Introducing the County Castle Caper #CountyCastleCaper

I love castles and, for quite a while now, I have day-dreamed about the impossible challenge of walking to at least one in every county in United Kingdom…. in a continuous loop…..

It is clearly ridiculous but it kept my inner mind amused at a time when I started having to accept that, thanks to the temperature requirements of my tri-weekly injection for my Multiple Sclerosis, I would not be able to undertake anything longer than an overnight camp anymore.

I am not sure what I expected when I told Sarah (@PascallSarah) about it…. I certainly did not expect her to say ‘let’s do it’….. with those three words the ‘County Castle Caper’ went from dream to reality.

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Job done, but now what?

On Saturday, Alex and I finished our epic challenge of walking the Offa’s Dyke National Trail – 177 miles (probably over 185 miles if you include wrong turns and the walks to campsites) over some gorgeous Welsh and English countryside carrying full packs. In total we have raised over £3340 for MS Society, with donations still coming in (it isn’t too late to donate at by the way).

You can view the whole map of our route, as well as photos and tweets sent during the walk at (it takes a moment or two to fully load).

I had not, in my wildest dreams, expected to raise that kind of money, and I would like to thank everyone who donated – no matter how small, your donation will help make a difference to people affected by MS.

I want to share a couple of touching stories with you:

At one of the campsites, I was approached by a lady who was camping next to us, who had spotted our orange challenge t-shirts. After a brief chat about why I was supporting MS and what our challenge was about, she told me about her best friend, who she used to go regularly hiking and camping with. Her friend was diagnosed with MS a few years ago, and in the subsequent years has rapidly deteriated and is now in a wheelchair. Her friend finds it so frustrating that being out and about in the countryside, something we take for granted, is now beyond her reach.

On another occassion, in a pub, I had a conversation with a man whose father had MS, which he ultimately died from when his son was about 14 years old. His story was so emotional that he was in tears telling about how is dad wasn’t able to do the things dad’s are supposed to do due to his condition.

These are just two of countless stories I have heard about how people, their friends and their families are affected by MS.

So What Now?

Although our challenge is now complete – I have a whole host of blog posts to do: some thank yous, campsite reviews, equipment reviews, write ups on Offa’s Dyke itself, as well as sorting out all the photos. I also have my pet project, Social Hiking, the app which was developed especially for this challenge – I would love to get it in a state where it can be used by others for their challenges.

It seems ages ago now since we climbed the final ascent to the end of the Offa’s Dyke path, to be met by my parents (who were the support team) and @Pete_Knight with a bottle of bubbly. That evening was spent in the company of friends celebrating the end of the walk in a dog friendly hotel in Chepstow, before returning home to Northamptonshire to spend some time with my dearly missed girlfriend.

I feel a bit empty though…there is probably a syndrome that affects people who complete charity challenges – after all the planning (over a year) and the challenge itself, it seems like such a steep decent back to reality, and after hearing so many stories about MS, and how it has affected people, I just don’t feel like I can sit down and say “job done”.

There is already a seed of an idea for the (quite distant) future…..!!