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Abingdon School's 63 Mile Challenge - Complete!
9th May 2013

Very tired, hungry and with blisters the size of saucers the boys returned exhausted but elated. Consensus was that it was harder than expected but a tremendous sense of achievement. It was lovely to welcome back the OAs from 1963 who fondly remembered their own expedition 50 years ago. Very many congratulations to all the walkers and huge thanks to the support team.

Jan Wiejak, who teaches at Abingdon and masterminded the expedition said: ‘It was a huge team effort, so many people contributed towards making it happen. I would particularly like to thank the OAs for coming back to support us.’

Tym Marsh, OA, who was first along with Adrian Burn, to complete the expedition in 1963 said: ‘You have to admire the spirit and determination of the young men. It is a very long way and a great challenge. It certainly brings back memories.’

Felicity Lusk, the Head, said: ‘It was lovely to welcome back Adrian Burn and Tym Marsh who were the first boys to complete the walk 50 years ago. It is a tremendous achievement of which the boys should be very proud.’

Walkers:

Bart Jennings - ‘Extremely enjoyable but incredibly shattering.’

James Simpson - ‘It’s great to have finished – sitting down at the end has got to be the best part!’

Will Sharp - ‘It was harder than I expected, the Ridgeway was tough.’

Oscar Newman - ‘ A great reception walking back into School.’

Richard Matthews - ‘The Ridgeway to Streatley was tough – walking through the night was fun but the novelty did wear off!’

Background

Abingdon Boys take on Historical Challenge

Abingdon School boys repeated the feat of 13 sixth formers who, 50 years ago, walked 63 miles in 24 hours to commemorate the re-endowment of the School by John Roysse in 1563. Training for the 2013 walk, which took place last weekend on the 28th and 29th April, began in November 2012. There were six practice sessions before the group of 18 boys took up the challenge to commemorate both the 50th anniversary of the walk and the 450th anniversary of Roysse’s endowment.

On Sunday 23 March 1963 the Abingdon boys set out to walk from Worcester to Abingdon. They travelled to Worcester by train and then set off, that evening, to walk home by road. Walking along main roads in the dark was not an option for the 2013 walkers who began their challenge at 4pm at Avebury. They walked through the night along the Ridgeway before joining the River Thames at Streatley, from there they walked back to Abingdon, with the first group arriving just before 3pm.

Alexander Whitworth, aged 18 from Wallingford, said, “We wanted the walk to be in keeping with John Roysse’s benefaction so we are raising money for bursaries to enable children to benefit from an Abingdon education and for the Childhood Cancer Research Fund of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals to help children with cancer to have better prospects.”

Alexander was himself treated at the John Radcliffe Hospital when he was a small child with Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH). Alex continues, “We hope to raise £6300 from the walk, £100 a mile and more if possible. It will be a challenge but very worthwhile”

In charge of the walk is maths teacher and experienced staff member for Gold DofE expeditions, Jan Wiejak. Jan says, “The School’s archives show that there was some debate around the1963 walk as to whether the “youth of today” were up to such an expedition - not dissimilar to what is often said about today’s teenagers; it was quite a challenge but the boys were all tremendous.”

Some of the original walkers, now all in their 60s, joined the 2013 expedition, for at least part of the way, and other members of the 1963 Abingdon Sixth Form were at the School to welcome the boys on their return. Parents, staff, old boys and the Head, Felicity Lusk, also joined the walkers for the last nine miles.

Adrian Burn, who was the first, alongside Tym Marsh, to complete the walk in 1963 in an impressive 20 hours 15 minutes said, ‘I am sure the boys feel a real sense of achievement in completing this walk, as we did, they did enormously well.’

The length of the walk, 63 miles, is significant because John Roysse, who was 63 in the year 1563, was a principal benefactor of Abingdon School and his funding was for 63 free scholars in a schoolroom that was 63 feet long. The original schoolroom, known as the Roysse Room, is now part of the Guildhall in Abingdon. The number 63 remains important to the School today, it is the last two digits of the main school telephone number and the school bell is rung 63 times to mark significant occasions. The bell was rung to welcome the walkers back to School.

Taking part in the walk was 17-year-old Peter Moore from Milton who said, ‘I feel honoured to be involved in this repeat of part of the School's history. It was a huge challenge but we feel we have achieved a great feat of endurance.’

Further information about the walk and how to donate can be found here

Jane Warne

Abingdon School Communications Manager

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