In the words of The Proclaimers –“I would walk Five Hundred Miles and I would Walk Five Hundred More”
I regularly fundraise on behalf of Cancer Research and Drug Development at the Royal Marsden Hospital where I was once a patient, but walking 1000 miles was my most ambitious fundraising project to date.
Roughly speaking, my first 500 miles was through England and my second through Spain where I would end up at Santiago de Compostela.
Starting off out of my own front door and walking from Gosforth to Wasdale Head, then over the Lakeland Fells to Bowness-on-Windermere where I picked up The Dales Way long distance footpath, I then followed this to where it intersects The Pennine Way near The Ribbleshead Viaduct.
From there I followed the long distance footpath to near where it ended, then walking through Glossop, New Mills, then across to Macclesfield were I picked up, first The Macclesfield Canal, then The Trent and Mersey Canal to Stafford. From there followed The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to Stourport-on-Severn where I picked up The Severn Way and followed that, then continued up the Avon Gorge to Bristol.
From Bristol I crossed The Clifton Suspension Bridge and walked to Wells on a minor road, then through Glastonbury and across Somerset into Devon and finally over Dartmoor to Plymouth where I caught the ferry to Santander.
Then once in Spain I walked through Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia following the “Camino Norte” to Santiago de Compostela.
As you can no doubt imagine, planning a project of this scale is a nightmare and putting the bones of this walk together was just that, often three steps forwards followed by two back, overcoming most of the hurdles that appeared in front of us.
At the same time I realised the amount of good people there were out there willing to lend a hand and help me achieve my goal. These included the good people at Regatta who kindly donated me some walking kit, a wonderful waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers as well as a nice base layer top – all of which worked well and kept me dry as well as warm – so thank you Regatta.
On Saturday 29th of March myself and Sid Syrett set off from my home in west Cumbria and followed the route as above.
Overall the weather on the UK section was kind to us, although we did have a couple of days of appalling weather on The Pennine Way. We were well supported by The Rotary Club who often gave us overnight parking at their homes and use of their showers.
Sid walked with me as far as Stafford, then I was more or less on my own until another friend of mine, Stevie Hufton joined me near Exeter in Devon and we continued on to Plymouth where we took the ferry to Santander. Unfortunately I started to have knee trouble in the latter stages of the walk through England and when I started walking in Spain, now carrying a larger rucksack the small problem quickly became a larger problem.
On the recommendation of some old friends we stumbled across in the Ribadesella area that we hadn't seen for nearly a decade, I decided to visit the “Ambulatorio” to seek advice about my knee.
My bottom had barely touched the chair when a young lady doctor ushered me into a consulting room, she examined my knee, I showed her the medication that I was currently taking and a map showing how far I had come and how far I was going and she explained to me in broken English (which was a Lot better than my own broken Spanish I might add) that as I was already taking the maximum dose of the strongest anti-inflammatory tablets and strong pain killers, that “Walk is Over”.
I replied that “wasn’t an option”.
I began showing her some papers to explain that this was my 20th walk raising money for Cancer Research, the longest walk that I had ever attempted and failure to complete the walk wasn’t an option for me.
After much deliberating, I was given a shot of Cortisone with no guarantees that it would help me to finish the walk within 30 days. My only hope was that I would be in Santiago in 3o days or not at all.
The doctor wrote up the report and and gave me medication to settle my stomach and a knee brace for extra support. When I asked how much I owed her, she replied 'nothing'. Another example of the human kindness which kept me on the road throughout my 1000 mile journey.
So, with the additional aid of a heavy duty knee brace, we were back on our way again and although I still wasn’t walking too well, at least I was walking.
After another 250 miles or so, I again needed some intervention and this time it game in the form of another Peregrino (Pilgrim) who kindly taped my knee and I was able to keep on hobbling.
On Wednesday 4th June I hobbled into Santiago de Compostela after walking 1,000 miles – I felt mainly relief that I had been able to complete the walk.
Since returning home I have had me knee X-rayed and the results are that there is significant wear and tear to the right knee joint, with rest and a bit of luck that I should be able to get out on the Lakeland Fells again, but that perhaps my days of long distance walking are now behind me.
But, I am still proud of what I accomplished, even though it looks as though this really was my swansong where walking to raise money for Cancer Research and Drug Development at The Royal Marsden Hospital is concerned.
Rob Steele walked 1000 miles from the UK to Spain in his quest to raise funds and awareness for Cancer Research and Drug Development at The Royal Marsden Hospital.
If you would like to support him you can still do so at https://www.justgiving.com/Rob-Steele1/