An Oundle woman is swapping her office for England’s hills, valleys and coasts to complete 48 hikes in 48 counties – all in just six months.
Amanda Garratt, 52, is taking on the epic challenge and hopes to raise more than £3,000 for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in memory of her best friend, Kath Leakey, who the charity helped care for in 2019.
A programme director at Peterborough-based finance and insurance firm BGL, Amanda is taking a sabbatical to complete the challenge which kicks off on April 29 with a ten-day trip to cover North, South and West Yorkshire, East Riding and County Durham.
Amanda says a number of things led her towards the once in a lifetime fundraising adventure.
She said: “After losing Kath, living through a pandemic and spending the last three years or so experiencing the impacts of perimenopause, I revaluated what’s important in life. I decided to apply for a career break to do more of the things I really enjoy.
“One of things I have always wanted to do more of is exploring through hiking. That’s when I came up with the idea of walking every county in England.
“As well as taking some time out I wanted to do something to help others with my time. That’s when I decided I would raise funds for charity too.”
Amanda says the care given by Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice inspired her to support the charity.
She said: “Kath spent her final days in Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in 2019. She was 49 when she died, just short of her 50th birthday.
“I had heard of Sue Ryder before, but with Kath being very poorly and spending time there I discovered just what an amazing place it is with around the clock care provided by amazing people.
“The teams there were as supportive to Kath’s family and friends as they were to Kath. Nothing was too much trouble and it was an absolute blessing in the unfortunate circumstances that we were in to be there. Kath was in a little sanctuary.”
As part of her journey Amanda plans to re-trace some of the walks she enjoyed with Kath, having been best friends since they met at school aged 13.
She said: “Kath was always up for an adventure and I think she would be really excited by what I am doing. We’d expected to carry on being best of friends well into retirement, being dotty old women together, but sadly that wasn’t to be.
“But we have so many lovely memories and it will be nice to have reason to think of those memories when I am out hiking. Kath will be with me in spirit as I roam around, no doubt getting slightly lost from time to time.”
Supporting Amanda in her fundraising and accompanying her on some of the hikes is Kath’s fellow best friend, Sammie Kelley, who recently retired from the police force after 30 years of service. As part of her fundraising efforts Sammie is also aiming to run 300 miles in the same six-month period – after breaking her leg and undergoing reconstructive surgery in 2021.
Amanda will be completing some of her hikes with friends and family and her partner Ben, but she says will be tackling many of the hikes solo too, although always accompanied by her trusty walking companion, border terrier Meg.
She said: “I enjoy solo hiking, it’s a great way to really make sure you take in more of your surroundings, and it is invaluable for thinking and processing thoughts.
“But I’m also keen for inspiration and meeting some new people, so was delighted to stumble upon the Love Her Wild community. The community has proved a really great source of information, tips and inspiration.”
“I have found when I am having conversations with people about what I am doing they want to share some really useful recommendations on places to hike and stay too, and I am really enjoying this organic learning.
“One area I do really need to improve on though is my map reading skills otherwise I might never come back! This is a trait I definitely shared with Kath, so every time I get lost I giggle and think of similar occasions in the past.”
Amanda says she is really looking forward to the challenge, especially visiting the North West coast covering some of the Lancashire coastal way.
She said: “I love big open spaces and walking by water. There is something very grounding about it. It helps you put things into perspective and it makes you realise how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
“Being outside is so peaceful, calm and meditative. It is like a form of therapy for me. It is also such a thrill walking somewhere new for the first time and not knowing what is around the next corner or what view you are going to see.”
To donate to Amanda’s fundraising visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/amanda-garratt12.
As her employer, BGL is double match funding Amanda’s fundraising before the end of April.
Amanda said: “I would like to thank my employer, BGL, for kindly allowing me the time out from work, and also providing double match funding for the first £1,000 raised before the end of April. That means for every £1 raised, BGL will give a further £2.
“Huge thanks to everyone who has sponsored us so far. We have raised just over £1,000 already. I would also like to thank my partner Ben, who has been really supportive in encouraging me to do this.”