9 January 2024

Fundraising for the National Brain Appeal

A walk on the wilder side....

Richard's fundraiser for The National Brain Appealjustgiving.com

I had been thinking about this for months, but first I had plantar fasciitis, then I got Covid, and then.... Inertia set in. However, As the New Year dawned, I just felt I had to do something, and, despite the flooding and the rain and the dark, I saw a brief window between storms and decided to go for it.... A sponsored walk from my home in Snettisham to Wells-next-the-Sea, a distance of some 32 miles, in two days, attempting to raise money for The National Brain Appeal, (formerly known as The National Hospital Development Foundation) which is the charity dedicated to raising vital funds for The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, which supported my wife, Amanda, in the early years after her diagnosis..

As they say on their website: Our vision is to improve the outcome and quality of life for the one in six affected by a neurological condition. We do this by funding pioneering research, providing access to the best technology for expert diagnosis and treatment, and training tomorrow’s clinicians.

So.  I set out just after eight in the morning of Sunday January 7th. I would have taken the scenic route across the Marsh, but this is how it is at present:

Instead I had to start out taking the more prosaic Beach Road, and then cut along the sea defence, but happily I was not alone.  Give me sunshine and I find this fellow keeps me company:

My first stop is Amanda's care home, in Heacham, where I try to explain what I am doing. Sadly it is no longer easy to communicate, as, twelve years or so into her decline (though still not yet seventy) Amanda is no longer able to speak (or walk, or feed herself, etc).....

Later, as I walk beside the cliffs at St Edmund's Point, Old Hunstanton, I pass the wrecked hull of the Steam Trawler Sheraton, and it seems a sad symbol of the wreck of Amanda's life, (though there the similarity ends).

Much of this walk, indeed most of it, I have done in happier times with Amanda.  The beach at Holme, for example, was a favourite place for us.  Huge skies, vast sands and the ebb and flow of the sea. A beautiful place for fresh air, healthy exercise (though what good did that do?) and peace.

As the day began to fade, and the temperature dropped, I clocked up sixteen miles and checked into the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham, where I was given a warm welcome, with a generous discount.  This too was a favourite of ours, for a drink or something to eat, though we had never stayed there.  This time I made the most of it, in a very comfortable room, with a lovely bath, though I was sad that Amanda could not be with me.

In the morning of Monday, January 8th, I again set off not long after eight, heading East, into a cold wind, shrouded by a grey sky.  Passing Titchwell, where I had lived when a residential volunteer with the RSPB, I then head for the boardwalk alongside the reed beds at Brancaster.  Here I nearly get diverted, as the 1.7 km old, narrow and rotten timber walkway is being replaced with Glass Reinforced Plastic, 1500mm wide with passing places.  It is estimated that this should last in good condition for more than 80 years - so, I will be back!

Anyway, despite several wonky warnings, I follow the muddy paw prints of dog walkers and make it to Brancaster Staithe Quay without mishap, where my ship awaits (I wish....!)

From here is is a muddy and bitterly cold walk across the marshes, with white stuff blasting in from the North Sea, past Burnham Deepdale and Burnham Norton, to Burnham Overy Staithe where My Hero awaits with welcome Alms.....

But I mustn't linger, despite banter concerning a long hot bath with Barry White (don't ask) and a pint of Wherry and some crisps beside the log burner.  I have to cross the desert of Holkham Sands yet..... Which is where, with the gale stirring up a blinding mist of cold sand, I think I can just make out Gwyneth Paltrow in a shite (sorry - that's a typo,  I meant, 'white') dress in the distance.....  Can you see?  There, on the horizon, a dream-like whisp.....

Alas (and Alack!)  'Tis but a Don Quixote moment, and the shimmering female figure I imagined turns out to be a notice requesting Naturists to keep their private parts within  certain limits (with a plastic skirt.....)

Back to the shifting sands of time, the draining hourglass of our days.....

But then, Oh Happy Sight!  Callooh Callay!  Four young ladies making the most of the clemency of the winter,  chez Old Pash, where they struggle to break the wind (I'm sorry?)

And I'm on the jolly beach, where Amanda and I brought our little girls one gorgeous summer all those days, months, years ago.....

Which means I near my destination, the quaint little harbour of Wells-next-the-Sea.....

Where, a mere thirty-two foot miles from my home, I can slip into yet another hot bath (*sans Barry White, you do understand?) at the welcoming Globe Inn....

And shed my weary boots at last.....

It has been quite a walk.  I wasn't sure how it would go (I haven't walked more than ten miles in a day for years) and I don't class myself as 'fit' (in any way), but I am relieved to say that I made it, in one piece, without blisters or too much pain.  In fact, despite the slightly morbid raison behind the d'ĂȘtre I have enjoyed it.  See?  Me cheerful!

And then, through the marvels of the InterWeb and the socialism of the media, I launch my appeal for sponsorship via a Just Giving page I created.  I set a tentative target of £300 to be going on with, but by the time I hit my second pint in the bar, the contributions have topped £500!  

Then, by midnight (I don't sleep well, even though I have been overinflated with fresh air) I find we are over £1,000!  Fantastic!  And thanks to all, friends, acquaintances and strangers, who have chipped in their mites and mighties.....  Cheers to you all!

Then, in the morning, I take the bus home, in freezing sunshine.  The sun rises on another day as I ride the 36 in great comfort.

By the time I get to Heacham, and drop in to see how Amanda is today, we are almost at £1,500, and still the emails keep coming.  I just wish I could help her understand.....

But thank you all.  The one thing I do know is that, if she could speak, Amanda would say thank you for your love and support, and she would be hopeful that in the not too distant future others like her, who lived a smiley, lovely life and caused so much good around her, won't face the devastation of this illness.....  Let us trust that this will come about.

And if you would like to contribute to this charity please follow this link:

Richard's fundraiser for The National Brain Appealjustgiving.com

Thank you,


PS At 3.15 pm on January 9th 2024 contributions (including Gift Aid) have already passed £2,000!

PPS On 25th March 2024, I received a letter from The National Brain Appeal stating that combining what I raised by the walk with donations in Amanda's name (following her death on February 1st) the total raised is not £5,294.60 including Gift Aid.