Sitting here in sunny Cratloe, It’s hard to believe I’ve just walked 1800km around the Irish coast from the Clare/Galway border to that other Border on the outskirts of Newry. When I first came up with the idea of walking 4000km around the whole coast of Ireland to raise money for The Irish Cancer Society, I decided to do it as soon as possible – time waits for no man etc and also I didn’t want to hesitate or prevaricate in case I chickened out. I found the trick was to immediately start telling people I was going to do it. The more individuals I told, the harder it was to renege on the plan.
The thought of the walking, itself, didn’t really daunt me. Sure, I walk about 5km most days through Cratloe Woods and I’ve done many extended walks in the past. Two three week stints on the Camino and shorter treks over the years at home in Ireland and in equally exotic locations such as Peru, Vietnam, Uganda and France made me feel confident I could handle consistent daily walking. No, what was more daunting was the concept of couch surfing. In the early stages of planning and, let’s face it, I didn’t do too much of that, I had a 10km test walk around the local woods with a full rucksack on my back – I soon realised that while I could do it for a short walk (10km), my body wouldn’t stand up to a prolonged trek with that kind of weight. So, carrying gear and camping was out. Travelling light and sleeping rough might have been ok when I was in my twenties and hitching to Turkey, Greece or across Australia but not really an option in Ireland or, more to the point, at my stage in life. Rheumatism and pneumonia, how are you? No, that was out too. Paying for B&B accommodation along the way would defeat the purpose of the fundraising endeavour, so, I ruled that out also. That left few options until I thought of couch surfing.
Couch surfing! Casting myself out there, at the mercy of people’s kindness, generosity and hospitality. Having the temerity to expect friends and strangers alike to open their doors and offer me a safe place to sleep after each day’s walk. Me, a 65 year old pensioner who should have more sense and must surely have a screw loose. (On the road, when anyone would comment that ‘You must be mad!’, I learned to respond with ‘Well, I seem to be ticking most of the boxes. What do you think?’). I needn’t have had any concerns – about where I was going to sleep that is! The response from the outset was phenomenal. Very early on I received offers of accommodation from all along my proposed route. Friends, neighbours and, heretofore, unknowns rallied to the cause. They would contact me by email, text, phone-call, FaceBook, Twitter or whatever means possible to pledge their support. Some knew of me first hand or through friends, relations and neighbours or had simply come across my proposed adventure on social media or in a newspaper or radio interview. In spots, where I didn’t have anything offered in advance, I found, as I travelled, that someone would take it upon themselves to act on my behalf and secure a bed for me for the night. Actually, I never ever had to sleep on a couch at all.
In the first week of the walk I had some occasions to be a little bit fretful that nothing was organised for the coming night or the night after but things worked out and I decided not to be anxious about accommodation – what was the worst that could happen? If hardy came to hardy, I’d knock on a B & B, pub, priest’s house, Garda station or similar and see if they would offer me a place to lay my head. It never ever came to that, but on more than one morning I set out walking not knowing where I would sleep that night. While I walked, others did the proverbial knocking on doors for me and ensured that I was always provided for that evening. It did come close to the wire at times but always worked out fine in the end. I even found myself being put up in B & Bs and hotels on a few occasions, courtesy of the management.
It was the support from all these well-wishers, who were proactive and true to their word, that kept me going physically and emotionally over the 12 weeks of walking. I’ve only just realised it recently, but the faith they showed in me, by supporting me, spurred me on to put even more effort into the fundraising aspect of the walk. In a sense, I had entered into a contract. It became a partnership, I did the walking and fundraising and they made it possible by looking after my wellbeing. It became incumbent on me to live up to my side of the deal and raise the spondoolicks, the moolah, the cash for the Irish Cancer Society. Circa €31000 by the latest calculation. All made possible by those who supported, pampered and spoiled me along the route. Primarily, those who provided accommodation (and often food), sourced accommodation on my behalf, transported baggage, transported me when I needed to get back to my accommodation. But also, those who offered a cup of coffee, a lunch, a meal or just a word of encouragement. I don’t know all their names and, anyway, there are too many to list individually but, by their positive response, they buoyed me up and by their support played their part, major or minor, in raising the €31000.
Then, there are the numerous individual who went to the trouble of making an online donation. Your collective generosity contributed almost €5000 of the overall total – phenomenal! Not to forget the friends and neighbours who contributed €950 through Noelle’s coffee morning way back last May. To all of you, on my behalf, and on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society, sincerest thanks.
In a previous post I’ve thanked those who assisted my journey through Clare and Kerry to Bantry, Co Cork. The following are those who assisted my journey from Bantry to The Border through provision of accommodation and logistical support.
From Bantry to The Border special thanks to all the following:
Kathleen O’Sullivan, Seaview House Hotel, Ballylickey, Bantry, Co Cork
Ciaran and Rose Cronin, Ahakista, Sheep’s Head Peninsula
James O’Mahony (Founding father of the glorious Sheep’s Head Way) for sourcing accommodation in Goleen and for transportation of baggage.
