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Retired vicar Helen takes on 1000-mile fundraiser (clearing litter as she goes)

15 November 2017

Retired vicar, Helen Gardner, has not only set herself the fundraising challenge of walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats – a journey of around 1100 miles – she’ll also be keeping Britain tidy along the way.

Helen, 61, was an IT professional before being ordained in 2008, and before she retired in 2016, had been vicar to the three parishes of Totternhoe,  Stanbridge and  Tilsworth in Bedfordshire for four years. 

She’s no stranger to tough physical and mental challenges – in the early 1980s she was a contestant on Granada TV’s Krypton Factor, coming second in her heat.  She’s also no stranger to fundraising, taking on the Brighton Marathon for PCRF in 2011 alongside her daughter when her mother was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. Since then, she’s also completed the 190 mile Coast to Coast walk in 2012 and the 90-mile Ridgeway walk in 2016.

“Although my abilities are less than they were, I’m still up for a good adventure,” she says. “This walk is about seizing the day and living life to the full. Not everyone can, and that’s why I wanted to raise awareness and money to support research into the cancer with the most life-limiting impact. With pancreatic cancer, diagnosis is often difficult and by the time it's found it's too late to do much. We need earlier diagnosis and better treatment.”

Helen has used November’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month to complete the first 100 miles of her challenge in Cornwall (“a test run, to check my dodgy knees would hold up”) with husband Peter and Cocker Spaniel, Jet, in support. She’ll now continue to train and prepare to complete the LEJOG, walking in 2-3 week bursts from early April, returning home to Marston Moretaine in between. She expects to complete her challenge in October 2018.   

Helen and cocker spaniel, Jet

Camping out during her walking stints will mean Helen has to carry all her own equipment. In addition to the physical challenges, she will also be putting her strong environmental ethics into practice.

“Our land is precious and I’m a firm believer in the mantra of leaving no trace: take only photographs, leave only footprints,” she says. “I hate seeing our countryside spoiled by litter, so I decided I would carry a rubbish bag as well as everything else and deposit other people’s cans, bottles, crisp bags etc in waste bins as I find them.”

“I have no idea whether I can complete the LEJOG challenge. Although my knees are the same age as me, they’re rather more worn than the other parts and I need to run a very tight budget to do this at all. On the other hand, my knees won’t get any younger, and I won’t get any richer, so now is as good a time as any!”

Helen’s Justgiving page is at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/helegant-walks-lejog

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