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Aintree, Bangor & Stratford: Around the Courses in 80 Days: Raising Funds and Spirits for Dementia UK

Hey everyone! I’m thrilled to share the latest updates from my "Around the Courses in 80 Days" challenge for Dementia UK. This journey has been a whirlwind of historical moments, beautiful courses, and incredible acts of kindness. Let’s dive into the details of my recent adventures at Aintree, Bangor-on-Dee, and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Leg 31: Friday - Aintree

Aintree was absolutely amazing. The moment you walk through the gates, you can sense the rich history of the place. It's almost like you can hear the echoes of legendary races. This is the home of the Grand National, and the aura of champions like Red Rum, who won the race three times and was runner-up twice, is palpable. Stuart Lewis walked the Mildmay Course with me. We could not walk the Grand National course as it is currently closed until October and the fences are not fully built so we would not have experienced seeing them close up anyway. The photo with a green cover on the top of the fence is The Chair, which along with the water jump that is also shown are the only two obstacles in the Grand National that are only jumped once.

The folks at Aintree were incredibly welcoming. Even though bucket collections weren’t allowed, I managed to chat with loads of people about my cause. Their interest and generosity were overwhelming. Despite the restrictions, I raised an impressive £202.07. It's incredible how much you can achieve just by having conversations with people who are passionate about the sport and the cause.

Leg 32: Saturday - Bangor-on-Dee

Next, I headed to Bangor-on-Dee on a gorgeous Saturday. The weather was perfect – one of those days that makes you grateful to be outdoors. Bangor-on-Dee is unique; it has no grandstands, which gives it a quirky, almost intimate feel. Watching the finish head-on from the main enclosures was a bit odd, and honestly, not my favorite viewing experience. It’s hard to get the full excitement of the race from that angle. It was a delight to meet one of my favourite trainers, Venetia Williams, who spoke kindly about what I am doing. (See picture above) Sadly, I couldn’t do any collections or promoting here, which was a real downer. The staff's reaction was less than supportive, but given it’s managed by the same team as Chester, I wasn’t entirely surprised. Mark Williams, who seems to fancy himself quite the local celebrity there, put his oar in with them which rubbed off on Bangor too. It’s disappointing, but these things happen and I will not let one spiteful individual stop me from raising as much as I can for Dementia UK.

Leg 33: Sunday - Stratford-upon-Avon

Sunday brought me to Stratford-upon-Avon, and it was another lovely day. The staff here were fantastic and super helpful, which was a refreshing change following on from yesterday. I really enjoyed the walk around the course and the overall atmosphere of the day. The team there allowed me to do a bucket collection after racing. However, the logistics were tricky with two main exits about 500 meters apart. I had to choose one, which meant I probably only captured half the donations I could have. Some extra hands would have made a world of difference here.

Still, I’m pleased to say I raised £215.99 for Dementia UK. It’s moments like these that remind me why I’m doing this – every penny counts, and the generosity of the racegoers was truly heartwarming.

A Shoutout to an Unsung Hero

I’ve got to give a massive shoutout to Paul Chiplin, whose kindness has been a game-changer for me. One of my biggest logistical worries was solved thanks to Paul, who drove all the way from Cardiff to Gatwick just to hand over his wife’s car to me to use for the remaining days of the challenge. This act of generosity didn’t stop there – he insured the car for me to drive and even gave me a lovely gift set of toiletries.

And then, at his own expense, he caught a coach back to Cardiff. What a hero! Paul’s kindness is something I will never forget. It just goes to show that together, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. His support has been a huge boost, both practically and emotionally.

Wrapping Up

I’m thrilled to report that we’ve now raised a fantastic £7,172 for Dementia UK! This is a tremendous achievement, but there’s still a long way to go. We’ve hit a bit of a lull with online donations over the past week, which is concerning. Online donations are just as crucial as the collections I do at the courses. Every bit helps in my quest to raise as much as possible for those suffering from this dreadful disease.

If you haven’t yet, please consider making an online donation. Let’s keep the momentum going and continue to make a real difference together. This link takes you to the Just Giving page:

Thank you so much for following my journey and for all your support. Here’s to the next leg tomorrow at Warwick, of this incredible adventure!


Graham Arnold

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