A well earned rest.

So, the middle of August 2019. I am currently sat in my home on the Knoydart peninsula contemplating what has gone, and what is to come. I am here for 5 days, taking a break and resting a grumbling knee. Well, at times it has been screaming, but mostly grumbling.

People, it is people who are the key, and I guess this is one of the key messages of The Listening Walk. It is people who have made and are making this journey the life-changing event that it is becoming. It is life-changing for me on a personal level. New friendships forged, my belief in humanity firmly restored, some stunning scenery on these sceptred isles, and yes, I have lost a little weight and become healthier.

But the kindness of strangers, friends and family is truly life-changing to the people that will be supported through the Samaritans. The walk is raising awareness across the country. The most vulnerable, in their hour of greatest need will have access to another person 24 hours of every day.

We all have mental health, most can deal with it but any of us can at any time have ‘events’ happen to us. And it will be the love and kindness of other people who are the safety net to catch us when we fall. So many people have shared their experiences of lowest ebbs, times when they thought they would never be happy again. But their lives have been changed because somebody somewhere listened.

There is hope all around us. It is in the form of people. I have met hundreds and hundreds of these people. They are all around me…and you. Talk to them, just say hello. You never know when just saying hello is a life-changing event for someone. You have it inside you. Let it free and give it wings.

I’ve walked to another Country!

So, a quick update. I am now well on the way to Selkirk having already visited 21 Branches of The Samaritans. The welcome that I have received has been nothing short of amazing with people coming out to meet and walk with me, organising welcoming committee’s, organising shifts around me, feeding me and even accommodating me. You are all wonderful.

I have completed 562 miles since leaving Doncaster on the 14th April and I am now in a different Country. I have walked to another Country! I have already worn through one pair of shoes and I’m now well into my second pair (thank you H for the shoes donation). I have been interviewed by a number of radio stations which is great because it publicises the walk and in doing so, raises awareness of The Samaritans and what they do.

I am meeting hundreds and hundreds of people along the way. And I have to say reader, please don’t think you are alone and that all around is hatred, sadness and a lack of hope. I am finding the exact opposite. People are fantastic. From the campsites that are giving me pitches, to the eateries providing meals, to the complete strangers that are thrusting donations into my hand.

But as will always be the case, it is the stories shared that are having a real impact on me. Strangers sharing the loss of loved ones, to the general struggle to get through the day. But also dreams and aspirations that we all have. It is indeed the listening walk…and all the better for being so.

Onward, ever onward. Hello Scotland, Country of my home, show me your beauty…and tell me your stories.

1 month update

The Barnsley gang

Apologies readers, I have been somewhat busy now that the Listening Walk is well and truly underway but I will be updating this page a bit more often. I have covered over 250 miles…which has been better than walking the streets…(sorry). I have visited 14 Branches where the welcome has been absolutely magnificent. Starting in Doncaster and visiting Scunthorpe, Grimsby, Hull, Barnsley, Wakefield, Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, Leeds, Harrogate, York, Bridlington and Scarborough.

First stop Scunthorpe

I am now on my way to Northallerton and will be making my way towards the North East. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all of the Branches that I have met so far. They have supported me, they have transported my heavy trailer, they have fed me, they have ‘geed’ me up. In short, they have kept me going. All volunteers, all busy people leading their own lives, giving their own time up to support the most vulnerable in this society of ours. Hero’s all of them.

I am on my second pair of shoes, I have received donations not only for the Samaritans but also for my equipment and clothing which is really helpful. Thank you to all of the people that have donated, every penny makes a difference. I have used camp sites and food outlets that have treated me to food and drink and accommodation. Such generous, kind and loving people.

My closing remarks for this latest post; I have seen in this first month that there are so many good people, doing great things, ordinary, humble, kind and supportive people. Changing the world, one small act of kindness after another.

Under Canvas

Great news! The tent finally arrived from America. I’ve had few tents over the years starting in my old Scout days when we had the classic style that you draw to signify a tent. Thick wooden poles, heavy canvas over. We used to camp every year on Guernsey, but after attending the World Scout Jamboree in Norway in 1975 my tent skills achieved new heights. Perfect ropes, pegs perfectly in line, immaculate angles.
Of course todays tents are a whole new ballgame. I chose this tent by a company called Big Agnes because it has more space inside (I’ll be in it a lot!) and it has the porch to store my gear at night. The other great advantage is that it weighs just over 2kg! Amazing for this space and spec.
This technology comes at a financial cost, but I’ve had some very generous help with this. Firstly Rob at Big Agnes (https://www.bigagnes.com) gave me 40% discount – thanks Rob!
Then just as it seemed the tent still might be a financial stretch too far Doncaster based Woodruff Hill Wealth Management who are a partner practice of St. James Place Wealth Management, stepped in and donated the rest of the money along with the shipping costs from the US! (https://www.woodruffhill.co.uk/index.html)
I’ve now had it up and down a few times and its getting easier and quicker. The design is brilliant. I had a few stormy nights in there too, but felt very comfortable and had a great nights sleep even through the howling wind.
I’ll blog more about the tent along my route, but for now I just wanted to thank my generous sponsors without whom this journey would never happen.

