AN ANDOVER man has raised more than £10,000 for the victims of a gas explosion in his former hometown in Kent.

On May 4, the lives of four families in Willesborough, Ashford changed forever, as their homes were destroyed by a gas explosion, leaving occupants fighting for their lives in hospital, all of their belongings gone. Among them was a 99-year-old woman and her son.

As those affected recover from their injuries, the Ashford community has been rallying round to make their transition into new housing later this year as smooth as possible.

Despite moving to near Weyhill in Andover two years ago where his partner, Samantha Heaney, has lived for 19 years, Ben Farnham still runs a popular community Facebook page ‘Ashford Read All About it’, after living there for 12 years.

He decided to launch a fundraising page, and encourage others in the community to contribute, to help the victims get back on their feet.

“I still have family in the area and go back there every couple of weeks.

“I wanted to try and give something back, on behalf of the Facebook group which has more than 18,000 members. I thought it was only going to be around £200 raised, but now we have more than £10,000!”

As well as the money, the group has begun collecting items of furniture. “We are storing lots of stuff, and businesses have helped,” said Ben.

“[The victims] are in hospital at the moment, but they are getting better. A lot of them had quite severe burns, so it’s still quite early days.”

The 37-year-old production supervisor is working with Ashford Borough Council to arrange the handover of the funds raised, which he hopes can take place at the town’s annual community funfair event in July.

To donate to Ben’s appeal, visit:

“On behalf of Ashford read all about it and myself I thank you for your donation and wish all involved a speedy recovery,” he said.