Noooooo… I am not planning on doing this myself! I think I have had my fill of long distance walking for a while. Even if my legs still nag me to get active again, sadly work demands mean that I must tippy tap away at a screen authoring nerdy technical documents rather than stride my way healthily around a blustery coastline with nose dripping enthusiasm.
When I walked around this little island, that some of us mistakenly believe as being separate to the European continent, I had some great marked paths to use, but not a full set. Five years later and the new England coast path is well on its way to completion, and with Wales already ahead of the game, this only leaves Scotland lagging behind the rest of the British mainland. Yes, they have some great coast paths in Fife, Ayrshire and Moray – to name a few – but otherwise it can be tough finding a legitimate route through without using roads, or blazing a trail through head high bracken. Indeed, the North and West coasts have very sporadic routes and when I did discover them, they were invariably the most stunning and rewarding sections of my entire walk.
I like to do my bit and though I’m not promoting another coast walker or directly trying to raise money for a grand cause this little news update is to promote the development of a new Scottish coast path. This time it’s Tina Irving’s baby of the North
Highland Way that deserves some help. The walk from John O’Groats to Durness is 150 miles long and can be done in easy stages. The route is still under development in places, although The Highland Council are doing a great job of looking after the route within their remit.
From 30th April to 30th June, Friends of the North Highland Way are organising a challenge event to help raise proceeds for the development of the Way into a multi-user route for horses, cyclists and walkers. There is a prize for the first person to send in their completed Pilgrims Passport for verification. So if you fancy a challenge, why not give it a go. An entry form can be found here.
Tina Irving was the “perpetrator” of the North Highland Way, and still works in conjunction with public services in Scotland and others to make it a multi-use route. It has been renamed the Camino of St. Brian in honour of St. Brian Arrowsmith whose father fought for the Spaniards in the Low Countries, and Brian Richard Sparks, who put up with Tina for over 30 years. Tina speaks fluent Spanish and often organises Spanish events in Ireland – see www.tinasfreelance.com. She has accompanied the Royal Irish Fusiliers to lay a new stone for the Battle of Barossa which took place in Chichlana de la Frontera on 5th March 1811. She is an ex Corporal and served in 219 Wessex General Hospital from 1972 to 1979.
She has written a number of books, including “Creating the North Highland Way” and the “Battle for Brough Bay”, both available on Lulu.
It is very rare for me to post anything these days, but this is something that really needs mentioning and it’s about someone who is and always will be very close to my heart.
As a reader of this blog, my book or even the Flickr photos you will have come across Sue in more than a few of my posts and pages. Sue and Diesel (her loveably mad rescue dog) were essential to the success of my walk. She helped assess my initial fitness and devised a training program based upon her distance running experience. She also provided a huge amount of support, fund raising, advice and general chivvying, particularly throughout Scotland where she joined me for over a week in Morvern and Ardnamurchan, rallied her friends to drive my bus and put me up at her home near Aberdeen. She also joined me again for another week along the Northeast coast of England, cheered me up when I was having a bad day and visited whenever she could. Sue walked more miles with me than anyone else and by a very big margin. Her little legs easily kept apace with mine, and if it had been possible, she would have dropped everything to walk each one of those 5,045 miles with me.
Sue has always put me to shame in many ways. Not only in being as fit as a butcher’s dog on performance enhancing drugs, but also in being a far nicer person than I could ever be.
We met at Newcastle University back in the 1980s, where we both studied Geology in a small but tight knit year group. Whether it was talking nonsense together, sharing slightly nerdy interests, exchanging loads of affectionate banter or offering support and advice when life took a few worrying or troublesome turns, Sue and I have always been close and best of pals first. Over recent years it became very clear that we were much more than best friends and almost certainly had been for a very long time – we just took more than a few decades to actually tell each other. I’m just happy to say that we finally did. It also wouldn’t be right for me to publish our personal feelings for each other here, but our story is a 35 year old one incorporating woven tales of missed opportunities, misread signs, distance, bad timing, a misunderstood fear of acknowledging our mutual affection, and yes… love (huge bundles of it). To some, our entire story would probably make a half reasonable romantic comedy – if it wasn’t for the ending.
Sue suddenly became poorly early this year and to spare you the full tale, she very sadly passed away after a short illness. Her unexpected, untimely and utterly unjust departure has been felt by many, not least her lovely daughters Steph and Abi, her mum Lena, her siblings David and Lesley, and her extended family and friends in Aberdeenshire and across the UK.
We also shared a good university friend who had connections to the Spinal Injuries Association and Sue ran the 2016 London Marathon, like I had walked the coast, to help raise money for them. She wasn’t slow either and completed it in a very impressive 4 hours 11 minutes, whilst always believing she could believing she could do better! She was a huge supporter of numerous charitable causes in so many ways and was just an all round enthusiastic good egg, tackling everything in life with optimism, natural congeniality and a big cheesy smile. She completed many half-marathons and marathons whilst trying to balance being a great mum and working her socks off to develop her career in Aberdeen before recently moving close by to become a highly respected, honest, diligent and dedicated Group Chief Finance Officer at Coventry University.
It was Sue’s intention to do the Great Aberdeen Run on 26 August and she had chosen to run in support of Brain Tumour Research. Sadly her brain tumour denied her the opportunity to run. However, in a few weeks time her running partner, Caroline Inglis, Irene Bews and a large group of Sue’s friends from Aberdeen University will be doing a ‘Run for Sue’ at The Great Aberdeen Run in support of the Brain Tumour Research charity.
In reading this I am hopeful that you will either click on any of the photos or on the links in the text nearby and maybe offer your support to Caroline, Irene or any member of the Aberdeen University team. I am all too aware that there are so many cruel illnesses, diseases, injuries and conditions out there that take so many lovely people, but this one is particularly close to my heart and I hope that you can find it in yours to contribute and maybe help others who are diagnosed with such a devastating disease.
Thanks for reading this far and I can only offer you my heartfelt thanks in advance if you manage to support Caroline, Irene and the team.
For “My Suze” – an enormous warm blanketing soft hug, as always and forever a team! x