BV Dairy Staff Supporting Stroke Association With Exmoor Endurance Challenge

Staff from Shaftesbury’s BV Dairy are training for a tough, triathlon-style event to raise cash for The Stroke Association.

The Exmoor-based Samworth Brothers Challenge is just one activity that workers at the Wincombe Lane-based business are undertaking in support of the charity. The good cause will also be the focus of BV Diary’s attendance at Shaftesbury’s forthcoming Food Festival.

BV Dairy staff knew which charity they wanted to help this year. “There’s a lady here and her daughter suffered a stroke, so it’s something that’s very close to all our hearts,” said Charis Lewis, BV’s Distribution Manager.

“We asked her, ‘Which charity has helped your daughter the most since she’s had the stroke?’ and this was the one that they turned to,” said colleague Suzanne MacNee.

Since then BV Dairy staff have worked with The Stroke Association in planning events for Shaftesbury Food and Drink Festival on Sunday 12th May. “We’ve got The Stroke Association coming along and they’re going to do free check-ups for people, promote awareness and raise a bit of money at the same time,” Charis continued.

John Smart, Charis Lewis and Suzanne MacNee

Their team will offer free blood pressure checks as part of the ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ campaign, designed to improve awareness of one of the biggest risk factors for stroke. There will be exercise equipment on the stand so visitors can see how a short cycle ride can affect heart rates and there will be the opportunity to race your mates against the clock.

Rolling up your sleeves for a reading and then donating a few pounds is an easy way to contribute to the cause at the Food Festival. But since January, eight members of BV Dairy staff have been very busy preparing for an 8km cross-country hike, 10km canoe row and 30km bike ride around Porlock in Somerset. They are entering the ‘Samworth Challenge’ in June.

“You get about half an hour to an hour of break time between each event before you go and do the next one,” explained David Alsford. “You are time limited. You can take less time than that, but if you take longer then they penalise you,” he added.

Hannah Ridley took part in 2017 and she says that mutual support between members of the team of four is important. “We went at the pace of the slowest person, which is all you really can do, because you have to check into the checkpoints together within a certain amount of time. You can’t go off by yourself. You need to be together as a team,” Hannah explained.

“We definitely supported each other throughout the day as some of us had wobbles and the team got us through by working together,” said Hannah, who revealed that her ‘wobble’ was a challenging gradient. “I think it was getting up a particularly steep hill on a bike, that seemed to be never ending. I wanted to stop at that point.”

Hannah isn’t taking part this time but David is looking forward to his second Samworth Challenge because he thinks that it is more than just a fitness test. “I like being physically active but I do quite like the mental part of it. And it was a nice day out and a rewarding experience,” said David.

BV Dairy

Excellent planning and orienteering skills are required because teams need to plot their own route between checkpoints. “The night before, you are given maps and your compass and you can plan which points you want to go to and how far you want to go. It’s focused on the logistics. You don’t focus on speeding off because you will get too far away, won’t get back on time and you’ll lose points,” said Charis. “It’s not just like you go for a run. You have to work it out and collect points. There’s quite a technical side to it.”

I reminded her that she in charge of BV Dairy’s logistics and she regularly plots lorry routes across the country. “Yes, but in the middle of nowhere with a compass, I’m not sure,” she laughed. Charis has a leadership role at BV Diary but she doesn’t want to take charge of her team on Exmoor. “I hope not. I think that they will all be looking at me but I was hoping somebody else would lead. I just want to have fun.”

The team members are certainly forging new friendships with co-workers as they prepare for this summer’s event. “I think I signed up within about a month of joining the company. I thought this would be a really good way to get to know more people,” said Suzanne, who has been pounding the lanes with colleagues. “There’s a BV running team that goes out every Wednesday and some Fridays as well.”

Suzanne’s already entered a Stroke Association fundraising run. “We did the 10K Resolution Run and this weekend we have The Rocket Race, an assault course. You’ve got to climb over or climb under. It is interspersed with running. I think it is probably only 6k but it’s got lots of things to do. My four guys are all doing it and I think that a couple of guys on Charis’ team are doing it this Saturday too,” said Suzanne, who added that she is looking forward to the event in Henstridge on April 27th.

“We have been training together a little bit – me and Susie,” said Charis. The women will be on different teams for the Samworth Challenge but that’s clearly not an issue for them. “I think the boys in our teams are going to be more competitive,” Charis said.

John Smart confirmed Charis’ view that the men are taking the challenge very seriously. “People have been putting a lot of training in, people that perhaps wouldn’t normally be. One of the lads, Luke, is not really a fitness freak as such, but he is in training and it has changed him really. One of the other chaps joined a kayaking club. Myself, I’m just going to wing it I think,” John laughed.

Perhaps he can afford to relax. He’s used to tests of fitness and endurance. “In the winter season I play football. And I really enjoy the triathlons when the weather becomes nicer. I get on the bike, do a bit running and when the sea warms up I do a bit of open water swimming. I’m looking forward to this,” said John. I joked that it would be piece of cake for him. “Fingers crossed, but I have go to try and read a map,” he added.

The group hasn’t lost sight of the end goal. They have to raise £2,000 per team to enter and Suzanne says that they are halfway there. “We’ve had skittles nights, car washes and bake sales.”

There’ll be more money raised once that target is achieved. “That’s the plan,” said Susie. “We’ll keep raising and hopefully when we start putting things up on Facebook we can get more sponsorship and get the word out about the charity.”

BV Dairy is being highly supportive of its staff. The company has provided places to stay in Minehead and they are laying on transport to and from the challenge. “The accommodation has been arranged for us. This year we have a minibus and they are backing us as a team,” said David.

If you can’t attend and donate at the Food Festival but would still like to show your support for BV Dairy and The Stroke Association, please donate via Just Giving.