Sleigh trek is shaping up to be toughest task yet for fitness-mad gran Pat, 77

ICY WASTES: Pat in Iceland last year. Now she's heading out on to the ice again
ICY WASTES: Pat in Iceland last year. Now she's heading out on to the ice again
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Is intrepid explorer and adventurer Pat Ascroft taking on her toughest challenge yet?

Garstang’s inspiring voluntary countryside ranger is proving there are no limits to pensioner power with her determined bid to raise yet more money for learning disability charity Mencap.

ENDURANCE TEST: Pat on the rowing machine with her personal trainer Jenny Wren

ENDURANCE TEST: Pat on the rowing machine with her personal trainer Jenny Wren

Pat is busy building up her endurance and strength to take part in a dog sledding event in Lapland next month.

It will see her leaving home comforts behind for a five day sleigh ride across the frozen wastes, caring for huskie dogs and staying in the most basic of lodges.

The daring 77-year-old says: “It’s the eleventh challenge I’ve done for Mencap.”

Previous exploits included long distance cycling, arduous treks and crewing on a tall ship. Last year saw her climbing and camping in Iceland.

She has been from Dead Sea to the Red Sea in Israel, climbed the Himalayas in Tibet, travelled along part of the Great Wall of China, cycled along the Ganges, trekked in Africa and climbed in Patagonia. To prepare for her latest endeavour this valiant mother of four and grandmother to nine, is being trained by her great niece – who works at Fenton Fitness gym in Garstang.

“This will be a challenge all of its own,” she said. “It’s the upper body strength I have to work on. I’m a robust sort of person and I do a lot of things. I’ve put swimming back into my routine. I’m going to zumba now once a week and I’m riding my bike more.”

She decided some time ago that it was not on to seek sponsorship for her travels, which she finances herself.

Instead she raises funds for the charity coffers by giving talks as an after dinner speaker and entertainer to groups and societies across the region when she gets back from her adventures: “I feel I’ve had a big slice of the locality’s generosity towards Mencap. I speak to organisations and the fees go to Mencap that’s how I do it now.”

She also hosts an annual charity coffee morning at Garstang’s United Reformed Church Hall and, over the years, has raised thousands of pounds for Mencap. It was when she lived in Catforth some 20 years ago that Pat was inspired to start fundraising for Mencap. A brief meeting with an 85-year-old lady from Fleetwood who had cared for her 45-year-old physically and mentally handicapped son sparked Pat’s passion.

The lady recounted how vital Mencap had been in helping her cope with her caring responsibilities but was concerned about the longer term future for her son when she was no longer able to care for him: “She said Mencap were having a bike ride and she hoped people would take up the challenge.

“I came away thinking I’ve had four children, I’ve not required something like Mencap, if doing a bike ride will help someone like her ...”

She moved to Garstang 14 years ago and has carried on the good work.

She is well known for her voluntary role as a Wyre countryside ranger and walk leader and involvement with the Garstang Walking Festival.

Love for the outdoors is, it seems inevitable – coming as she does from a farming family: “I’ve always done outdoor things. I’ve always been in guiding and always done camping.”

As for husband Richard what does he think of it all?

Pat says with a smile: “His sport is crown green bowling – he waves me off and has a peaceful time while I’m away.”

Her personal trainer Jenny Wren, with the support of Fenton Fitness, is now ensuring she is fit for her latest challenge.

Jenny has just qualified at Preston College as a personal fitness trainer and Pat said whilst the training is very demanding it has also been fun. She commented: “Jenny is brilliant – she’s helping me to achieve and definitely enjoy the training!”

The final word should go to Jenny, 25, who is full of admiration for her great aunt, She said: “She’s doing the most daring events I’ve heard of.”