Celebrities start London to Matterhorn charity challenge

Virgin STRIVE Challenge@Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

Today, a team of adventurers including many familiar celebrities begin their journey from London to Matterhorn in Switzerland, entirely under human power.

The "core" team will be joined by hundreds of other participants across the different legs of the journey, which starts at the 02 Arena in Greenwich, south east London.

The Virgin Strive Challenge is hoping to raise £750,000 for Big Change, a charity founded by six people including Sam and Holly Branson, son and daughter of Virgin entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, plus Princess Beatrice. Funds raised will go towards a series of life skills projects designed to help young people in the UK. Words:PA

The challenge starts with three back-to-back marathons from London to Dover, via Gravesend and Faversham. The core team will be joined by more than 150 runners across the three marathons.

The next leg will be rowing across the Channel, which will be undertaken by the core team only.

The team will then start an eight-day cycle from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Verbier in Switzerland. This will be broken down into two four-day legs over which 160 different cyclists will take part (80 per leg).

On arrival in Verbier, the team will be met by 40 hikers and complete a seven- day trek to Zermatt, through the Alps, on the Haute Route.

The final leg of the challenge will see the team tackle the Matterhorn, with plans to reach the summit nearly 30 days after leaving London.

The core team includes Sam Branson, former Wimbledon tennis champion Marion Bartoli and transatlantic and Indian Ocean rower Fiona Waller.

Among those supporting them will be wheelchair basketball player and TV presenter Ade Adepitan, sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, comedian Jack Whitehall, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and TV science presenter Brian Cox.

Best active breaks in Britain
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Celebrities start London to Matterhorn charity challenge
Ever tried the adrenalin-fuelled activity coasteering? It was invented in Pembrokeshire, Wales and is a great way to explore the rocky coastline on foot and by swimming. Just squeeze into a wetsuit, safety helmet and old trainers then hit the rocky cliffs of West Wales where you can scramble, climb and cliff-jump your way around the spectacular coastline - a fun way to enjoy rocks, caves and waves! 

Northumberland is full of wonderful wildlife-spotting opportunities with its flourishing seal and seabird colonies on the rocky Farne Islands. There are bird watching boat trips from Sea Houses to the Farne Islands where you can spot terns, puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes and guillemots. The Mountain Bumblebee and Heather Moth can be found in Northumberland's heather moorlands, there are hundreds of grey seals basking on the rocks of the Farne Islands, plus salmon, otters and rare plants in the rivers. 

With 2,000 caves and potholes, plus 400 kilometres of passages, the Yorkshire Dales is the largest caving area in the UK. Get your torch ready and go underground to explore the beauty and peace of the caves on a guided caving trip. You can see the hidden side of the limestone areas, discover the mysterious flow of water as it appears and disappears around Ribblehead and marvel at the country's tallest unbroken waterfall in the Gaping Hill cave once you descend 105 metres. 

Britain's gone wild swimming crazy with more people choosing a natural dip in a lake or river over their gym pool! One of the best places in the country to plunge is Loughrigg Tarn in Ambleside, which is almost circular with stunning views - the perfect natural swimming pool! Other top spots in the Lake District include Rydal Beck with its waterfalls and deep pools and Wastwater Lake, the deepest natural lake in England. 

Forget flying long-haul to find the best waves as Cornwall has some of the world's best beaches for surfing. From trendy Polzeath to beautiful Sennen Cove, there's a whole host of top surfing spots to choose from. If you're a beginner you can enrol in one of the surf schools that operate all around the coast. Newquay's Fistral Beach, the centre of surfing in Cornwall, has a school on the beach so you don't have to lug your board through town and GB Surf School in Penzance takes you to the beach with the best conditions on the day of your lesson.

Ever wanted to live the farm life and experience handling a sheep dog? At Troutal Farm in the Lake District's Duddon Valley you can master the fun and unique art of working sheep with trained Border Collies. The Lake District Sheepdog Experience has a nine-strong team of dogs that have been bred to work sheep in the Lakes since the 1700s and you can learn on your own or in a group how to control the distance of the sheep dog and sheep. If you want the full experience, a stay in a traditional farmhouse can be arranged for you too. 

Take to the water in Scotland with the Great Glen Canoe Trail, which crosses through the breathtaking landscape of the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness and includes paddling the famous Loch Ness, canals and rivers. The spectacular 60-mile route offers a truly unique view of the Highlands with brilliant things to see and do along the way, like forest walks for when you need to stretch your legs after a day of paddling, a visit to the splendid Urquhart Castle and pretty inns along the shores of the lochs for you to stop for lunch. 

If you like the idea of getting busy on the beach and searching for interesting items washed up by the sea, you'll want to head to the coast in Devon, where you can come across anything from shells to drift wood and precious stones to lost jewellery. All you have to do is wander along the beach searching the high water mark and the kids can get in on the action too! Devon is one of the best places in the UK for beachcombing with Westward Ho!, Combe Martin and Crow Point as the top spots for finding treasure! 

Explore the ancient woodland and leafy glens of the New Forest in Hampshire by horse and experience the national park's natural beauty. The New Forest was once a royal hunting ground and today offers charming forest paths and wide heathland. There are several riding schools in Beaulieu, Bramshaw, Brockenhurst and Sway, with some accommodation offering stabling services for those bringing their own horses. Along your path you'll discover country pubs and restaurants for when you want to stop and relax. 

Get a sea level view of the rugged Pembrokeshire national park coastline with a family sea kayaking holiday. Paddle beneath the towering sea cliffs and explore echoing sea caves and eat picnic lunches in secluded coves on Preseli Venture's four-day Family Sea Kayak Odyssey

Take in the history of Hadrian's magnificent Roman wall from Bowness on the west coast to Tynemouth on the east, experiencing some of the rich heritage of Cumbria and Northumberland along the way. Skedaddle.co.uk runs a supported five-day trip, which includes a vehicle and driver and a riding guide as well as lunches and refreshments en route. 

Learn how to survive in the wild with Woodland-ways.co.uk on their one day and one night course at a choice of two locations: the beautiful Catton Hall estate in Derbyshire or withing 250 acres of woodland in Oxfordshire. Learn how to build shelter, cook with a campfire and make fires and damper bread as well as testing your navigation and tracking skills. 


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