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