Swanbourne's Tom Fremantle to walk from St Austell to St Paul's Cathedral for Alzheimer's charity
Tom Fremantle, aged 53, from Swanbourne was midway through a four-year ‘world walk’ when the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing him to postpone his epic 16,500-mile journey after ‘just’ 6,200 miles.
But lockdown has left him with itchy feet – and so he has hatched plans to walk 250 miles in aid of Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity.
Travel writer and teacher Tom, who grew up in Aylesbury will be walking in memory if his mum Ann, who died with Alzheimer’s in 2013, aged 81.
He plans to cover around 20 miles a day, setting off on Monday, July 20, and arriving at the capital’s iconic domed cathedral on August 3.
He said: “Mum was a lovely soul and an amazing walker herself, usually with her beloved dogs at her heels. She was a great gardener and cook too.
“It was dreadful to see her succumb to dementia but we were fortunate in that it didn’t change her character in the way it can with some people.
“She still recognised all her family right up to the end, but she did become very frail.”
Tom’s back-up team for the walk – friend Paul ‘Skonie’ Skone and son Alex – are helping him drum up interest with social media support.
Tom explained: “People can make donations to the Alzheimer’s Society on my ‘Miles Memories Mum’ Just Giving. I’m offering to tie a ribbon around my walking stave in memory for anyone with a loved one who lived with dementia as well as play a song in their honour on a dedicated Spotify list. Just get in touch if you’d like a ribbon or a song in memory of anyone. I’d also love it if people walked with me for part of the journey.
“My sister Fanny will be joining me for about 50 miles and, with any luck, we’ll arrive at St Paul’s with our walking sticks covered in ribbons. Then we’ll hand over the sticks to the lovely Alzheimer’s team.”
Tom’s postponed World Walk is in aid of three charities – Alzheimer’s Society, The Puzzle Centre and Medical Detection Dogs but this latest walk is solely for the AS.
He is determined to pick up where he left off once it is safe to do so. However, despite taking on such formidable challenges, he insists he’s no athlete.
“I’m a chubby 50-something with munchkin legs and a hernia,” he joked.
“My only strengths are an optimistic nature, a mulish ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ obstinacy and feet as gnarly as the Gruffalo.”
For his St Austell to St Paul’s walk Tom will be staying safe and socially-distanced by sleeping in a tent at campsites and friends’ gardens en route.
There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, including around 7,000 in Buckinghamshire. The condition is the UK’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes.
Chloe Beevers, Events Fundraising Officer for Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We’re thrilled that Tom has decided to fundraise for us after being forced to postpone his World Walk.
“Right now, people living with dementia need our support more than ever because of how hard the coronavirus pandemic has hit them. Our research shows a quarter of those who have died from Covid-19 had dementia.
“Since the lockdown began our trained staff have made more than 100,000 welfare calls to people with dementia and their carers to offer support, information and to reassure them that they are not alone. Every penny raised by our dedicated fundraisers is helping us to continue this vital work.”
You can support Tom by visiting his JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/miles-memories-mumHe’ll also give updates about the walk on his FB and Instagram page: Tom Fremantle