Former paratrooper from Aylesbury walks around the UK to support armed forces

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Russell is taking on the famous coastline walk to help himself and others out

A former paratrooper from Aylesbury is completing a well-known coastline walk to raise funds for armed forces support services.

Russell Chittenden is walking anticlockwise around the UK, starting from Land’s End in Cornwall. He has already got as far as Hampshire and just completed a circuit of the Isle of Wight.

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Since leaving the army, Russ has spent the last ten years working in construction and has struggled to find a place in the world.

One kind shop owner packed Russ off with free Biltong for his journeyOne kind shop owner packed Russ off with free Biltong for his journey
One kind shop owner packed Russ off with free Biltong for his journey

He said: “Nothing was going right. I was really missing my work mates from the army. You build up such a bond and then when you leave there’s nothing like that. I’d got into the habit of drinking quite a lot with my mates when we were serving, and when I left, I didn’t have that group of people around me, so I carried on alone, which was a big mistake.”

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His drinking spiralled out of control and Russ lost his driving license, which affected his relationship with others. One day he was discussing his issues with his brother, he joked that he just needed to “take a long walk and figure stuff out”.

It was the next day when he spotted Chris Lewis on Instagram, another ex-paratrooper walking the coastline of the UK.

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Russ Christchurch is walking across the UK's coastsRuss Christchurch is walking across the UK's coasts
Russ Christchurch is walking across the UK's coasts

Russ added: “That was it. I knew what I needed to do. I would pick up the fundraising for SSAFA from when Chris stopped. I decided to walk the other way around Britain so that Chris’s up-hills will be my downhills. We’ll have looked at the same coast, but from different perspectives. A bit like life, really.”

He was keen to on raising money for SSAFA as he had reached out to the military charity in his darkest hour. He has set himself a fundraising target of £50,000, and is already on track to get there.

Russ said: “I have had some great support so far. I never knew our country could be so kind! Businesses have helped me out with ferry tickets, shops have given me free food, one lovely lady even brought me a hot chicken dinner when it was raining. People don’t realise what they are doing when they buy you a hot drink – they just think it’s a little thing, but it’s not. It’s huge. Such a moral boost. I’m so grateful.

"As a former Soldier of the British Army I feel a great need to achieve this and help those less fortunate than others. I hope we continue to smash the fundraising and raise awareness that just because war ends, for some it's never really over.”

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Data from the armed forces charity shows that last year it assisted more than 59,000 people. Among those receiving help were veterans, serving personnel and their families. The charity has existed for over 100 years. It claims to be the oldest military charity in the country and helps people with addiction, relationship breakdowns, debt, homelessness, post-traumatic stress, depression and disability, among other issues.