By Mal Butler
Charity fundraiser Karen Penny will be walking around the Island this week as part of her 12,000-mile marathon circumnavigating the British and Irish coastline and its islands. Karen was met off the ferry when she arrived in Yarmouth yesterday (October 30) by the IW Observer and David Howarth, Chairman of the IW Ramblers (pictured with Karen above).
And for the next seven days she plans to trek around the Island stopping off at Wotton, Bembridge, Ventnor, Chale and Freshwater Bay before returning to Yarmouth and bidding us a fond farewell next Friday.
Karen, from Swansea, started her incredible adventure on January 14, 2019, walking from Southgate in the Gower to Fishguard and then took the ferry over to Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland. Her journey will take around three-and-a-half years and she aims to raise £100,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK. When she completes her incredible challenge she will be the first woman to have walked the entire coast of the UK and Ireland.
Apart from lockdown, when she was reunited with her family, she has only had two days off. Karen said: “We lost my husband’s parents to Alzheimer’s, it’s a horrible disease.
“My father-in-law, Kingsley, suffered for eight years. We saw him deteriorate from someone who was the life and soul of the party who could speak several languages fluently, to a shell of a man who sat in a room all day staring at the wall. It was devastating for us and I want to do something as a legacy to help people in the future.
“This money will go towards research, so that, hopefully, we will be able to enable the next generation to combat this terrible disease.”
Karen is accompanied everywhere by ‘Neville’ her rucksack which was named after Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter. She said: “Like the character, it’s strong and dependable. It has everything I need for the walk and includes a tent. It weighs about 40lbs and has been with me from the beginning.
“So far, I have completed around 8,000 miles, walking between seven and eight miles a day, and have worn out eight pairs of boots.”
She is planning to write two books once her journey is finished with one dedicated to her trip around Ireland. Karen added: “I have so many stories to tell. The Irish, and people everywhere, have been so generous and looked after me. People have just pulled up in a car and offered me a stay at their home for an evening – including Lord Vestey who served as Master of the Horse to The Queen!
“I’ve stayed in barns, a garage, bird hides, even a polytunnel which didn’t close properly and all I saw all night was a cat walking around with mice in its mouth. Before I came to the Island I stayed at the Hurst Castle lighthouse keeper’s which had no water and that was an experience. In Scotland where it got dark early, I would just pitch my tent and curl up inside around 4pm and that would be it for the night. Fortunately, I’m comfortable in my own company!”
Karen will be accompanied on various legs around the Island by David and other members of the IW Ramblers will also put up Karen throughout the week. David said: “We want to support her and keep her company, which is the most important thing.
“We’ve organised a place for her to stay and a hot meal on most nights and her visit will help to promote the coastal path on the Island and the new one which we will have next year.”
Karen has raised more than £70,000 so far, and has a Justgiving and Facebook page entitled: The Penny Rolls on Walking the Coast of Britain and Ireland.