A donation to JOGT in Rob Pickard’s memory
A new year brings new beginnings. We start 2021 with a story of love. The love of husband and wife for one another, and their mutual love for walking. Rob and Caroline Pickard walked the trail in 2017 as part of their journey from the south coast to the northernmost point of the mainland UK. Their love of walking has created the opportunity for you to share your own love of the trail, see below.
I (Jay Wilson) was contacted by Caroline Pickard to tell me she wanted to make a generous gift in her husband Rob’s name to help develop the trail. I asked her to tell their story, as only she could, and you’ll see that story below. To me simply falls the honour to thank her, and to put the story in context.
Rob and Caroline were two of the first people to walk the trail. In 2017, we had only just begun to build stiles and bridges and put in markers. There was no Harvey’s Map and no guide book. Rob used my old walk descriptions posted online, written in the first person, to help navigate. But having nearly completed the whole way from the south coast of England to Dunnett Head, they were not to be stopped. I happened to meet them one day, on the last day of their journey, and fortunately some friends of theirs were on hand to snap a photo of us, a record of a very special time.
Now, in order to celebrate Rob’s life, what the trail meant to him, and to celebrate what the trail means to you, I’d like to ask you to donate a gift of your own, however large or small. Donations will be matched by Rob’s Gift up to a total of £10,000. We’d also like to hear your stories of what the trail has meant to you and your loved ones. You can donate at this link: gofundme.com. You can send in your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob and I began our walk in August 2005 with four days across the Scottish border and over the Cheviot Hills covering the northern 54.5 miles (87.4 km) of the Pennine Way between Kirk Yetholm and Once Brewed. It was not the easiest introduction to long distance walking but we loved the physical and mental challenge and the peace. Most years from then we spent one or two weeks walking; initially aiming to complete the Pennine Way, adding the West Highland Way and before we knew it Rob was linking trails to walk from the south coast to the north coast of mainland Britain. And so over ten years we went on to walk Eastbourne to Fort William via the South Downs Way, Heart of England Way, Limestone Way, Pennine Way, West Highland Way and parts of several other Ways, trails, drove roads and canals in the north, south and border country.
Rob enjoyed the preparation almost as much as the walks; collating maps and timetables and searching for transport links and accommodation with good proximity to the trails.
To complete the route Rob had been thinking about how we would head north from Fort William across the Scottish Highlands. Rob’s preference was to head to Cape Wrath via the west side of Scotland but this route, which I was never sure I could manage despite all the support and encouragement from Rob that had got me so far, became impossible after Rob become acutely unwell in early November 2015 and was found to have an aggressive brain tumour. A gruelling nine months of radical radiotherapy and chemotherapy followed, but Rob had a good response giving him a period of remission and the one thing he really wanted to do after completing his treatment was for us to finish our walk.
Once the last chemo treatment was completed in July 2016 Rob set about exploring options of how we could walk north from Fort William and he discovered a blog, written by Jay Wilson, detailing the mainly coastal walk from Inverness to John O’Groats and he thought we could link the Great Glen Way between Fort William and Inverness with the route of Jay’s blog to reach the north coast, aiming for Dunnet Head. Rob’s walking was affected by the tumour and so we completed the Great Glen Way then the route of Jay’s blog in stages between August 2016 and May 2017, finding accommodation with, and walking alongside friends or family each time.
On our last trip to Caithness for the walk we stayed near Keiss and, on the day we reached John O Groats, amazingly bumped into Jay at Freswick Bay. Completing our walk in Scotland meant so much to Rob and myself and the blog written by Jay made the walk possible. Memories of Rob clutching sheets of A4 paper he had printed with the relevant bits of Jay’s blog along with the relevant Ordinance Survey map and somehow keeping us all on track are very precious for all who walked with him. Rob died in July 2018.
Rob would have been so pleased the Trail is progressing and honoured to have a donation given in his name to help in keeping this beautiful walk accessible for as many people as possible.