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An amazing experience and worth the pain

Posted by: Guest author 8 July 2019

Steve blogs about his charity challenge - walking 625 miles of the the Ulster Way, which raised over an incredible £10,000.

"This years charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK, was chosen after my wife was approached by her  friend who tragically lost her mother and brother to this dreadful form of cancer."

My walking challenge began in March 2017, following the loss of my cousin David to cancer. I decided to walk from Lands End to John o' Groats to raise money for the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast who gave David comfort and support in his final weeks. Since then, and over 2,350 miles later, we have managed to raise nearly £42,000 for three cancer charities.

The walks have always been self funded, meaning a much larger proportion has gone direct to the appropriate charities, assisting them to continue with their amazing work. I believe these walks, with the help of social media are not only important for raising funds, but also to raise much needed awareness of the symptoms and early diagnosis.

After the last two years, I was looking for a challenge that would not only be testing for myself, but one that with the help of social media would maintain interest with everyone that was following it. The Ulster Way fitted the bill.

SteveSteve on day three walking from Ballyclare to Glenarm

This 650 mile trek from the outskirts of Belfast - the longest long distance walk in the UK takes in the most beautiful scenery Northern Ireland has to offer. My walk started at Dunmurry Station on 14th May, and I soon realised that my route, sticking as closely as possible to the original path which was the brainchild of Wilfred Capper in 1946, was not going to be without serious problems.

The original route took in 14 hostels and included a lot of road walking - which over the years with increased traffic and the hostels no longer in existence meant that unless you were willing to deal with the roads and dodging irate farmers the route would be impossible.

Although the route was redesigned in 2009 to encourage walkers to take in the best parts of the Ulster Way and use public transport to link these sections, to my mind this takes away the appeal of this walk and it’s original 650 mile challenge.

I had serious issues in the first few weeks not only with the route but blisters caused by wading through streams and bogs, which unfortunately became infected. After help from some amazing people at Omagh hospital I was fortunately able to continue the journey.

Some of the stunning places I visited was the obvious Carrick a Redde rope bridge, the cliff top views at the giants Causeway, Cairncastle, Ballygally, Glenarm, Glenariff, Castlerock, Limavady, Maghera, Castlederg, Derrygonnelly, Belcoo, Lough Erne and Trasma Island, Caledon, Armagh, Maghery, Rostrevor, obviously the Mourne Mountains, Newcastle, Ardglass, Killyleagh, Newtownards, Crawfordsburn and the pretty Old Inn. Helens Bay and Stormont. 

SteveSteve on route between Ardglass and Raholp

That’s just flicking through my pictures and it makes me realise, despite some horrendous rainfall, that once again, how lucky I am to have the health to be able to take on these walks and see some amazing places. I think we all take our health for granted at times and it takes something like this to bring it home, how fortunate we are.

Another thing that made the walk so memorable, was the incredible hospitality and generosity of the Irish, who without, the walk would have been far more difficult. So many times my washing was sorted, I was dropped off and collected for dinner, and handed money for the charity, £700 in fact, which from experience on these walks is substantial.

Also the great support from Pancreatic Cancer UK, namely Andrea Kearns who walked with me on one of the legs, and Megan who was constantly there with support.

Steve and Andrea on the Ulster Way walking challenge                            Steve and Andrea on the trek around the Ulster Way

Not forgetting those back home who not only backed me with donations, but with moral support. After three years of fundraising, I’ve realised that I have some amazing friends who dig deep every year, 

So, 37 days later, I arrived back at Dunmurry, my final thoughts on the Ulster Way! An amazing experience and worth the pain, not for the faint hearted, but in view of the life memories, friends made, and money raised, another unforgettable experience.

Steve and Andrea at Pancreatic Cancer UK's office holding the cheque containing Steve's fundraising amount of £10,000

    Steve and Andrea at Pancreatic Cancer UK's office holding the
   cheque showing Steve's fundraising amount of over £10,000.


If you're looking to take on a challenge like Steve, get in touch with Megan and Laura on fundraise@pancreaticcancer.org.uk or 020 3535 7090.