Boots, blisters and big hearts | Farm Tales

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Andrew Livingston shares the teenage grief which led him to take on a 150-mile trek in 2011, and is reminded to get outside more

Martin Clunes, far left, saw off the 15-year-olds in 2011. From the left Andrew Livingston, Kiaran Mason, Thomas Shoemark, Tom Jones, Molly Neville and Lucy Wallbridge

After reading January’s BV, I was truly inspired by Claire Allen’s expedition to walk the entire British coastline, raising money for two homeless charities. Reading her story made me reminisce about the time that I pulled on my own walking boots for greater a cause. Ultimately, it’s a tale of friendship, determination and blisters. But does have a sad beginning.
In May of 2011, my mother was battling breast cancer. She had to go to Southampton for surgery, and on the journey from Beaminster to visit her, we decided to redecorate the living room (she had been complaining that it was looking tatty for a while), planning a nice surprise for her to come home to. Unfortunately, she never made it home.
Her condition continually worsened, and she died in the Weldmar Hospice in Dorchester.

Celebrity send-off
The Hospice was fantastic during the last few weeks of mum’s life – they made a difficult time so much easier. In my own small way of thanking them, I decided to get walking: to raise some money so they could continue their great work.
Three months later I had managed to convince a few friends to brave a monumental journey with me: we planned a walk from Beaminster in Dorset to Carnon Downs in Cornwall – it was my grandmother’s home, and where we always used to holiday with Mum.
Martin Clunes, a long-time supporter of the hospice and a Beaminster neighbour, saw us off on our 150-mile journey through the hills and lanes of the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall countryside.
The planning was a little wonky, to be honest – on the first day we walked from Beaminster to Ottery St Mary, about 30 miles. That was a long day!
With our OS maps in hand, we completed the walk in seven days, and raised more than £5,000. Along the route, we camped in the gardens and fields of generous farmers who were kind enough to host a bunch of 15-year-olds! At the end of the seven days of walking, I was greeted by my granny with a hug, a cup of tea and some biscuits – it was the perfect way to send off my mum.

Do something less boring …
I recount this tale not because I want to inspire you to run a marathon for the Cats Protection or climb Everest for your local village hall restoration fund. I simply want to encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
I cannot tell you how lucky we are to live in this beautiful part of the world.
Growing up I was never a big fan of walking – I’d much rather have been either playing sport or sitting inside on computer games than hiking up a stupidly large hill. But when you walk 150 miles in the space of a week, you have a lot of time to think. And I soon started to realise, ‘Wow, where we live is pretty fantastic!’.
As an adult now, with kids and work, I don’t have as much time as I would like to spend strolling the outdoors. But now the weather is finally improving, I’m going to set aside a minute to visit our beautiful countryside.
On the farm, I always love bumping into people who are out enjoying the countryside, be that for a short walk with the dog and the kids or striding through on a serious day hike. Our farm is hilly and it’s muddy, but all I see are smiling faces on the footpaths.
As farmers we ask five simple things – keep your dogs under control, clean up their mess, don’t leave litter, stick to the path and shut the gate behind you! We farmers want everyone to be able to get out and enjoy the land. We simply ask you to respect our place of work.

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