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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Friends give in to 'pier pressure'
by Doug Marshall
BBC News Online, England

Two friends sitting on top of Africa's tallest mountain came up with a scheme to raise money for charity by visiting every seaside pier in England and Wales. BBC News Online found out why.

Eastbourne pier (picture courtesy of theheritagetrail.co.uk)
Eastbourne is one of 54 piers in England and Wales
Jason Gould and Tim Rodger admit they were suffering from altitude sickness when they decided their next adventure would not entail scaling such heights.

So a plan was hatched to visit every seaside pier in England and Wales in one go.

"It was just at the summit of Kilimanjaro that we came up with the idea," says Mr Gould.

"We were both suffering a bit and we decided that if we did something again it would have to be at sea level."

'Tatty arcades'

The pair, who come from London, are starting out from Southsea Pier in Hampshire on Friday on a trip which will take them all of August to complete.

During that time they will visit all 54 piers in England and Wales using only public transport to travel between each one.

SIGHTS BY THE SEA
pic courtesy of theheritagetrail.co.uk

They will travel westward along the south coast and then through Wales and up to Fleetwood in Lancashire before travelling cross-country to the east coast following it all the way round to Bognor.

"I think there is a sense of Britishness about it and that has captured people's imagination," says Mr Gould, 33.

The pair have already raised about 20,000 for children's charities in sponsorship and are aiming for a grand total of 50,000.

Mr Rodger, 30, said childhood memories of visiting "tatty arcades" on windy piers helped him dream up the challenge.

Upper class fashion

"Nobody really goes to the British seaside anymore, there is almost a sense that they are always out of season with its faded glamour.

"As far as I am aware nobody has ever done it before so we thought 'why not?'."

Tim Rodger and Jason Gould on Kilimanjaro
The friends dreamt up the idea on top of a mountain
Piers were first built in the early 19th Century and originally used as jetties for boats to unload during low tides.

But it became fashionable among the upper and middle classes to promenade along them and pleasure piers soon stretched out into the seas around Britain.

But through the 20th Century the attraction of piers began to fade, with many resembling the "tatty arcades" of Mr Rodger's childhood.

Since then many have fallen into the sea and others are struggling to keep visitors interested.

In a sense piers are peculiar to this island and... they are a symbol of this island
Anthony Wills, Pier Society chairman
Earlier this year a fire destroyed Brighton's West Pier. It is one of only two that are Grade I listed and now its future remains in doubt with an English Heritage announcement due next month.

But for many the appeal of piers remains, says Anthony Wills, chairman of the National Pier Society.

"I think it was John Betjeman who said we could walk on water without getting wet.

"To put it at its most basic they are a British institution.

"In a sense piers are peculiar to this island and they give a sense of fun and relaxation and they are a symbol of our island."

Mr Gould puts it a different way: "I think there is still fun there - what child's eyes wouldn't light up when they see a penny arcade?"

He and Mr Rodger have written to the Guinness Book of Records to see if it will accept their challenge when completed.




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Pier views
01 Aug 03  |  Photo Gallery
Trust transfer plan to save pier
01 Jul 03  |  Somerset
Uncertain future for West Pier
12 Jun 03  |  Southern Counties
Pier: past, present, future?
12 Jun 03  |  Photo Gallery


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