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A walk on the wild side

May 19 2013
One man and his dog... One man and his dog...
Joe Donnelly catches up with Wayne Hall, on his six-month fundraising walk

 

Seven months ago, following the death of his landlord and the subsequent sale of his home of the last 10 years, Wayne Hall found himself homeless. Now Mr Hall, a self-employed tiler originally from Stoke-on-Trent, has turned an unfortunate situation into an opportunity to raise awareness for homelessness. He is almost half-way through a sponsored six month trek starting in the Scottish Highlands in an attempt to raise £10,000 for Shelter.

Accompanied by his German shepherd Jerry, the pair are camping every night of their journey, and have so far braved all that the Scottish elements has thrown at them, including temperatures of -8° amid the coldest March in the surrounding area for 100 years, not to mention stomach bugs and a minor bout with frostbite.

The duo set out from Loch Morar on 25 February and plan to finish the expedition at Galloway Forest Park on 27 August – Mr Hall’s 47th birthday.

Following our report last month, we caught up with the pair for a more in-depth chat about their trip; the highs, the lows, their trials and tribulations, and what’s kept them motivated so far.

When did you decide that taking on such a challenging adventure was something you wanted to do?

This trip became a possibility when the house that I was renting was put up for sale. I found this out last October and almost immediately started planning the trip. I thought: do this trip, raise funds and awareness and then probably get on with my life, rent another place, and pick up where I left off work wise. I’m a self-employed tiler by trade, and although it won’t be easy, I should be able to start earning a living again as I’d built up a good reputation as a quality tradesman in my local area.

What inspired you to embark on such a journey and how do you prepare for this kind of trip?

The trip itself is a bit of a dream of mine. It took a great deal of planning regarding where to go, what to take, how to publicise it and so on, and of course I’ve financed this trip solely myself with the help of a few good sponsors and friends. Funds are already starting to look a tad thin but we will muddle through one way or the other. Jerry and I have been on many short trips out in the wilds over the last six years so we do have some decent experience when it comes down to living outdoors. The fact that we will see every minute of every day outdoors for 182 days was also an inspiration and the wildlife/nature aspect also was a big incentive as it’s always been something close to my heart.

Do you have any sense of just how cold it’s been at times, particularly through the night, and has the journey been tougher than you expected so far?

The weather since the trip started some eight weeks ago has been somewhat tougher than expected and battling through the coldest March in 100 years in a tent in the highlands of Scotland has been testing to say the least. I honestly have no idea how people living on the streets and in poor housing cope with such times. I have a good four seasons sleeping bag, bivvy bag, and a fleece liner to sleep inside every night – most people do not and I have still been really cold, despite having good gear.

Cold is something I don’t do well and for the first six weeks there was no relief from this unless I was tucked up inside the tent inside my sleeping system. Early signs of frostbite had to be nipped in the bud back in mid-March. Not nice at all.

How has Jerry’s company helped?

There’s only the two of us, so on this trip he’s with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I know it would be considerably tougher without him, his company, the fact he gets me out and about and the fact that he brings a smile to my face every day counts for a great deal. He’s an excellent companion; first class.

How has he coped?

He struggled quite significantly on occasion with the cold here through March, which was supposedly the coldest on record. I did all I could to make things less trying for him. Now he’s coping really well since the temperature has picked up a touch. I’m also very fortunate to have his vets (Charter Veterinary Services) in Cheshire sponsor us and support Jerry in times of need as he needs medication on a daily basis, which they are very kindly donating for free. Bet that doesn’t happen with any homeless people’s pets.

You were temporarily homeless yourself at one time. Was this a reason for donating to Shelter?

The fact we chose Shelter was because I could definitely empathise with homeless issues. Through the first few years after a marriage break-up in the late ’90s it was very difficult at times, often relying on mates to put you up. I slept on many couches through that time. The lack of a ‘home’ in your life can be very mentally challenging.

Have you been surprised by the response you’ve received so far, both from well-wishers en route, and online via Facebook and Twitter (@6MthsinScotland)?

The feedback and support from followers on the Facebook page has been inspirational and highly motivating at times. Also, people that I bump into up here are hugely supportive once they realise what I’m doing and why. It’s been quite touching at times to experience people’s kindness and generosity, and has rekindled some faith in mankind for me.

One thing I will say to summarise is that in this country, in this day and age, homelessness should not be a problem, but it’s a serious one. It breaks my heart to see genuine good people who fall on hard times to suffer in this area.

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