Love inspires Meopham man on epic Channel challenge

PUBLISHED: 10:00 07 April 2011

Claire Woolaway and husband

Claire Woolaway and husband


Inspired by his fiancée’s potentially fatal condition a navy officer has decided to take on a unique and gruelling challenge to raise money for charity.

Mark Baxter, 37, who is engaged to endometriosis sufferer Claire Woolaway, of Wrotham Road, Istead Rise, will cycle to Dover, swim the Channel, cycle almost 300 miles through northern France to Cherbourg, get a ferry to Portsmouth and cycle the 75 miles back to London in five days.

A chief petty officer in the Royal Navy and a veteran of action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia, he will tackle the mammoth task with fellow officer Richard Heverstock at the beginning of September. He hopes to raise at least £4,000 on top of £2,300 needed to pay to cross the Channel.

He said: “You see a lot of people trying the Land’s End-John O’Groats or the London to Paris cycle, and while those challenges are obviously tough, we wanted to do something original. Supporting Endometriosis UK was an obvious choice because of Claire and we have picked three army charities, Royal Navy and Marines Charity, Army Benevolent Fund and The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, as well.”

The couple met through a pen-pal scheme in 2009 and were engaged the following year.

Miss Woolaway, 37, has suffered from the disease, which has seen her lose five stone and undergo surgery, since she was 21 and now needs specialist help.

Mr Baxter added: “We have hoped to marry this year but we are delaying while Claire gets help.”

To support the challenge, visit

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Gravesend Reporter. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Gravesend Reporter