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Tracey and guide dog resume epic towpath walk

Charity trek was interrupted by tragedy

John Garvey

Reporter:

John Garvey

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john.garvey@newburynews.co.uk

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Tracey and guide dog resume epic towpath walk

A PARTIALLY sighted woman and her guide dog resumed their 70-mile charity trek along the Kennet and Avon Canal on Saturday.

In July, partially-sighted Tracey Clarke began the trek from Bath to Reading with her guide dog, Oakley, to raise £5,000 for The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Mrs Clarke was aiming to walk the route along the canal path in three weeks with her husband, Tim, following in the couple’s canal boat.

Unfortunately, the fundraiser was cut short when they reached Hungerford after her father-in-law died.

Now, following a two-and-a-half month hiatus, the 49-year-old has restarted her epic trek, beginning with a relaunch event at the Blue Ball pub in Kintbury.

Mrs Clarke said: “When we reached Hungerford, Tim’s dad took a fall and sadly passed away.

“With the help of friends, we were able to move the boat and I managed to walk to Kintbury, and then to Newbury, where we had to put things on hold.

“Now I can’t wait to get started again.

“Completing the walk is a personal challenge.

“It was frustrating when I couldn’t finish it, but obviously family comes first.”

The fundraising relaunch featured a quiz and live music throughout the evening, while Mrs Clarke also gave a brief talk about her life on the waterways with Oakley.

The couple chose to raise money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Charity after Mrs Clarke’s life was transformed by Oakley when she began to lose her vision in 2011.

She said: “Crossing roads became very hazardous and frightening.

“This, combined with all the bruises I got from bumping into street obstacles, led me to simply not go out anymore, as it was easier and safer to stay in and manage without, than to try to get to the local shop for even so much as a pint of milk.”

However after qualifying with Oakley in 2012 Mrs Clarke has been able to regain her independence with both her and husband Tim eager to give something back to the charity.

She added: “We’ve far exceeded the £5,000 we set out to raise so we’ve been able to sponsor a puppy and named him Raymond, after Tim’s dad.

“We’re hoping to raise a further £2,500 for the charity as way of giving something back.”

Mr Clarke added: “Tracey has worked tirelessly to make this walk a success, and I am really proud of her.

“We are also very grateful for all the help and support that pubs along the way, the Canal and Rivers trust and the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, among many others, have given.”

To sponsor Tracey and Oakley visit www.justgiving.com/GuideDogOakley/

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