To the Village!

This was my first walk to the village of Inverie from home, about 7 miles, with my walking trailer. Surely not too difficult an aspiration I thought to myself. The first 6.9 miles are ALL uphill. It felt like that, but in reality it was the first mile. That was bad enough and I huffed and puffed like Thomas the Tank badly in need of a service. In-between I tried lift my spirits by singing “Where have all the Flowers Gone” but substituting “downhills” for flowers. It was a breathy, gasping at times, rendition with no discernible tune, but it did the trick.
If you’re under 50 you won’t know the song, but the group – Peter, Paul and Mary – were the equivalent of a band of today being made up of Ed Sheehan, Sam Smith and Lady Gaga.
Sure enough after the first mile ascent followed by 3 miles playing uppy downy I found a lovely series of downhill sections. I reached the village, spouted a load of tosh about “Oh, it was quite easy really” and “Yes, I could walk back, but someones ask me drop their vehicle off” before dropping down into a chair in the tearoom and devouring every vegan item on the menu!
Secretly I was pleased with myself and in my mind I was thinking ‘857 more of those walks and I’ll have finished’ which suddenly seemed rather a lot. There was only one thing for it, in my still wheezy voice I asked “Can I have another soya latte please?”

Windy Walk

Sometimes you have to push yourself to achieve a goal. Yesterday it was a seven mile walk through the remnants of Storm Erik to get to Knoydart Pottery and Tearoom where an evening of whist awaited. For £3 you get an evening of laughs, some (sometimes far too) serious card playing, half time nibbles and a good catch up with Knoydart locals. I lost at cards – very badly, but no-one ever really loses on nights like that. 
The walk was stunning as always. In the short clip the main island over the sea is Skye, with the Isle of Rum at it’s tip and then Eigg bathed in sunshine. Then it’s the Atlantic Ocean as far as you can see.
With a shameful plug I have to tell you Knoydart is a great place for a hoilday, especially if you crave tranquility, peace and quiet and you want to step off this hectic world of ours for a week or two. Have alook at https://www.visitknoydart.co.uk
The walking trailer has been slightly modified – more later (I know you can’t wait to see it, but calm yourselves :-)) I’ve been working out bits of kit that is or isn’t going to be needed and I’ll be out this coming week dragging it up some very steep roads! Ah well its got to be done.

A chilly one

I decided to venture out for an 8 mile training walk in the cold weather. I didn’t have my thermals on, but I’d tucked my shirt into my pants and kept my hands inside my sleeves. Great advice from my Boys book of knowledge as I was toasty!
This is where I live, the Knoydart peninsula, a remote community in the Highlands of Scotland which is reached by boat or a 16 mile hike over mountains and bog. I prefer the ferry.
We only have one road which is 7 miles long. It’s an undulating and at times unforgiving road, but with a chance of seeing deer, golden eagles, dolphins off shore and many other wild creatures its worth venturing out. The road just goes along the coast and back – thats it. No link to the outside world.
The population of around 110 are very generous of spirit and have really got behind The Listening Walk. If you are visiting Knoydart while I’m away pop into the Knoydart Pottery and Tearoom where you’ll find a huge wall map showing where I am. They even donated money from a recent bingo and quiz night towards the maps purchase. I was the bingo caller and after a couple of muted attempts at two little ducks 22, the excited bingo-ers wouldn’t stop bloomin quacking on the final game.

The Start

Every great journey begins with one thing. Questioning the reason you’re doing something so ridiculous. The Listening Walk is no different and after the excitement of securing “a bargain so I just had to have it!” on Ebay I came down to earth with a bump when I took the walking trailer (pictured above) for it’s first outing. ‘It’s so easy’ I smugly mused to myself only to feel like I was dragging half a dozen sacks of coal up Ben Nevis when I hit the first hill. When I say hill I don’t want you to imagine one of those mile long hills that snakes up into the horizon and saps the energy from your legs with every step. Rather imagine a disability ramp that has been put in place to nullify a small six inch step. One that a wheelchair user would whizz up with a quick flick of the wheels. Combine the ramp with the energy sapped legs and that was me and my first ‘what on earth am I thinking?’ moment.
I’m pleased to say that things have improved and I can whizz up that ramp sized hill in style. I’ve yet to yet to try a leg sapping mile long horizon seeking monster yet, but lets see…..