Former Thame curate to walk 140 miles

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Thame curate John Simmons (69) is beginning a 140 mile walk in Thame along Britain's oldest road, the Icknield Way, to mark his 70th birthday in May. He will begin at St Mary's church in Thame after the 9am service on May the 5th. Since his retirement in 2020 John has had five operations which have left him diabetic and he will be walking in aid of Diabetes UK while wearing his “artificial pancreas.”

John lives in Morecambe and he is an active member of a ramblers' group with whom he walks 10 miles every Wednesday all through the year; so he is no stranger to longish hikes. But this will be a new experience for him. “I have always walked – it’s good for my physical and mental health,” says John, “but never such a long trail in one go.”

John plans to cover the 140 miles from Thame to Thetford in Norfolk in a fortnight. He will cross eight counties as he does this. Why has he chosen this particular path? Thame is the parish he was first ordained to serve as curate in 1992, and the Icknield Way parish which lies between Royston and Saffron Walden is where he was rector for eight years.

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He has set a target of £2,000 to be raised for Diabetes UK and he has a JustGiving page for donors to use. “I owe a great deal to this charity and I am a volunteer speaker for them, so it seemed right to support them in this way.”

Former Thame curate, John SimmonsFormer Thame curate, John Simmons
Former Thame curate, John Simmons

As he walks this prehistoric path John will go through the grounds of Chequers, pass Whipsnade Zoo, visit George Orwell’s cottage, go over Royston cave (a deep underground chamber), walk through Thetford Forest, and cross those rather more recent routes of the M11, A1(M) and the M1.

How will he keep going? “I have always believed that Bible verse which says ‘we walk by faith not by sight’ and that means my trust is in Jesus who has always sustained me, even through all this dreadful surgery I have had.” John is walking with his brother, Mark and his wife, Helen, will drive their support car.

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