(March 2015: Relaunch of a piece on ZANE’s September 2012 walk.)
Tom Benyon OBE (aged 70) and his wife Jane are walking for ZANE … again.
They’ve done Edinburgh to London (450 miles) and Land’s End to Westminster (335 miles). Now it’s York to Canterbury – 351 miles.
The core of ‘Tom’s Trek 2012‘ team is Tom, Jane and Harry Campbell the guardian driver. They will have covered a grand total of over 800 miles by the end of today with about 300 of this trip remaining.
They are walking to raise funds to help support some of the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe where there is little, if any, safety net of social services.
Elderly Zimbabweans have a particular problem as their pensions, if they had them, have been obliterated in the recent economic turmoil and many of their younger relatives have moved away.
In his letter requesting sponsorship for the walk Tom writes: “The situation for the destitute elderly is worse today than ever in ZANE’s history.”
How did I get involved?
“I suggest you might like to walk-interview me and Jane on the York to Canterbury walk …”.
Luckily, for the faint-footed such as me, Wednesday 5 September 2012 is a day where the sky shines blue.
When we set off from York Minster there are no fanfares, speeches or bishops to encourage us from the steps. Instead there are just six of us, more or less strangers, looking lobsidedly at various maps and wondering which way to go.
The Benyons, and the three expert local hikers, seem indifferent to the distance ahead. I’m not. Sixteen miles is way outside my comfort zone, and another three hundred further is incomprehensible.
In the short stretch from York Minster out to the River Ouse I manage to take in two landmarks of note: Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms,
caloried and famous, and a few corners further on, their medieval opposite – Clifford’s Tower.
The tower was built originally by William the Conqueror but is now infamous as the site of the brutal massacre/suicide of 150 Jews in 1190. The plaque at its foot lodges a cold splinter in the day but the fifteen miles ahead, and another three walkers, help move us on.
The sun, the distance, and Harry’s peppermints, are good for talking. I learn about ZANE – careful, caring, and word-of-mouth – and about the work done by its 27 local employees.
It makes me feel both proud and sad. Proud to support such vital giving but sad that so many strong, pioneering Zimbabweans of my parents’ generation are now reliant on the kindness of strangers.
I’m relieved to end the walk when I do at the end of day one but Tom and Jane Benyon still have miles and miles of bruising Tarmac to go before they reach Canterbury.
If you have a chance to support them please do even if it’s just to find a corner on the route to give them a cheer. They are due to arrive in Canterbury on September 28th 2012.
( March 2015: Re-reading this I see I give very little information on my two interviewees – I think co-ordinating my feet, with my brain, with my notepad must have been too much for me. Here are two links that I hope will fill in any gaps: