Walking with the wounded (WWTW) are a charity that raises funds to retrain and re-skill wounded veterans and support them in finding new careers outside the military. Over Christmas, they run a campaign called ‘Walking Home for Christmas’. People are encouraged to walk home from their place of work, in groups or as individuals, to raise money for the charity.
I heard about the campaign through a post on social media. At the time, I was based in Warminster, Wiltshire with my job in the Army. After a quick google search of the distance from Warminster to my home town of Beverley, I thought it would be an interesting challenge.
220 miles. Challenge set!
Once I had created the just giving page and published my plans to the world through the medium of social media, there was no backing out. Not without looking like an absolute wally.
I wanted to make the adventure challenging. To feel nervous before setting off, not knowing that success was certain. My challenge was to complete 220 miles in 10 days carrying 30kg of warm kit, a cold weather sleeping bag and military rations and water. To increase the challenge and reduce costs, I was to wild camp each night. In an attempt to reduce the weight I was carrying, I decided not to take a tent, just a heavy military bivvy bag.
Before I had set off on the road, I had managed to raise £660 for WWTW. My initial target was £750, so to almost be there was fantastic.
The first few days
The first few days were probably the hardest. My back was pretty sore from carrying the weight and my feet had a couple of blisters between my toes. Nothing too serious though and this was to be expected.
In an attempt to stay off the roads as much as possible, I set my compass to a hard bearing of 0700 mils to East Yorkshire. Taking the scenic route proved to be unsuccessful. After spending two hours trying to get through thick thorn bushes and rivers I decided to stick to the quicker, but boring and more dangerous roads that span the length of England.
I quickly got into the swing of things and walking became my routine. Walk, eat, sleep, repeat.
Motorways and darkness
My target was to complete at least 22 miles per day. Some days were more successful than others but I managed to achieve this target every day, regardless of how I felt. I didn’t finish most days until 9 pm. This meant I spent most of the time walking in darkness due to the short winter days. There is nothing worse than been tired, wet and hungry, walking down an A road into speeding traffic in the dark.
I listened to a shed load of System of the Down whilst walking in the dark. It gave me the courage (or stupidity) to walk headfirst into traffic and keep up the pace to get the miles done.
Motorways are horrible places. You can hear a busy motorway a good 5 miles before you arrive at it. Throughout the adventure, I used motorways as milestones to tick off along the route. I crossed 4 in total, the M4, M40, M6 and the M1. All are equally littered and disgustingly loud places. If you are ever to take a walk through England, avoid motorways when possible.
After walking along roads for 10 days you spot a lot of things that you wouldn’t notice when you are travelling at 60 mph in a car. Litter and roadkill are the most prominent and obvious things. I would, on average, see 3 dead animals a day. From badgers, foxes, cats, crows and even rats. Pretty grim.
Promoting your chosen cause for charity is more difficult than I appreciated. Especially when you have a full-time job and (only) have 343 Facebook friends and 127 followers on twitter to promote your fundraising page.
Initially, I felt bad asking people to donate to a charity, especially at Christmas time. But after seeing the generosity from friends and strangers, I felt that creating an opportunity for people to donate to WWTW was a good thing.
Facebook turned out to be the most successful tool at promoting the charity and my progress. It would only take a couple of minutes a day to take a picture and send a quick update. My family appreciated knowing where I was, even if some of my friends were fed up of seeing me pop up in their new feed.
Daily fundraising totals
Here is a breakdown of the donation progress, day by day:
Day One – £660
Day Two – £850
Day Three – £940
Day Four – £1000
Day Five – £1060
Day Six – £1239
Day Seven – £1524
Day Eight – £1696
Day Nine -£1911
Day Ten -£2026
Final amount £2363.72
Looking back at the progress by day makes me really happy that I didn’t decide to jack it in when it started getting tough at about the halfway point. The steady inflow of money was a huge source of morale whenever I stopped to check the fundraising page. To have raised this amount at Christmas time, for a walk through England was pretty amazing.
Best bits from the journal
Throughout the adventure, I kept a journal. I logged how I was feeling (usually tired and sorry for myself) and the amount I had raised for WWTW. I also logged my mileage and the time. This helped to create a reference for each day. For example, I knew that I had to do 6 miles before 1200 in order to do 22 miles a day.
Here are my favourite entries from the journal:
Arrived at Chippenham – Sat in a tunnel – Could happily sleep here.
Pros: Dry, some light.
Cons: Busy, should do more miles.
Just had some teenage girls, gobbing in the tunnel – not sleeping here.
Good points – At £850! An old man at the Waitrose near Malmesbury gave me £5 towards the charity.
Bad points – It’s almost dark. I need to do at least 10 more miles. Cycling is much easier than walking. The pressure is a killer!
Walking on A roads at night is shit!
If I die it will be because of this.
Walking on A roads, in general, is shit!
I haven’t seen much of the Cotswolds due to the fog. Just had a lovely sit down on a real toilet in a cafe.
I will do this, it’s not too hard. It’s just walking with a small child on my back. I have very tired legs.
Slept next to a river last night. I dipped my legs in for an ice bath. Too cold!
Paid £3 for a coke. Robbing gits.
Last night I slept by the canal – away from traffic but not civilisation. Somebody was shining a torch near me from the canal. I didn’t care, I just needed sleep.
I want to get off the A roads of death.
The girl behind the bar is a hot red head.
I’ve found an old, derelict barn shed with some dry hay. There is some shelter above me. I’ve slept in much worse places.
Some people turned up at the barn at 1030pm. Was a bit scary. Stayed quiet and fell asleep. Just banged my head on a metal pole after going for a poo. Bloody hurts!
The save Grantham Hospital group gave me soup and cake. Made my day.
A kind man in Lincolnshire just stopped and gave me a pack of Worthers originals and Trebor xxx mints. He also donated £25 online. How kind.
Lessons from the road
- Fundraising is hard.
- Doing an adventure for a charity gives you an extra bit of motivation.
- Social media is an effective ‘tool’ for fundraising.
- Picking a smaller charity that means something to you is important. WWTW would phone me daily for updates and arrange press. This was very helpful and increased my motivation.
- People are generous.
- 99% of people are kind.
- Walking is immersive due to the slowness.
- Walking is much harder than cycling.
- Walking on roads, especially busy ones, is horrible.
- Walking alone can be boring but also at the same time liberating.
- Pack light. I didn’t and ended up ditching some warm kit. Lighter is better.
- You can survive with very little money. Water is nearly always available for free in the UK. As is electricity.
- Not having enough portable charging was a pain. Use solar panels or another source of power in the future.
- You don’t have to travel to far away lands for a real adventure.
- Filming a walking adventure is difficult, especially when you are alone. I’m not sure if I will ever end up editing my footage.
- Doing radio interviews had mixed success. I probably did a little too many. Some radio presenters are great at plugging the charity. Some are pants.
- Printed local newspapers were successful at getting more donations.
The just giving page is still open and you can still donate. Your money would be going to a very good cause. You can find the page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Adam-Hugill1