A couple with a passion for walking are preparing for their biggest challenge yet – a 200-mile trek along the Welsh-English border. Ian and Claudia Wright plan to follow the Offa’s Dyke Path and raise funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
They have picked the charity because of the care and support it offered to close friends whose son, Douglas, died in February 2018. The four-year-old had more than a year of treatment after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.
Parents Henry and Jane have since become passionate supporters of EACH. They still receive support and the couple were invited to meet The Prince and Princess of Wales – then The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – during The Royal Highnesses’ visit to Milton last June.
Now Ian and Claudia, who share the same surname but are no relation, want to take on their own fundraising challenge and they will be dedicated their walk to Douglas, who would have celebrated his tenth birthday in May.
“We’re excited and looking forward to testing ourselves,” said Ian, 59.
“We really got into walking during lockdown and have done a lot since, including The Essex Way, The Saffron Trail and other long ones in Suffolk. We know we can do 20 miles in one go but following a schedule and doing so much on consecutive days is going to be a challenge. We’ll be averaging 15 miles a day but there are two when we’ll do 17 and another two when he have to do 19.
“It’s going to be tough but we’re doing it for two very special reasons, in memory of Douglas and to raise funds for EACH. Henry are Jane are close friends and the four of us have known each other since we were teenagers. We speak regularly, even though they live in Little Downham, near Ely, and we’re based in Chelmsford, Essex.
“We’ve had holidays together and our families had lots of beach days together, on the Norfolk coast. They were great times.”
Ian and Claudia will be heading from South to North, following The Offa’s Dyke Path from Sedbury Cliffs, in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, to Prestatyn, in Denbighshire. It is 177 miles long but by the time they have walked to and from their overnight accommodation, they are likely to hit 200 miles.
They plan to complete their challenge within a fortnight, getting underway on 16th July. Claudia, 57, said: “Losing Douglas was devastating for Henry and Jane.
“He was a lovely lad – strong-willed but always happy – and I’ll always remember our family beach days with fondness. Douglas used to love it when our son dug big holes for him in the sand. He’d happily sit in it for the rest of the day.
“When he died it was a desperately sad, upsetting time and for us, as friends, it was hard to see people we care about go through something like that. It was such a cruel, bleak time but Henry and Jane always speak so favourably about EACH.
“It offered them vital, practical help. There were people on hand to support them and the hospice was a place for them to go.”
In addition to fundraising, Ian says it is important to keep memories alive.
“Douglas will never be forgotten and we always make sure we talk about him,” he said.
“When an older person dies, you celebrate their life and reflect on the past. However, when a child dies you can’t help but dwell on all the things they missed out on. They didn’t have a chance to create a future, so it’s vitally important to keep talking about them.”
Henry and Jane have a 13-year-old daughter, Clara, while Ian and Claudia have two children of their own – Jack, 23, and Kaitlyn, 12. To sponsor the couple, click here.