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High point for charity

PUBLISHED: 13:14 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 10:00 23 August 2010

EFFORT: Fundraiser John Ball

EFFORT: Fundraiser John Ball

A WINDOW cleaner hiked 50 miles across the Pyre_ees to raise money for the Royal British Legion, retracing the footsteps of allied airmen and escaping prisoners during WW11. John Ball, 40, of The Avenue, Gravesend, took part in the Freedom Trail, a walk

A WINDOW cleaner hiked 50 miles across the Pyre_ees to raise money for the Royal British Legion, retracing the footsteps of allied airmen and escaping prisoners during WW11.

John Ball, 40, of The Avenue, Gravesend, took part in the Freedom Trail, a walk organised by the charity from St Girons in the south of France across the mountain range to Spain.

On Tuesday Mr Ball presented a commemorative war shield at the Civic Centre to Ken Jones, the Mayor of Gravesham, given to him as a gift to the borough by the Mayor of St. Girons, Bernard Gondron, on the first day of his challenge.

Mr Ball, who was sponsored for the event and hopes to finally raise £2,000 for charity, said: "It was a great experience, but it was much, much tougher than I expected, even though I trained hard, I don't think it was enough, I was just carrying too much weight at the start.

"The locals all pointed to me and said I was carrying too much, I think they knew how hard it was going to be.

"At the first stop, I got rid of a lot of kit, things improved, and we all did extremely well to get through it."

The mountainous walk, which began on July 10, lasted for four days. There was a total altitude gain and loss of more than 6,000 metres.

His group visited many historical sites and memorials on the route. On day one the group laid wreaths at a site where a 19-year-old Spanish man was shot by the Germans in 1943 while waiting to guide a group of allied airmen out of the country.

On day three the group visited the memorial site of a crashed Halifax bomber 6,600ft high in the mountains, where a one minute silence was held.

Mr Ball added: "It was an honour to take part. I am glad that I was able to experience what they went through at the time. It was like being a part of history."

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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