Posted: September 29th 2021
by Niobe Shaw
On Monday night, Holkham Park played host to Chris Lewis, his partner Kate, and their dog Jet. The trio are embarking on an epic journey, which has seen Chris walking since 1st August 2017, in a fundraising expedition taking him around the entire UK coastline. Chris set off back in 2017 from Swansea, Wales. Over the past four years, he has navigated the west coast, Northern Island, the hard-rock cliffs of Scotland, the perimeters of Scottish islands, and is now making his way down the eastern coast of the UK. Joined by Jet in 2018 and his partner Kate in November 2020, this is a bid to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forced charity. Chris previously served in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, and so the charity is one very close to his heart, thanks to their help throughout his own experiences returning to civilian life.
On 27th September 2021 – 1,518 days after his walk began – Chris, Kate and Jet made it to Holkham after the “squelchy, muddy marshland” near Thornham. Invited by Jon, our Hall Manager, to camp on the grounds, they pitched their tent and settled down for a quiet night: “a welcome change from the wet sand the night before!” Following their night’s camping at Holkham Park, I caught up with them over their Courtyard Café breakfast of granola and a sausage sandwich to discuss their endeavour.
“Kate and I love the mountains,” Chris told me, so being in the flatter lands of Norfolk has certainly brought something different to what he and Kate enjoyed further north. His current highlight, though, has been the love, support, warmth and hospitality that the people of Norfolk have given. Indeed, it was heart-warming to see Holkham visitors recognising, chatting to and donating to Chris and Kate. Many have recently watched the BBC documentary ‘The Long Walk Home’, covering the journey. The team are certainly inspiring many with their commitment, perseverance and passion!
When asked about the biggest challenges, Chris told me about his unplanned 3-month stint on an uninhabited Scottish island during the first lockdown of 2020, with no fresh water or food! While the rest of us were baking banana bread, Chris was foraging and fishing for his dinner. Unsurprisingly, Chris spoke about the survival skills he has had to learn and develop during the last four years, but he also discussed how refreshing and uplifting it’s been to meet “awesome people all the time,” and is very grateful for the donations and kind words he and Kate have received.
Kate spoke positively about the experience, stating she hopes it shows people that if you take a leap of faith, with passion and positivity, then anything is possible.
At the time of writing, Chris’ fundraising page has reached over £244,000. Donate to SSAFA and send your spurring on messages here. You can also follow Chris and Kate’s journeys via their Facebook pages by clicking on their names.