Find out about the local bowel cancer charity hosting its first obstacle course at South Milton

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Find out about the local bowel cancer charity hosting its first obstacle course at South Milton

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On Saturday the 29th of September, local charity Bowel Cancer West (BCW) is holding its first ever obstacle course, to raise funds and awareness for the organisation, at Trendwell farm next to South Milton Beach.

Complete with monkey bars, ice baths, cargo nets, a straw pyramid and a water-slide, the 5k course welcomes individuals and teams to take part, as well as supporting families and friends to cheer from the sidelines.

The chosen location belongs to Bowel Cancer West’s co-founder and retired farmer, David Darke and his grandson Tom, who have opened up their farm for the charity that David co-founded in 2009 following his own scare with bowel cancer and treatment at Derriford Hospital.

We spoke to them to find out more about how the charity started, and how fundraising will help make a difference to those diagnosed with cancer in the South West…

How did Bowel Cancer West get started?

In 2010, Derriford-based colorectal surgeon Mark Coleman formed the charity with one of his patients, David Darke, after recognising the requirement to plug a regional gap in funding for research and training, and the need to educate people on catching bowel cancer early by raising awareness of symptoms and screening. Bowel cancer has the second highest mortality rate of all cancers in the UK, but it doesn’t receive the attention it needs.

What are the charity’s goals?

To increase survival rates from bowel cancer in the South West through raising awareness (often people are too shy to visit their GP or are unaware of the symptoms), funding supplementary training for South West medical staff, and awarding research grants to improve patient diagnosis and care.

What does the charity do with the funds it raises?

As mentioned, we fund supplementary training for South West medical staff, such as organising ‘speed-dating’ events that allow them to learn from national experts in their field, and awarding individual grants for staff to attend accredited training courses to support their work.

We also fund selective research projects in fields such as genetics, patient care and diagnosis. This year we are aiming to commit £20,000 to genetic research and complete funding for our Young Patients Appeal exploring new technologies that can be adopted to support young patients in the South West.

Finally, we raise awareness through organising and attending public events, delivering talks to local organisations, engaging with the media and through online marketing.

What parts of the country does the charity work in?

All across the South West, from Bristol to Land’s End, although we frequently receive national publicity as well and much of research we have funded is internationally recognised.

Tell us more about the event - who can get involved and what do they need to do?

The event is a challenging 5k course, starting (and finishing) on the beach at South Milton Sands and taking participants across fields to battle obstacles such as monkey bars, straw pyramids, cargo nets and water slides en route.

Finishers will receive a medal, a T-shirt and a goodie bag. The event is open to anyone aged 16 and over, and children will be armed with powder paint to throw at spectators as they make their way around the course. There will be food and massage stands to fix any tired bodies, as well as ample parking and toilet facilities on site.

Why South Milton?

The land is owned by David Darke, a generational farmer who survived bowel cancer himself. It’s a stunning location with incredible views and the land makes for a challenging course that is suitable for all abilities.

Will you be doing more events in the South Hams?

Yes, we very much hope to. This is the first year we have run the event and we expect it to become a major fixture in the South Hams calendar.

How else can people support Bowel Cancer West?

We organise and take part in many events across the South West that people can get involved in (running events, cycle events, car rallies, black tie evenings). You can get involved with fundraising for us such as organising bake sales, doing a skydive or running in events.  

To limit the amount we spend on staff costs, we rely a lot on voluntary support as much as we can, so we need people to help us raise awareness and frequently require support through roles such as marshalling, making cups of tea and engaging with the public at events such as the Obstacle Run.

Volunteering can be very rewarding and a great way to meet new people. Likewise, if you have a skill that might benefit the work we do, we would love to hear from you - volunteering for a charity can be a great way to enhance your CV and a stepping stone towards working for a charity.

If you are a local business and would like to discuss working with us as your charity of the year, we would also love to hear from you.

If none of the above, then a small donation would be greatly appreciated!
The run take place on Saturday the 29 th of September 2018 and early bird registration is now open (with limited places). Visit to confirm your place. Entrants must be 16 and over, and teams must have at least five members. Entry will be refunded to participants raising over £100 for the charity and participants will receive a free T-shirt and medal. Spectators welcome and local food and drink stands on site.


BCW Volunteers at an awareness event
David Darke & Mark Smith
BCW Runners- Plymouth 10K
Genetics Research Team- Cardiff University
BCW funded Research at Derriford Hospital (BCW Chairman Mark Coleman on the left)

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