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Community / Fundraisers rejig round-the-country walks due to virus pandemic

Both walkers were in Shetland on separate treks when coronavirus outbreak halted their campaigns

Karen Penny (left) and Chris Lewis.

TWO fundraisers who were in Shetland at the same time by chance on walks around the coastline of the UK have altered their plans while in the isles due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Karen Penny, who reached Shetland at the start of March as part of a walk of the UK and Ireland coastline for Alzheimers Research UK, returned home to Wales recently.

Former paratrooper Chris Lewis, also from Wales, has been in Shetland for a number of months as part of a similar walk around the UK coast.

He recently found refuge in the Bridge End Outdoor Centre to isolate amid the coronavirus outbreak, and has re-routed his own walk – which is raising money for armed forces charity SSAFA – to uninhabited islands to avoid people.

The two fundraisers happened to end up in Shetland by chance at the same time.

Penny said on 16 March that with a “heavy heart” she was breaking off from her walk and returning home.

“It would have taken me another two years to conclude my walk and I would have been the first woman to walk around Britain and Ireland continuously, but I cannot ignore the profound impact that the coronavirus is having, not only here in Shetland but around Britain, Ireland and the rest of the world,” she said on Facebook.

Penny arrived in Shetland after 13 months of walking, having covered over 6,400 miles and raising nearly £59,000.

“I am so very sorry that I cannot continue at this time and would so hate to feel that I have let anybody down, but I will resume my walk at the very first opportunity that I can, which will mean travelling back up to Shetland and completing the final week of my walk, which would have taken me to the most northerly point in Britain, Muckle Flugga, off the island of Unst.

“I will then walk the remainder of Britain,” she said.

Lewis said his own walk, which he has undertaken alongside his trusty canine sidekick Jet, “has paused, but the adventure has not”.

He updated followers on social media on Sunday night that he had “full WiFi and had a chance to catch up on what’s happening around the world at this time”.

“All I know about it is what I’ve been told as I have no TV or means to keep a close eye on what’s prevailing,” he said.

“Within ten minutes of reading up on how this is spreading and good people are doing to keep this at bay I made the decision to act accordingly on advise given with regard to self isolating.

“Although I pose no threat to anyone being up on the hills, what’s important as that I like most of you lead by example and stay away until this passes.”

Lewis said he will not be returning home – because he does not have one. Instead, he has been given access to a boat and is planning to sail to uninhabited islands west of Scalloway.

“We will be without a doubt the most isolated man and dog in the UK,” he said.

“I said before that the walking may have stopped, but if I can find a way to continue somehow that’s what I will do.”

He will continue to raise awareness of SSAFA, which he said helped him greatly following his return to civilian life.

Lewis has now raised over £97,000 for the charity.

He started his trek with no money, relying on the goodwill of the public for things like food, water, accommodation and equipment, and he has been on the move since August 2017 after he ended up homeless.

Lewis recently visited Fair Isle and had begun walking up from the south mainland towards Scalloway.


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