Couple’s 3,185-mile race to get home for wedding

Couple make marathon journey against the clock from the Middle East to East Anglia for their wedding.

FOR most brides-to-be preparing for the big day is a nerve-racking affair, but for Jo Pilgrim the events of the past week will probably never be forgotten.

The 28-year-old, originally from Lamarsh, near Sudbury, tied the knot at the weekend with Russell Weir having completed a marathon trek back to East Anglia from Doha, in Qatar, where the couple live and work.

They had been due to fly back into England in the early hours of Thursday morning but, as the flight chaos caused by the Icelandic volcano eruption grew, they realised their big day could be in jeopardy.

What followed next was a chaotic few days of planes, trains and automobiles as they, along with the best man, Dan Fryer, and his girlfriend, Stephanie Vickers, desperately tried to get back home for the service at Gosfield Hall, near Halstead.


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They started looking for alternative ways to travel the 3,185 miles to get home and initially booked flights to Tunisia and eventually onto Gibraltar with a plan to drive the remainder.

A ticket mix-up meant the plan fell-through and �3,000 was then spent booking tickets to Frankfurt only for the flight to be cancelled. So, then, they opted to shell out �2,500 to fly to Ankara in Turkey but, due to the drive involved, they decided it was a bad option.

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Russell, a chartered surveyor, said: “Jo was in a state and we all got back to the flat and were sitting down, wondering about what to do.

“Dan said, ‘I will do what you want, whatever it takes’, so we all headed to the airport there and then to see what was available.”

The four friends ended up booking a flight to Stockholm because it was guaranteed to be flying on Tuesday morning.

Having left Doha in shorts and T-shirts due to the 30-degree heat they landed in Sweden where the temperature was below freezing and set about planning the next leg of their journey home.

A stroke of luck meant they were able to hire a car which needed returning to France for less than 200 Euros while others were forced to pay about 1,500 Euros for the same journey.

A drive to Malmo in the south of the country was followed by a ferry to Travemunde in Germany and then they drove to Amsterdam, arriving at 6am..

After efforts to find a ferry back from Holland failed, the four headed into Belgium where they picked up breakfast and bought warm clothes before eventually arriving in Calais after nearly running out of diesel.

More good fortune meant they were able to get a train back to Ebbsfleet in Kent on Wednesday evening where they were more than relieved to see Jo’s dad, Kevin, and complete the end of their drive which totalled more than 1,200 kilometres.

Ironically, the flight on which they were originally booked did still take off carrying some of their friends, who arrived home in time to attend Saturday’s service.

Jo said: “We just could not take the chance on the original flight happening.

“I was definitely thinking the worst was going to happen at times, but one day we will be able to look back at it all and laugh.”

And Russell added: “We will never forget it, I suppose. Whether we would want to do it again? Probably not.”

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