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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

National Highways reservist walks 13 bridges in London for Armed Forces Day


When finishing work for the day, most people like to relax, maybe with a cuppa, telly or even a workout at the gym - not National Highways Tunnel Manager John Nicholas. Once a Reservist with the Light Infantry, he now dedicates his spare time to helping to raise money for the armed forces charity SSAFA. This weekend saw John and, almost 700 people, walk over 10 miles through London as part of the 13 Bridges Challenge – an event set up by John and other ex-Forces colleagues 10 years ago. Starting at Tower Hill, participants walk in small groups past major London sites including Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Houses of Parliament, and many more, before reaching the finish line at Eel Brook Common.


The event forms part of Armed Forces Week, which recognises the bravery and commitment of the Armed Forces both past and present who risk and have risked their lives in the line of duty. John Nicholas, National Highways, Tunnel Manager, said: “The 13 Bridges Challenge is open to all ages and abilities, and the route is inclusive and accessible to all. The walk is fully guided, with SSAFA team-leaders looking after participants every step of the way. I have already walked the route and know every participant will be proud and relieved when the 10 miles is over, for what promises to be a warm weekend. Knowing I’m doing something to support our veteran’s community keeps me engaged.” Reservists give up their spare time to serve in the Reserve Forces, balancing their civilian life with a military career to ensure that should their country need them, they would be ready to serve as part of the military. National Highways, like many other employers, offer additional leave and flexible working opportunities to support employees who serve part-time in the Reserve and as Cadet Force adult volunteers.


John was at the start of the route with National Highways colleagues to make sure all 654 participants set off safely with a group guide. The National Highways engagement van also featured on the day which proved a great draw, particularly for the younger participants. Hannah Siddle, Senior Challenge Events Officer at SSAFA says: “We are so grateful to each and every person who chooses to support SSAFA through the 13 Bridges Challenge, whether that is taking on the event itself or supporting logistically and, in the run up to the event. 13 Bridges Challenge is a great way to show our support for our Armed Forces Community and to have a great day whilst doing so! Thank you so much for everyone’s support and for raising an incredible £80,000 for SSAFA. We hope to see you at the start line in 2024.”

Currently it is estimated that the event raised around £77k, with over £20k coming in on the day itself. To find out more about SSAFA and how it supports servicemen and women, and their families, visit their website: https://www.ssafa.org.uk/support-us/challenge-events/trek/13-bridges-challenge-2023

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