It’s the final day of the 2017 ZANE fundraising walk. Already Tom and Jane Benyon have walked well over a hundred miles in just twelve days.
We find the couple in a pub – not slumped, but slightly crumpled… nine-miles-on-hot-pavement crumpled.
We are fresh from the car and springy. This does not last long.
I, more warthog than cheetah, hope that the Benyons might have slowed down by now … but they haven’t. It takes just half an hour on the hot pavements of Huyton to prove that.
The first part of our walk is through suburbia. Small front gardens run beside us. Hydrangeas and roses nod over their walls as we pass. It’s tempting to linger but there is no time … and soon the city’s mood changes.
The wide streets of Huyton and Knotty Ash change to narrower roads, rimmed by the steel shutters of shops closed for Sunday or else for good. We are now in old Liverpool – it’s quiet and hot.
Moses understands the routine.
His lead is clipped to Jane’s waist and he sticks firmly at her feet. He knows that she is the navigator, the surest path to the shortest route, and, so long as Tom is in sight, he shows no inclination to explore anywhere.
It does not take long for us to learn the same technique. There is one brief pause for photographs straight into the blazing sun, and then, like four dots on a dice, we roll on towards the closest cathedral in Liverpool – Christ the King.
It is, of course, impossible for ZANE to help all those in need in Zimbabwe, land of ever-changing currencies, but ZANE does what it can in the areas where it is confident that the funds raised will find those most in need of help.
The charity operates through trusted local networks that support many, including: the elderly, left destitute in the country they helped to build; the young, hampered by clubfeet, or lack of education; groups trying to rebuild in the wake of political violence; and veterans, who have served the Commonwealth wherever it has needed them.
The list of individuals reached is varied and unpredictable, as are the power struggles that still spasm through Zimbabwe.
We walk on towards the city’s docks, our feet tired and our heads full of those brought to their knees by political and economic turmoil.
There is still no sign of the cathedral.
Then, eventually, modern and unmistakeable, its spiky crown is visible in the distance.
The road sweeps us down towards the buildings of Liverpool John Moores University into a sleek new world, polished and apart from the Old Swan.
The cathedral, when we do reach it, makes an impressive full stop.
This is the final halt after 12 days of walking and a distance of just over 140 miles, a distance equal to the combined ages of Tom and Jane Benyon.
The couple have done what they set out to do. It’s a promise well kept, and one that connects the pledges of many with the threadbare hopes of others.
ZANE’s eighth, annual, long-distance fundraising walk is over … I, after barely five miles, am relieved for my feet, and glad for those who will be helped by every penny raised.
Should you wish to find out more about ZANE and its work please visit the ZANE website.
I became a ZANE trustee in October 2016 but the text in this article is my own.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2017