Muscular Dystrophy UK: Former teacher from Arundel creates national charity challenge after muscular dystrophy changed his life

A former Felpham teacher known for trekking and cycling some of the world’s highest mountain ranges has launched an epic national challenge for Muscular Dystrophy UK after a rare genetic condition changed his life.
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Andy Davies, 72, from Arundel has created Thames Source to Sea 2022, an 184-mile walk from the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in London, and alongside it, his son Luke will be running the 184 Challenge, a virtual community challenge for those who cannot make it to the banks of the River Thames.

Friends and family from Arundel have helped by carrying out recces along the Thames Path and many will act as stage champions on the route.

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Planning began in 2019, when Andy was diagnosed with limb girdle muscular dystrophy, and at the time, he hoped to walk the whole route himself.

Andy Davies trekking in the Himalayas in 2010Andy Davies trekking in the Himalayas in 2010
Andy Davies trekking in the Himalayas in 2010
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Sadly, self-isolation during the pandemic saw Andy's condition worsen and he now uses a powerchair, so he will attempt only the final stage of the route.

Andy Davies, pictured with his powerchair in his garden, has created the Thames Source to Sea Challenge for Muscular Dystrophy UKAndy Davies, pictured with his powerchair in his garden, has created the Thames Source to Sea Challenge for Muscular Dystrophy UK
Andy Davies, pictured with his powerchair in his garden, has created the Thames Source to Sea Challenge for Muscular Dystrophy UK
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Andy, who taught sociology and humanities at Felpham Community College before retiring, said: "I had always loved walking, running, cycling and being active, so after I was diagnosed, I thought the Thames Path would be an ideal flat trail for me to do in 2020.

"However, along came Covid-19 and, like many others with muscle-wasting conditions, my muscles deteriorated more significantly owing to reduced activity. Now, I can typically only walk on the flat for up to one mile without back-up from a powerchair, so the idea was born to make it a community event instead."

Andy is looking forward to seeing off the start of the walk on Saturday, September 17, at 10am in Kemble, Gloucestershire, where a stone marks the source of the Thames.

On the Sunday, Andy will take on the final three-and-a-half-mile section, between Greenwich Tunnel and the Thames Barrier, using a walker, with a powerchair as backup. He will be joined by Vicky, his wife of 48 years, his daughter Becs, her husband Tom and his two grandchildren.

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Andy said: "As well as raising awareness of muscular dystrophy, a key one of my aims in creating Source to Sea was to give others with muscular dystrophy an accessible opportunity to experience the Thames Path or just get together.

"Being active was a huge part of my identity that I‘d always prided myself on. I’d been able to do fantastic things but I reached a point three years ago, when I was 69, where I had swallowing difficulties and couldn’t run at all, not even one metre. Then I was diagnosed and my condition has deteriorated significantly since then."

Andy, who set up a gardening business after retiring from teaching early, has trekked in deep snow to cross the Himalayas, climbed North Africa’s highest mountain and cycled in the Alps.

He hopes to raise at least £15,000 for Muscular Dystrophy UK to support research and help improve the lives of younger generations living with the progressive, genetic muscle-wasting condition.

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Andy said: "Join an amazing community of people and take on one or more of our 30 stages that make up the entire length of the Thames Path, anywhere between the river’s source in Gloucestershire and the Thames Barrier. You can choose your distance.

"For anybody with a condition, the biggest thing is coming to terms with it. Initially it was very hard for me. I didn’t think I could cope without physical activity. Now I count myself lucky that it came so late in life, as with some types of muscular dystrophy, individuals are affected from infancy. That‘s why I’m so determined to raise awareness of these conditions through this challenge.

"Source to Sea has been good for me, too. It has given me a sense of purpose for the last two years and has brought me out again after the long retreat of the Covid period. I also volunteer for Muscular Dystrophy UK providing peer support for people earlier in their journey with their condition.”

Louise Moffat, fundraising product development manager, at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said breaking the route into shorter sections and grading each according to accessibility, Andy had created an inclusive event.

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She added: "We are planning to have a least one person living with a muscle-wasting condition present at each of the stages, who will act as a Muscular Dystrophy champion.

“This is going to be a real community event, so everyone is welcome to come, join in, cheer us or donate. You can even take on the virtual Thames Path Source to Sea Community Challenge, wherever you are, to help fundraise.

"There will also be a finishers’ celebration at the Thames Barrier, southside, on September 18 that everyone is welcome to join."

Find out more and register for the Thames Source to Sea Challenge at

Supporters around the world have been inspired to take part in the 184 Challenge. Find out more at

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