Marching for Heroes: FDM Take on the Cumbrian Challenge 2023

John Smith

On 13 May 2022, fifteen FDM teams set out from London, Leeds, Brighton and Glasgow for an exciting day of trekking across the breath-taking peaks of the Lake District. Our intrepid trekkers of varying abilities were united in their determination of completing the Cumbrian Challenge and raising valuable funds for the charity Walking With the Wounded (WWTW).

FDM has been a long-term supporter of WWTW – that helps rehabilitate ex-servicemen and women who are struggling with mental health issues, unemployment, and homelessness. The charity aims to provide these veterans with access to therapy and early intervention programmes to facilitate their return to society.

The Cumbrian Challenge has become an annual highlight for us and this year marked our 8th trip. FDM teams had both new and returning participants and like past years, this year too they impressed us with their imaginative team names – The Young and the Breathless; Scrambled Legs; Mufasa or Move Out the Way – stood out!

How it Started

Over 60 FDM-ers from across the UK reached Grasmere a day ahead of the trip. Once checked into their hotel, they made their way to the WWTW campsite – a short walk away – to collect their trail maps and receive their safety briefings.

Each year the Cumbrian Challenge offers three different routes to match the different fitness levels – the Peak route stretching 10 km, the Tough Route (25 km) and the Tougher Route (31 km).

The briefings were followed by dinner in the camp tent after which the teams retired to get some necessary R&R before the big day.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, setting the mood for the day. Our trekkers reached the meeting point in the camp site for a hearty breakfast before setting off. The excitement was palpable as the teams studied their maps, checked their trekking gear and filled their hydration packs. And then one by one they were off!

The first groups off were those doing the Tougher Route at 7:15am, followed by the Tough Route at 7:30 and finally the Peak at 7:45am.

The Routes

So, what were the routes like?

The Peak

The Walking with the Wounded website describes the Peak Route as a 10 km trail with a 917 m ascent that is typically covered in 4-10 hours, depending on fitness. It’s highlighted as ‘perfect for participants who are on their first foray into the hills or are looking to gently ease back into the peaks. This is a relatively gentle route that sweeps around to the west of Grasmere and incorporates a peak.’

Three FDM teams completed the Peak Route.

Maria Zapata, Talent Marketing Manager at FDM UK, finished the Peak Route with three other colleagues. Her thoughts after finishing the trek: ‘This was my first time doing the Cumbrian Challenge. While the Peak route is obviously less challenging than the other two, doing the challenge has inspired me to train and attempt one of the longer routes next year!’

The Tough Route

The Tough Route true to its name is a harder trail stretching 25 km with a 1736 m ascent and is expected to take between 5- 10 hours to complete, depending on fitness. Designed for more seasoned walkers with a ‘reasonable level of fitness’, the route meanders up and down the hills to the west of Grasmere before sweeping down from the north along Gibson Knott into the finish line.

An impressive 10 teams from FDM completed the Tough Route.

For Kristy Littlewood, Regional Recruitment and University Partnerships Manager (South) at FDM Group, this was her first Cumbrian Challenge. Speaking of her experience she said, ‘I’m very thankful for the opportunity to support such a brilliant cause. I took part in the Tough Route and it was definitely the most physical challenge I have faced. The team aspect to the challenge I found to be super important to push my physical capabilities and the sense of pride and achievement when you cross the finish line is fantastic!’ 

The Tougher Route

The hardest route on the trail is a 31 km behemoth with a 2289 m ascent. The Tougher Route is estimated to take between 6- 11 hours and takes you over multiple peaks. This is not one for the faint-hearted! But the stunning views and thinking about the great cause this was raising funds for, keeps the trekkers going.

Two adventurous teams from FDM undertook the Tougher Route and both completed it in under ten hours!

For FDM Ex-Forces Recruiter Anthony Hammond, ‘the highlight was definitely crossing the finish line as a team!’

At Day’s End

The day ended with the teams reaching the finish line at the WWTW campsite at various times to be met with loud cheers and medals. Like previous years, this year too the evening’s festivities included a prize distribution ceremony, music at the campsite and a final dinner in the tent.

The icing on the cake: we successfully raised £16,281 for WWTW this year!

Stewart Sharman, Global Head of Ex-Forces, FDM Group believes that the Cumbrian Challenge is ‘the gift that keeps on giving – providing a fantastic competition in a challenging location, whilst offering a degree of safety for those not comfortable in the hills. In addition, at the core of the event is supporting a charity that makes a real difference to those ex-forces personnel who have fallen on hard times.’

Fergus Williams, CEO of WWTW, was amazed at the level of FDM’s commitment and attendance, not least because FDM raised over £16000 for the charity – to bolster the £250k that we have already contributed over the last 8 years.

This year in fact, the event managed to raise a whopping £268,805!

The Cumbrian Challenge also provides a great opportunity for FDM-ers, both individually and collectively, to stretch themselves physically and mentally in a unique team bonding environment. 

Stewart further said, ‘Bringing together FDM-ers from Leeds, Glasgow, London and the Brighton offices it was a delight to see the effort, interaction and mutual support across the teams. The event has grown hugely from when we first took part with an impressive 200 teams now involved.’

FDM and the Ex-Forces Community   

FDM is proud to be closely associated with the Ex-Forces community. From our partnership with Walking with the Wounded to our participation and wins at the Ex-Forces in Business Awards, we are committed to supporting the personal and professional journeys of veterans.

Our Ex-Forces Programme launched in 2014 has helped over 800 servicemen and women launch a meaningful second career after leaving the forces. Our programme is open to military veterans, their spouses, ex-police, and blue light service leavers, as well as nurses. Run by veterans who understand the challenges of transitioning from the forces, our programme offers tailored support and training to transition into a rewarding career in business and technology.  

Tech Industry Gold Accreditation

We are delighted to announce that our Ex-Forces Advanced Programme has been awarded TIG accreditation. TIG or Tech Industry Gold is the industry recognised accreditation for all tech-related education and training programmes. The credentials provide employers with a clear understanding of our consultants’ skills and competencies, validating the quality and relevance of their training to industry standards.

Interested to know how our Ex-Forces Programme can help you launch a second career after leaving the forces? Join our Insight Events to find out more.