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…..!!

Final preparations for Offa’s Dyke

With just over a week to go, final preparations are well under way. My lounge now looks more like a branch of an outdoor store, with camping equipment and hiking gear strewn across the floor.

Fund raising and publicity has  gone up a gear, and I would like to thank everyone who has donated so far (big or small, every donation means a lot to us!). We have hit our original target of £1500, and so have decided to move the goal posts to aim for the more ambitious £2500.

It is probably worth noting that we our covering our own costs for this challenge, so every penny donated goes to the MS Society (well except Justgiving’s card payment fees!), and we are so grateful for our sponsors Viewranger, Powertraveller, Brasher and White and Bishop for helping us out with some of our equipment!

Publicity is going really well – we got a mention on Jim’s morning show on BBC Radio Shropshire (the mention is 1 hour 46 minutes in if you want to skip to it) – thanks Jude (@jabberingjude) for letting Jim know about us! I have been interviewed by our local paper, The Chronicle and Echo, for an article next week (the photographer comes on Monday!). Both White and Bishop and my local shop have posters up and are collecting donations on our behalf, and as usual our followers on Twitter have been brilliant at helping spread the word!

Equipment-wise: my new pair of Basher hiking boots (Supalite II GTX) should be arriving early next week (after I finally killed my old pair on Black Mountains), we have a new Vango Banshee 300 (big enough to share, so we can split the weight), Viewranger are kindly lending me a Nokia smartphone for mobile maps and to power my online route app, and my Orikaso folding plate/bowl/cup sets and MP3 player (for audiobooks and radio) arrived a few days ago. That just leaves a few bits and pieces to sort next Saturday (as well as having my haircut to avoid hat-hair/camping-hair issues!).

I am excited – very very excited. But also very nervous. There is no getting around the fact that this will be hard. Probably harder than part of me is expecting. I have been trying to not think about the fact that this is the same as taking my longest hardest walk, with a full pack, and walking it 13 days in a row. We have to do it – £1500 is a pretty big mandate – but it is going to take every ounce of strength, determination and motivation we possess.

Oh I did I mention that Alex and I have to share a tent…. with the dog…. for 13 days!

Where did the time go?

Subtitle – an Offa’s Dyke 4 MS Update

My dog looking out towards Snowdon

When I first announced our plans to walk Offa’s Dyke in aid of MS, back in March, it seemed such a long way away (over a year in fact). I had great plans – regular training walks, blogs about the best equipment to buy, interesting hours spent pouring over OS maps of the route….

Things started well – a trip to Snowdonia in June, Bodmin Moor in August, and back to Snowdonia in September… and then things went a little quiet…. to be honest I had kidded myself that I had ages, and I didn’t need to worry about the preparations.

Then it occurred to me… we are actually starting the walk in about 100 days time…. and we haven’t prepared anything…..

It was just the kick up the backside I think I needed!
Continue reading “Where did the time go?”