Walkers Tackle Freedom Trail Across Pyrenees

A team's set off on a charity trek to retrace the steps of those who escaped to freedom from Nazi-occupied France.

The seven walkers who work for the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) based in Gosport, Hampshire, are accompanying a blind armed forces veteran on the 50-mile "Freedom Trail'', a treacherous route across the Pyrenees.

Their route will follow the path originally established for fleeing Frenchmen attempting to reach North Africa to join the Free French Forces during the Second World War.

The team has already raised £5,000 in sponsorship for St Dunstan's, a charity which supports blinded servicemen.

Accompanying the group is Don Planner, from Poole, Dorset, who served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for 13 years but was blinded in a fuel tank explosion in 1975.

The 62-year-old, who was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mont Blanc, will also become the first blind person to complete the Freedom Trail.

The group is led by Mick Monaghan, recently made an MBE for his charitable services.

The 61-year-old, from Fareham, Hampshire, said:

"We are now 20km into the first day and everything is going well.

"Don is coping very well and he is keeping up the pace, but it's very hot and we're sweating.''

During the four-day trek, the group will be fully self-sufficient by carrying their own supplies. The team hopes to finish the walk on Thursday evening.

The SPVA is an agency of the Ministry of Defence and provides essential support functions to the armed forces and veterans communities.

To sponsor the group visit www.justgiving.com/spvafreedomtrailtrek.