Belfast Telegraph

End of the road for William as he finishes 310-mile walk to highlight Brexit dangers

By Ivan Little

An Englishman who has completed a walk along the entire length of the Irish border to highlight the "backward step" that he fears Brexit will bring to frontier communities has revealed he had to undertake the final part of his gruelling 310-mile trek backwards.

Monaghan-based William Hanbury-Tenison had to resort to reverse mode coming down hills at Muff, Co Donegal, on the last leg of his journey because of injuries he sustained to his shins along the way.

"The pain in the last couple of days was excruciating," said Mr Hanbury-Tenison (54).

"I know from running marathons that the last stretch is always the worst. And I simply couldn't walk forwards down the hills because that was putting too much extra pressure on what are known as shin splints in my legs.

"People who saw me hobbling backwards must have thought I was out of my mind. But there was no other alternative with my aches and pains. I was determined to keep on going and I was just happy to reach the finishing line. It had been a trial of mind over matter."

Mr Hanbury-Tenison, who returned after 30 years in China to settle in his family's estate in Co Monaghan three years ago, says the suffering was worth it to get across his message that a return to a hard border would be disastrous for local communities.

He said: "I think I did raise awareness on behalf of my neighbours who are deeply concerned about what a hard border would mean to the economy and to their personal circumstances. Most people I met on the walk were of a like mind that we in Ireland will not be high up in the list of priorities of the Brexit negotiators in London and Brussels.

"If we are going to get the border issue taken seriously, we must find a consensus among the people on this island as to how we want to deal with Brexit.

"And we have to convey that opinion internationally to put the pressure on the negotiators."

Mr Hanbury-Tenison says he has no plans to take his "campaign" any further but he will be meeting leaders of the Border Communities Against Brexit organisation for discussions.

He believes the Brexit fallout was, in part, responsible for the results in the Assembly election earlier this month when Sinn Fein made remarkable advances. But he added: "I found during my walk that the worries over a hard border crossed all political divisions and if everyone in Ireland pulls together and recognise the threat to all of us from Brexit, only good can come out of it.

"But I am not a politician. I wouldn't be interested in being involved in any partisan, let alone sectarian, attempt to milk this issue for partisan benefit."

He started his journey in Carlingford on February 18 and had set himself a target of 10 miles a day over a month-long schedule, but he was quicker than he had anticipated.

"In the end I was walking 10 or 15 miles a day. I probably pushed myself a little too hard, going faster than I had originally planned," he said.

Mr Hanbury-Tenison, who spent his nights in the homes of friends or in B&Bs, returned to Monaghan by bus. But he didn't walk from Muff to the bus station in Londonderry. "A lady called Agnes gave me a lift," he added.

Back home in Monaghan, the father-of-two won't be able to put his tired feet up too long to recover from his exertions.

"I have a dog and walking is part of the life, but it's good for me to keep moving. And I'm also looking forward to returning to my yoga, which should help too," he said.

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