Friday, 17 September 2021

Student walks from one end of Britain to the other

A FORMER Henley schoolgirl has walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity.

A FORMER Henley schoolgirl has walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity.

Kate Swann, who attended Rupert House School in Bell Street and Queen Anne’s School in Caversham, hiked 1,200 miles in 48 days. She raised almost £4,500 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which grants wishes for seriously ill youngsters.

Miss Swann, 21, came up with the idea last summer after finishing her second year at the University of St Mary’s in Twickenham. She was joined by her friend Blue Randall, from Surrey, who studies alongside her on the university’s sports rehabilitation course.

The pair walked an average of almost 26 miles a day and, where possible, followed public footpaths instead of roads.

They camped most nights as each carried a tent, sleeping gear, food and cooking equipment in a rucksack weighing 20kg. They got up at 7am every day and walked for up to 12 hours, stopping only for quick breaks and a half-hour lunch. Every three or four nights, the pair stayed in a hotel or bed and breakfast to let their kit dry.

Miss Swann, who spent six months planning the route, said: “We were quite happy about what we were taking on because we hadn’t realised just how big a challenge it was going to be. Surprisingly, we managed to stick to the plan, although some days took longer than expected because certain footpaths were closed.

“The first week was definitely the hardest as our feet and muscles were still getting used to the strain and we were tired the whole time.

“The first 300 metres at John O’Groats were a real ‘what have we got ourselves into?’ moment. We’d tried the rucksacks on before but we were out of breath immediately despite being on flat ground. Luckily, we were fine by the end of the day.” Miss Swann, from Upper Basildon, was selected from 2,000 applicants to join the Team GB bobsleigh talent programme in 2011. She has since left the programme to focus on her studies but still sprints for her university’s athletics team.

Her parents, Chris and Melinda, regularly attend the Christ Church Centre in Henley, where Mrs Swann works as a volunteer

Miss Swann said: “I chose to do this because I wanted to do something for charity that not many people do. A lot of people have cycled the route but I don’t personally know anyone who has walked it.

“We had amazing support from the people we met along the way. Some of them sponsored us after we’d talked to them for just a few minutes.I’m already thinking about the next big challenge. I’ve considered doing something in America but I don’t think my parents are too keen on that.”

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