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Epic Franco-British tractor trip for charity

Journey from Hautes-Pyrénées to Derbyshire to raise funds for research into motor-neurone disease should last a month

A Derbyshire man living in southwest France is planning to return home for a very special reason - but the trip is likely to take some time.

John Elliott, 78, will make the journey from the tranquil village of Castelnau-Riviere-Basse, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, to Buxton in a 1957 Renault tractor to raise money French and English charities that fund research into motor-neurone disease.

"Everybody says I'm a bit mad!" he joked.

The idea, he said, had been brewing for some time. He had told his older brother, who still lives in Derbyshire, that he would 'let him see' the tractor one day - before the death of a family friend from motor-neurone disease in October 2018 prompted him to act.

"I have an old camping trailer," Mr Elliott said, "and I've converted it into a caravan - so my wife Kathy and I will be sleeping in that on the way."

The trip is estimated to be about 1,500km, but while Mr Elliott has worked out the French leg of his route to Caen, he said that he had to finalise the UK half of the journey, from Portsmouth to Derbyshire.

"We should reach Caen in about 10 days. Then we'll take the ferry to Portsmouth."

The vintage tractor will travel at about 17kph, and the couple hope to complete about 100kms every day on the French leg of the journey.

"I looked after a chateau in the owner's absence for about 10 years, and he gave it to me when he sold-up and left," Mr Elliott told Connexion.

It took about seven months to get the carte grise for the tractor, which Mr Elliott described as being in a 'very poor state' when it was given to him. It took several months to get it roadworthy for the trip.

"I wanted to set off on the trip when Emma was still alive," he said. "But all the bureaucracy - it did not have a carte grise - meant that was not possible."

Anyone who wants to donate can do so via Mr Elliott's Virgin Money Giving fundraising page

"All the money collected in euros will go to the French society ARSLA," Mr Elliott said, "and all money donated in sterling will go to the Motor-Neurone Disease Association."

Mr Elliott, and his wife Kathy have lived in France for about 15 years. "We've had a great time living in France. We've been in a local choir for more than 12 years. This is just another adventure."

You can also follow the couple's adventure on John's Facebook page 

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