Belfast Telegraph

Mum tackling four-year trek for charity due in Northern Ireland next month

Karen Penny on her four-year trek around the coastlines of GB and Ireland
Karen Penny on her four-year trek around the coastlines of GB and Ireland
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

An inspirational mum is due to arrive in Northern Ireland next month on the latest leg of a charity quest to walk the coastlines of Great Britain and Ireland.

Karen Penny (53), from The Gower in south Wales, will reach Northern Ireland ahead of schedule in early May, three months into her marathon journey.

The former legal professional said her trek, raising funds for dementia research, would take up to four years. If successful, she will become the first woman to finish a continuous walk around the whole of the UK and Ireland's coastline.

Karen set out on January 14 from Pennard, Swansea. From there she headed to Fishguard, where she got the ferry to Rosslare. Since then she has been walking the eastern coast of the Republic of Ireland.

After the Irish leg she will return to Wales, head north and take in at least 20 of the Scottish islands before trekking back down to her starting point in south Wales.

She has no plans to return home during her journey, with her husband driving in a camper van to join her every six weeks.

"My husband's parents both died from dementia-related illnesses and it had a massive effect on me," Karen said.

"Alzheimer's is something that touches nearly every family. It's a horrible illness and many families simply have not got the resources to care for someone who develops it."

Karen is aiming to raise over £100,000 for Alzheimer's Research UK over the duration of her 20,000-mile walk, and after three months she has over £30,000 already in the bank.

"I'm delighted to do this - I wanted to do something that would raise a big amount of money," she said.

"I plan to keep on walking about 15 miles a day, taking a rest day after every seven days."

Karen's mother-in-law Alma was diagnosed with vascular dementia and was 77 when she died in 2008. Her father-in-law Kingsley was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and died two years ago aged 87.

"Alma's health deteriorated quickly, but Kingsley's disease progressed more gradually," said Karen. "He couldn't remember my husband Mark's name. It really was devastating.

"He had been a very intelligent man, a church minister.

"I have already run a marathon and walked from John O'Groats to Land's End, but since retiring I have a lot more time and felt I could raise a lot more money."

Karen is expecting to arrive in Northern Ireland around May 10. Her trek around the coastline should take five weeks.

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