Truck driver Richard Brett is no stranger to clocking up mammoth distances. However, rather than chugging along motorways, the 63-year-old pulled on his walking boots for an epic coast-to-coast charity challenge.
Richard trekked 192 miles from St Bees, in Cumbria, to Robin Hood’s Bay, in North Yorkshire, and raised nearly £2,000 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
Along the way he encountered blisters, steep hills, paths strewn with “ankle trap” rocks and ridges with dangerously steep drops either side.
He also saw puffins, red squirrels and waterfalls, while enjoying “unfeasibly gorgeous” scenery. Carrying a 15k backpack, Richard, from Ipswich, camped and stayed in hostels and afterwards spoke of a “tremendous feeling of satisfaction”.
“Many people weren’t sure I could do it and, privately, I may have been one of them,” he joked.
“I’ve always enjoyed walking and taking in beautiful landscape and observing nature is a big part of that enjoyment. It was during a holiday in Yorkshire, several years ago, that I saw some people walk up to The Bay Inn in Robin Hood’s Bay.
“They slapped the wall and announced they’d done ‘it’, with ‘it’ being the coast-to-coast walk. My partner and I often talked about what we’d like to do when we retire and the walk became one of those things.
“However, I realised if I waited until then, I might not be capable of doing it. It was with that in mind that I approached one of my managers at James Kemball Transport, in Felixstowe, and asked whether I could take May off.
“I genuinely expected them to say ‘no’ but they didn’t, so it became a real thing! It went from being something I’d like to do in the future to something I had to plan and train for.
“While doing it for personal satisfaction, I felt I may as well raise money at the same time and chose to support EACH. It’s a complete tragedy that such a charity needs to exist, but, unfortunately, its hospices are much-needed.
“The work it does for both the children and their families is absolutely invaluable.”
Richard’s 14-day walk started in St Bees on 5th May and, after “puffing and wheezing” along his first clifftop path and camping overnight in a pub garden, he found himself in the Lake District.
“On the second day I met up with an Australian guy, Neil, who I’ll be forever grateful to,” said Richard.
“We walked together for the next week and helped each other with words of encouragement and navigation. I’m not sure either of us would have completed it without the other.
“The Lake District is undeniably beautiful but while walking you can’t take your eyes from where you put your feet, as the path is strewn with rocks which are absolute ankle traps.
“Along the way I met other people who I subsequently ran into as they passed me, or I passed them.
“There was a real spirit of support and everyone was very encouraging, all experiencing highs and lows and usually able to help with plasters, paracetamol or ibuprofen.”
Richard headed towards Yorkshire via Kirkby Stephen, before arriving at his halfway point, Keld, on the edge of the Dales. After that it was onto Reeth, Richmond, Brompton on Swale, near Catterick Bridge, and Danby Wiske.
“I then carried on to Ingleby Cross, taking my life in my hands crossing the A19,” added Richard.
“The following day was a tough one, which had bothered me for a while. There was only one obvious place to stop and, as the first part of the day involved five biggish hills, I was concerned.
“I carried on walking and the place where I stayed is one of the remotest pubs in the country, The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. It was like an oasis in the desert.
“If I’d been looking forward to an easy walk back into civilisation, it didn’t quite occur that way. The route trudged on through moorland before a formidable hill on the road out of Grosmont, which starts off about 25% and then becomes 33%.
“It gradually became more manageable but felt like the longest hill I’ve ever walked up and went on for at least two miles.”
Richard spotted Whitby Abbey from the moors – and admits the sight of coastline gave him a real lift – before joining The Cleveland Way.
“While stopping to administer to my blisters, I met up with a bloke who I’d last seen at Keld,” he said.
“We congratulated each other and walked into Robin Hood’s Bay together. After throwing our pebbles, collected at St Bees, into the sea, we went and bought each other a pint – or pints – at The Bay Inn!”
Richard’s fundraising page is still open and you can sponsor him by heading here. Ali Butler, EACH Community Fundraiser for Suffolk and East Essex, said: “Richard has accomplished something very special.
“Taking on such an enormous physical challenge is no mean feat and I can only imagine how gruelling it must have been, both physically and mentally.
“To go the distance and raise such a significant amount of money is therefore a huge achievement and he should feel very proud.
“These funds will help us continue our vital work supporting families and caring for children with life-threatening conditions and everyone here is sincerely grateful.”