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60 years young – Annie is happy to make as ‘Ass’ of herself for working animal charity SPANA

Annie with her dogs Bronnie and Ruby

To mark her 60th birthday, Annie Vickerstaff from Kington in Herefordshire will be braving the murky and muddy challenge of the ‘World Bog Snorkelling Championship’, held in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales on Sunday 25 August 2019.

She believes that age is just a number, and can’t wait to take on the testing circuit, in aid of working animal charity SPANA. She is bracing herself to participate in the 34th annual event, which has been described as one of the top 50 ‘must do’ things around the world. The event sees participants from all over the globe make the journey to take part, and last year included competitors from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Iran, Korea and the USA.

Competitors must complete, in the shortest time possible, two consecutive lengths of a water-filled trench cut through a peat bog wearing snorkels and flippers – and finish the course without using conventional swimming strokes, relying on flipper power alone.

Annie said: ‘I am swimming through cold wet mud in a Welsh bog for SPANA, because they support the working animals that support some of the world’s poorest families. I decided for my birthday I wanted to raise money for a good cause and do so in an unusual way. I will be dressed as a donkey in order to fully make ‘an ass’ of myself – and to reflect the charity that I am raising money for.

‘SPANA helps working donkeys, horses, camels and elephants in rural communities all over the world. These animals are often crucial to the survival of the families who own them, and life can be hard for both the animals and the people. SPANA offers free veterinary care for the animals and provides education on animal welfare for the humans.

‘My friends all think I’m bonkers for wanting to wallow about in cold Welsh mud. I say, it’s the finest mud in the world!’

She joked: ‘In order to get bog-fit I shall be undertaking a strenuous regime of high intensity interval training, the intervals consisting mainly of cake and beer. My personal trainer has created a strict timetable, diet sheet and exercise programme – oh how I laughed. This is a Welsh bog not the Olympics – and if I die, just remember I tried!’

SPANA’s Senior Community Fundraising Officer Jessie Hill added: ‘We are so grateful to Annie for her wonderful fundraising efforts, and for aiming to complete such a bizarre challenge to mark her birthday. Her energy and enthusiasm is quite incredible. We’d like to thank her for supporting our work to improve the lives of working animals overseas, ensuring they can live without pain and suffering.’

Current World Champion and World Record holder is Neil Rutter who achieved a time of 1 minute 18.82 seconds in the 2018 championships. The Ladies Champion in 2018 was Elinor MacCormac with a time of 1 minute 48.46 seconds and the Overseas Champion was Jean van de Putte from Belgium with a time of 1 minute 38.75 seconds.

The event starts at 10am and there are food and drink stalls, crafts, a bouncy castle, live music and a real ale and cider bar on the site, so it’s a great day out even if you don’t fancy taking the plunge like brave Annie.

If you would like to sponsor Annie’s Bog Snorkelling endeavours please visit her JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/annie-bogsnorkelspana.