2018 02 26 IceMaidens webJames Gray, MP North Wiltshire, and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, yesterday welcomed Expedition Ice Maiden to Parliament to celebrate their accomplishment of becoming the first all-female team to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica.

At a meeting of the All-Party Group, Mr Gray admitted: “There were many, including myself, who were sceptical that the ‘Ice Maidens’ would be able to complete a journey that has defeated so many others, especially since none of them had any experience of the polar regions before they started”.

“But I am the first to hold my hands up and say ‘I was wrong’. What the ‘Ice Maidens’ did is simply extraordinary, and their achievement really does stand as a testament to the incredible levels of endurance, mental determination, and teamwork that exists among women serving in the British Army and Army Reserve, and indeed across all our Armed Forces”. 

Expedition Ice Maiden was the brainchild of Major Nics Weatherill, an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, who was inspired to lead an all-women Antarctic expedition ten years ago. Together with Major Natalie Taylor, also of the Royal Army Medical Corps, they picked a six-strong team from more than 250 applicants from within the Army and Army Reserve, after a gruelling two year training and selection process.

The ‘Ice Maidens’ set off on their expedition on 20 November last year, and after first reaching the South Pole, completed their record-breaking feat, having covered more than 1,000 miles on skis, on 20 January, arriving days ahead of schedule, and without any significant injuries to report.

Throughout, the ‘Ice Maidens’ also gathered important scientific data to support medical and psychological research on women under endurance in extreme conditions. They now hope to inspire other women to find their own expeditionary spirit, both within the military and beyond.

“I was delighted that in a meeting with Colonel Ed Heal, Commandant of the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering at MOD Lyneham, on Friday we had a wide ranging discussion about non-military activities on the base. Col Heal readily agreed to my suggestion that he should cancel the motorcar track days which were planned for this year and about which local people have expressed a great deal of concern. I was glad to be able to confirm to Col Heal that local people welcomed very many of the other activities which occur on the base, including Go-Kart racing which is much enjoyed by the young soldiers on the base and others. Activities such as police training will also make good use of the tarmac left over from RAF days.

“With some 800 local people employed on the base and considering the huge contribution which it makes to the local economy, I am delighted to have had this opportunity of cementing very close relations between local people and MOD Lyneham, (both REME and the Defence Technical Training College), in this way.  I know that local people will very much welcome Col Heal’s decision with regard to the motorcar track days.”

PassOnPlasticJames Gray, Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire, today signed a pledge to #PassOnPlastic with Sky Ocean Rescue – a commitment to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes, such as reducing plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and bottles in their daily life. The #PassOnPlastic pledge was signed by 113 MPs, all making a public commitment to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics.

Sky Ocean Rescue’s whale, Plasticus, which is made up of a quarter of a ton of plastic – the amount that enters our oceans every second – arrived outside Parliament to bring to life the scale of the problem.

Commenting, James Gray MP said: “I am committed to looking at ways to reduce my own plastic consumption. It is deeply worrying that there are 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, with 8 million tonnes more ending up there every year. Plastic pollution is even affecting remote parts of the Arctic and Antarctica. We all have a role to play in protecting our oceans – that’s why I have signed my pledge to #PassOnPlastics and encourage others to do the same.”

2018 02 13 James Gray MP 55 Gold Service“I was delighted to unveil a new fleet of environmentally-friendly double deck buses on one of the most significant bus routes across whole of Wiltshire,” said North Wiltshire MP James Gray after the launch of a new 55 Gold Service bus in Royal Wootton Bassett earlier today.

“Service 55 was rightly upgraded to Gold by its operator Stagecoach. It links the communities of Chippenham, Calne, Lyneham, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon and enables over 1.2 million passengers to travel for work, education, shopping and leisure.”

“Over the last ten years, the number of passengers doubled on this one route alone. I very much hope that Stagecoach’s investment in a fleet of 10 new buses at a cost of some £2.5 million will encourage even more people to use the bus route and help reduce negative impact of car emissions on the environment. The new buses are very comfortable with Italian leather seats, extra legroom, free WIFI, USB charging points and individual lights.”

2018 02 13 James Gray MP 55 Gold Service bus

North Wiltshire MP James Gray tabled an Early Day Motion yesterday to congratulate the safe and successful completion of ‘Expedition Ice Maiden’. The Ice Maiden team comprised six British women all serving in the British Army or Army Reserve, who became the first all-female team to ski across Antarctica using muscle power alone.

Mr Gray said “as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, and as someone who has visited the South Pole, I have taken a keen interest in the Ice Maiden’s journey through one of the world’s most extreme and hostile environments. Their success stands as a testament to the incredible levels of physical endurance, mental determination and teamwork that exists among women serving in the British Army and Army Reserve.

The team should be incredibly proud of what they have accomplished.”

After 60 days, 15 hours and 46 minutes the Ice Maidens skied from the 80th into the 79th degree, thereby completing their phenomenal Antarctic crossing.