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Epic journey on a mobility scooter

2015-15-10

By Jason Tate

Former soldier Mark Newton (and his two cats) have been on the road for two-and-a-half years in an epic journey around Britain – by mobility scooter. Mr Newton, 49, who used to drive a tank in the British Army, sleeps in a small trailer attached to the back of his modified Beamer Tramper mobility scooter.

By day, the trailer is home to his two cats, Smudge and Missy, as he continues his charity quest to photograph every war memorial in the country. So far he has travelled 17,300 miles and his challenge has raised more than £53,000 for five charities: Help for Heroes, the RNLI, Royal British Legion, SSAFA (support for soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families) and 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards Regimental Association.

It was while Mr Newton was serving with the Guards regiment for the United Nations in Cyprus in 1991, that he suffered an injury to his knee. The former tank commander underwent several rounds of surgery but the knee deteriorated to the point where it was painfully difficult to walk and he eventually had to take redundancy in 2010.

However, he decided that having to use a mobility scooter wasn’t going to limit him. On the contrary, it gave him the opportunity to travel and raise money for causes close to his heart, including his former regiment association and the SSAFA which both helped buy his scooter.

"It all started when I was going down a river in Wales on my mobility scooter and a bloke said you could go round Britain on that," Mr Newton told the Hull Daily Mail.

"I tested out the idea with a trip around Wales, covering more than 1,450 miles, and raised just over £9,000 for 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards, Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion.

"Before even finishing that, I had already started planning this trip in my mind." He is funding the adventure with his pension and support from members of the public and businesses.

He added: "The cats have coped brilliantly with life on the road – they get spoilt almost everywhere.

"I do have a slight problem when I stop at a supermarket, as people will give me food and treats for them. I have ended up struggling to carry them all. "People are amazed to see cats on leads when I stop off."

His target is to travel around Britain, photographing every single individual war grave (around 250,000) and war memorial (66,000-plus) in a tour that could take as long as 10 years. The Imperial War Museum is cataloguing his images. Last year Mr Newton, who is from Swansea, completed the entire coastline of Britain, and he is now travelling county by county. So far this year he has covered Devon and Wiltshire and is currently in Somerset, before moving on to Dorset at Christmas.

As he told BBC News earlier this month: “It’s not mad – it’s bonkers!” His scooter, which is modified with mudguards, and bars for holding lights and his camera, has an average speed of 6mph. “It’s a bit different to a tank – I haven’t got a big gun on the front, which I could do with at times!” he laughed. Although his trailer home looks rather cramped, Mr Newton says it is three inches longer than him and that it gives him more room than sleeping in a tank.

Despite a few scooter breakdowns, he is enjoying life on the road with his feline companions. “I get a very good reaction wherever I go,” he told the BBC. • Find out more about Mark Newton’s epic adventure on his website: www.aroundbritain.org.uk

BBC News


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