Charity fundraiser Karen Penny’s walk around the Island was called off after just one day this week, following the announcement of the new lockdown, but she promised: “Isle be back!”
Karen’s walk was part of her 12,000-mile marathon, circumnavigating the British and Irish coastlines and their islands, to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. She arrived on Friday (October 30) when she was met off the ferry by the IW Observer and David Howarth, Chairman of the IW Ramblers.
She then planned to trek around the Island stopping off at Wootton, Bembridge, Ventnor, Chale and Freshwater Bay before returning to Yarmouth and a fond farewell. However, her plans have now been put on hold, but she promised: “I’ll be back!” She said: “I did the first leg of the walk from Yarmouth to Jersey Camp, which was about 13 miles. It was very wet but very enjoyable.
“I was staying with David in the evening and we waited for the announcement and once it was made, then I decided immediately to return home to Wales for safety reasons in accordance with the new restrictions.
“I had to reorganise everything very quickly and check that I would actually be allowed back into Wales, especially as they were already in lockdown. But everything went well; I left on Sunday and arrived home later that evening.
“The same happened with the last lockdown. I had been walking for 15 months solid and was actually on Shetland when it happened, so I couldn’t have been further from home!
“But I returned to Shetland in August and finished off that leg of the walk – and I will be back on the Island again as soon as it is safe.”
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 Rosslaire in the Republic of Ireland. Her journey will take around three-and-a-half years and she aims to raise £100,000.
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!”
David said: “The IW Ramblers will be there to support her when she returns. We had organised a place for her to stay and a hot meal on most nights but we will have everything in place for her again when she comes back.”
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.’