Sleaford woman set to launch series of hikes and climbs in honour of those affected by cancer
In Their Honour: Who Will You Hike For? is an ambitious fundraising project led by Abi Walker and involving people affected by cancer, whether because they have had the disease themselves, or have supported loved ones through treatment.
Initially Abi, 27, wanted to walk Coast to Coast. “To cross the country from one side to another seemed like a big enough challenge - at least in the beginning,” she said.
When her father’s cousin, John Walker died in 2022 from metastatic bowel cancer just a few months after the shock diagnosis, Abi decided that it would make a good fundraiser for Cancer Research UK, and set to considering the logistics.
She explained: “The problem was, the more research I did, the more I discovered other long-distance paths that looked wonderful, and other challenge-based hikes such as the National and Yorkshire Three Peaks. I'd rediscovered hiking, and its freedom and mental benefits - and this idea of fundraising with it planted itself firmly in my mind and quietly germinated, refusing to let go.
”My job with the ambulance service regularly reminds me that life is too short. We are privileged to do the things we love doing, and to spend time with the people we love.”
It has seen her idea grow exponentially into a mad timetable of local and national hikes, from Hadrian's Wall to the South Downs Way, and from Lincolnshire's flat Water Rail Way to the National Three Peaks – the three highest mountains in the UK.
Local companies have rallied to support the project, with printing, clothing, advertising and the launch.
The project officially launches on February 3-4, one year on from John's memorial service and coinciding with World Cancer Day. There are over 375,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed every single year, and one in two people born after 1960 will receive this devastating diagnosis; 50 per cent will survive more than 10 years afterwards, according to Cancer Research UK.
To launch the project, Abi will be walking for one hour out of every two, adding up to 37-and-a-half hours over the two days (throughout the night), carrying a fully packed rucksack with tent, sleeping bag and stove, just as for the rest of the year's walks.
She will start at 7am on February 3.
She said: “During their opening hours, I will spend my non-walking time at the Cancer Research UK charity shop in Sleaford. When they close, I will walk from Watergate Yard. I am so grateful to the staff and volunteers at both for allowing this. When Watergate Yard also closes, I will simply walk from home, where I will be able to shower and rest a little."
The hours she is walking are identified in her webpage.
The project won't stop in 2024, either; plans are already afoot for 2025.
Abi added: “Too many of my friends and family have been affected by cancer, and I know I am not in the minority. I hope this project will bring people together. I intend to walk with a notebook, and chronicle the whole journey. I would love you to join me!”
To find out more go to https://hikingintheirhonou.wixsite.com/whowillyouhikefor
So far Abi is being joined on some of her challenges by Nathan Eades, Heather Beaumont and Neil Atkinson, who have all had family, friends or have personally been touched by cancer.
One of the main aims is to honour those living with cancer, or who we have been lost to cancer, or who are in remission; to celebrate their lives.
Abi said: “I will plan hikes around my shifts, and publish the dates on the calendar and on the project's social media accounts. Anyone is welcome to attend, whether that is the whole walk, or one day of a multi-day hike, or to meet at the accommodation and share a meal.
“The only stipulation is that if you choose to attend, you either donate to my fundraising page, or you create one as part of this team and raise some sponsorship of your own. If you choose simply to donate, there is no recommended amount; it is your choice. You will be supporting screening and early diagnosis. However, if you choose to join the team and create your own fundraising page, you can choose a different area of Cancer Research UK's work to fundraise for. There is no minimum fundraising pledge or aim.
”If you choose to walk with us, it would be amazing to see everyone wearing something with the project branding on, both to raise more funds and to start conversations with people as we pass them.”
Details are on her website.
You will be responsible for organising and funding your travel, accommodation, food and equipment.
You should be fit and ready for any challenge you choose to attend, and be wearing and carrying the correct kit and nutrition for the hike.