A group of dads are going to great lengths to save their local pre-school from shutting down.
In October the pre-school managed to raised more than £1,000 after struggling with the impact of the cost of living crisis.
Many nurseries are currently feeling the pinch, with some having to close due to sustained lack of funding, after-effects of the pandemic and rising business costs.
The school runs out of the Methodist Church Hall in Bull Lane and looks after children from age two to five.
It is committee-run and managed by parents, grandparents and residents, as well as being a part of the Pre-School Learning Alliance – a national education charity.
At least 24 families would be affected if it were to close.
Now the school is in crisis again and residents have taken matters into their own hands.
Duncan Rowe and Lee Fantham, along with 12 other dads have organised a charity walk to Dover Castle.
“I have always been planning to take my son when he is older and do a couple of days walk from here to the coast," Lee explained.
“I was also trying to think of a fun fundraising activity for us dads to do for the pre-school.
“I put it to the floor to see if the guys wanted to join and challenge themselves. The idea stemmed from there."
Lee's four-year-old son, Elliott, went to the pre-school, and his one-year-old daughter, Eve, will hopefully be attending in the future.
The 34-year-old is currently serving in the Royal Engineers in the British Army.
He added: "Elliott has just gone onto infant school and joined already with a little group of friends.
"It takes the pressure off for him – they won’t have ‘first day tears’ as much."
Duncan Rowe, 55, has a four-year-old grandaughter, called Everly State, who goes to the pre-school.
“The pre-school has a really good connection with the village, for both past and present dads," he said.
“There’s a lot of support and it’s a facility that is an integral part of the area.
“Some pre-schools are just 'pay and drop off'. This one is personal and it would be a travesty to lose anything like that.
“Our children start at an early age and get the basics in, as well as taking the next step with people they actually know.
"It is less daunting that way."
The team plan on walking a total of 50 miles non-stop for twenty hours, with the aim to raise enough funds for the school.
They will be leaving Dover Castle at 8pm today (January 27) and hopefully arrive back in Eccles by 4pm on Saturday.
Lee said: "We are going to walk across the Kent Downs, diagonally between the M20 and M2, into the North Downs and through.
“It’s broken down into nine legs – each is five to seven miles.
"We are going to make sure to have a checkpoints with support, food and water."
Eccles Pre-School has been running for nearly 50 years.
The cost per session for children up to three years old is £15, which is paid by the parents.
After they turn three, the school can claim funding from the government, which allows them to provide 15 to 30 hours each week of free education and childcare.
However, the charity commission requires three months of funding in its account for it to continue running.
Duncan says the money will secure the future of the pre-school.
“It’s a mixture of everything," he said. "We have a little bit of help, but you don’t get the full help because the money isn’t there.
“You are asked to roll over basically and it’s a travesty. It’s so important because children are the future."
So far £2,000 has already been donated on their JustGiving page, with a target of £5,000.
If you wish to donate, click here.
Lee added: “Some of the guys haven’t even read a map before! It is a massive challenge.
"Most of them have bought the gear and have been out practising. Personally, I can’t wait.”