Mary Kingston, her son Michael and daughters Nora and Monica, Goleen, Mizen Peninsula for accommodation, logistics, transportation and sourcing of further accommodation.
Tim Looney and staff of The West Cork Hotel for accommodation for myself and Noelle.
Mary Jo and Frank O’Gorman and family, Cuan Dor B&B, Rosscarbery for their generosity in putting myself, Noelle and Suzie up. And, for sourcing and sorting accommodation for me in Clonakilty.
Teresa O’Neill and her son Neil, Fernhill House Hotel, Clonakilty for accommodation. And, Aishling at reception who sourced the next night’s accommodation in Courtmacsherry and transported my baggage.
Canice O’Driscoll and owner Billy Adams of the Courtmacsherry Hotel for accommodation.
Sabina and John Jennings, for accommodation near Timoleague and transportation & logistics.
Susan Draper for logistical support and baggage transportation.
Susan and Bill Griffith, Kinsale for accommodation.
Heather and Daniel Nuzum and family, Carrigaline for accommodation and transport.
Mary Cahill, Knockadoon, East Cork for accommodation, transportation, logistical support and company on my walks.
Laura Regan, husband Michael Morrissey and kids, Dungarvan, Co Waterford for accommodation, logistical support and transportation of baggage. And, also for sourcing accommodation in Dunmore East.
Mary Harney, Dungarvan for transportation.
Ursula Doherty, Tramore for accommodation and transportation of baggage.
Clifden Foyle, owner, The Strand Inn, Dunmore East, Waterford, for accommodation.
Here’s where I have to confess that my notes aren’t as well filed as I thought. I was given a lift back from Passage East to The Strand Inn, Dunmore East, after a particularly long days walk and fundraising, by a guy who stopped to tell me that he was only going up the road. When I told him what I was engaged in he happily gave me a lift back to Dunmore. The following morning the breakfast chef in The Strand Inn, when he had finished his shift, gave me a lift back to Passage East to get the ferry across to Wexford. Even though I’ve misplaced the names, I remember your kindness very well. Thank you both.
Pauline Kelly, Duncannon, Wexford for accommodation. And, to daughter Elaine, granddaughter Sophie and Daithi who transported me to my starting point and my baggage to Kilmore Quay.
Mayor of Wexford, Frank Staples, who, when contacted by Assumpta Halligan, worked on my behalf to find a place for the night.
To Mary and Peter Cousins & family, Kilmore, Wexford, who when they went off to work that morning didn’t know they were going to have a house guest that very evening. Thank you for the accommodation, transport, local knowledge and fundraising support.
Assumpta and Mac, Rosslare Harbour, for accommodation, logistical and transport support and for your company on significant stretches of the walk.
Mary Fitzharris, Wexford for accommodation and logistical support/transportation of baggage and for accompanying me through Wexford town.
Eileen and Francis Porter, Courtown, Gorey, and their son John for accommodation and transport.
Maire and Carl Coates, Hollyfort, Wexford for accommodation.
Grainne Murphy, Manager, Wexford Bay Hotel for accommodation, pampering and transportation (on your day off!) and logistical support.
Alan from Dooley Poynton Auctioneers, Wicklow for transportation.
Rob and Mary Tierney, Kilcoole, Wicklow, for accommodation, logistics and transportation of luggage.
Tim and Claire O’Sullivan, Raheny, Dublin for accommodation, logistics, transportation and helping me to heal my torn muscle. And, for accompanying me on the first part of my walk to the Hill of Howth.
Mag Leahy for organising, and sorting the finances, for accommodation in Hamilton House B&B, Skerries, Co Dublin.
Dr Maurice Collins for assisting my journey through Co. Dublin, Meath and Louth from his base in Warwickshire.
Brian, Beth and Saorla Ruan, Balbriggan, for their cartographic, geographical, logistical, transportational and inspirational support.
John and Terry Fitzgerald and family, Baltray, Co Louth for accommodation and transport of baggage.
Willie McGonagle, neighbour and friend, for connecting me with the Fitzgeralds.
Dairina McKeown, Clogher Head for accommodation and a gathering of friends.
Oliver Quinn, Ballymascanlon Hotel, Dundalk for accommodation
Gee, hope I didn’t miss out anyone, Always a possibility. If I did, please accept my apologies and put it down to brain fatigue through over exposure to miles and miles of good will and support.
Best wishes to all of you. Keep in touch. Marty
Lastly, my gratitude to Noelle for her support throughout for my venture and for her presence for memorable stages of the walk, and to Suzie for travelling from London to join me on the walk in West Cork, to Alice and Cohen for being with me around Galley head and Red Strand and Laura for technical and moral support.
What a fabulous bunch of people I’ve met on my travels. What a privilege to have been invited into their homes and offered their support and friendship. May the next 2200km be so well supported and assisted. Next year, may I meet such wonderful individuals. Then, of course, in The Wee North how can I fail to do so?