A 70-year-old grandfather is arriving in Shetland today at the end of a 900-mile trek to raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Keen yachtsman Derek Parsons, of Pinner, Middlessex, is aiming to raise £10,000 for the RNLI, having been inspired by the service’s courageous work.
He started at the RNLI headquarters in Poole, Dorset on 1st August and now, 10 weeks later, will end his journey at the lifeboat station at Aith.
Mr Parsons, who lived on his boat in the Mediterranean after retiring from his work as a builder, said he had enjoyed the walk so far. “It’s been very interesting and people have been so kind.”
He has covered 15 to 18 miles a day, mostly on roads as the National Trails (country paths) he had intended to use in England were wet, muddy and difficult to walk on after a rainy August.
On his travels he has stayed at campsites in the mobile home which has followed him as his support vehicle. He has slept in it in some unusual places, from pub and supermarket car parks to a stud farm near Stratford-on-Avon.
Mr Parsons had a setback near Birmingham, however, when he got bitten on the leg by a horsefly. This caused a reaction that landed him in hospital for two days on an antibiotic drip.
It has been worth it, however. He said: “I’ve seen some beautiful countryside – the Derbyshire Dales, Yorkshire and Northumberland.
“One special moment came when I crossed the Scottish border one morning as the sun rose – I kissed the border stone.”
Another special moment came on Monday when he reached Thurso before making his first ever trip to the Northern Isles from Scrabster – he last was at Thurso on a school trip in 1953. “I was elated when I stood on the seafront.”
This week he has spent some time with friends in Orkney and has visited the Longhope lifeboat station.
A further bonus of Mr Parsons’ trip is that he has become very fit. “I’ve walked every ounce of fat off my body.”
One highlight was being able to see a lifeboat training session at Loch Ness. This confirmed his respect for the professionalism of the service, which fortunately he has never had to call out.
“I’m as very cautious sailor but you can always get caught out. When you want to go in [to harbour] the lifeboat has to go out.”
Mr Parsons has so far raised almost £5,000. Money can be donated at www.justgiving.com/derekparsons