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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



03 November 2014

It was built by the Romans as a defensive fortification, but this Summer Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England presented a challenge to a modern-day ‘invasion’ of fourteen Cadets and seven Adult Volunteers from the Army Cadet Force, determined to walk the full length of the famous wall to raise funds for the Northern Ireland’s Children to Lapland Trust.

Stepping out amongst the fundraisers was 18-year old Cadet Corporal Michael Tomlinson from Banbridge. He and his Cadet colleagues took just four days to complete the 84 mile (135 Km) long National Hadrian’s Wall Trail which stretches coast to coast, from Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, work to build Hadrian’s Wall began in AD 122 during the rule of Emperor Hadrian. In addition to its military role, gates through the wall served as customs posts. Today it is the region’s most popular tourist attraction although few who come to marvel are prepared to trudge its entire length!

The Cadets who tackled the mega-walk which they labeled ‘Exercise Centurian’s Challenge’ raised an impressive £10,607 for their chosen charity, the Northern Ireland’s Children to Lapland Trust, the locally based project which gives life-limited children the magical opportunity to visit Santa in his home in the Arctic Circle.

Securing that trip of a lifetime required the walk of a lifetime from the Northern Irish teenagers as Michael Tomlinson explains.  He says, “When we were at the planning stage it all seemed very easy, but the reality was very tough.  Even though we had all trained, we found it hard going at times although the thought of what our fund-raising might achieve – and a bit of banter along the route - kept us going.

 “Although it was tough, it was also fun and it was good to put our fitness training to the test.  Even our first aid skills were tested as we and the Adult Volunteers who accompanied us treated the inevitable blisters and sore legs!”

 This week Michael was delighted to present their charity cheque to Mr Jack Rodgers MBE, Chairman of the Northern Ireland’s Children to Lapland Trust – an early Christmas present and one which will be put to good use. 

Thanking the Cadets for their contribution, Mr Rodgers said, "The aim of the Northern Ireland’s Children To Lapland Trust is to fulfill the dreams of terminally ill, long term ill and deserving children by taking them to see Santa at his home in Lapland. We are a Northern Irish charity which helps children throughout our Province, by giving them a day they and their families will never forget. Many of the children endure the burden of illness throughout their entire lives – a lifetime which is sadly too short."

The concept of the charity walk came from Major Allen Magill who is understandably proud of the teenagers who completed the challenge … and who is already thinking of what they might do next time around. 

 Colonel Maurice Warnock, Cadet Commandant of 2nd (Northern Ireland) Battalion Army Cadet Force, said, “We should never be surprised at just how much our Cadets can achieve when they set their minds to it!  Exercise Centurian’s Challenge is a grueling walk by any standards.  The Regular soldiers who often tackle it as part of their training regime usually take around six days to complete it and most civilians can expect to take around eight days …. yet our Cadets managed to complete the entire route in just four days.  They may have been foot-sore and weary at the end of it, but they and their families should be very proud of the effort and enthusiasm they brought to this fantastic training exercise.”