52 inspiring miles: deafblind challenger will walk the Ridgeway in 24 hours, and you can join him

John Churcher.jpg

Need to give your miles a turboboost? Be inspired by the example of John Churcher, and maybe join him on June 9/10. 

The first blind man to climb the Eiger will walk the whole of the Ridgeway in one day this June – and the fact 44-year-old John Churcher from Birmingham will be able to see virtually nothing of it isn't holding him back one bit.

“I’m really looking forward to the walk” says John; “I don’t feel nervous, only excitement about taking on another challenge.”

John was born with hearing loss, and at the age of 14 learned he also has Retinitis Pigmentosa. “That means the cones and rods in my eyes are dying. I currently have 3% vision, 50% hearing loss. The best way to describe what I can see, would be to say it’s like looking through a straw with frosted glass at the end” he says. 

Ivinghoe Beacon at the end of The Ridgeway, (Steve Speller / Alamy Stock Photo*)

Ivinghoe Beacon at the end of The Ridgeway, (Steve Speller / Alamy Stock Photo*)

But the spirit of adventure is alive and well in John who has become one of the world’s leading disabled rock-climbers – or ‘paraclimbers’ – in 2015 becoming the first unsighted person to climb the 13,020ft Swiss monster the Eiger. 

Sight guide Mark McGowan (front) and John Churcher (back) on the Eiger.

He’ll be walking the Ridgeway with the same sight guide, Mark McGowan, in aid of national disability charity Sense. Says Mark: “I’m a little nervous, as sight guiding for 52 miles straight will be mentally, as well as physically, exhausting”.

John’s walk begins at Barbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort in Wiltshire, and will see him travel through the night, walking the oldest road in Britain, past landmarks such as the Uffington White Horse, before reaching the finish line at Field Farm in Watlington.

You can join him – and cram another 52 miles into your #walk1000miles bag – by signing up now. You’ll even get a 50% discount off the RidgeWalk registration fee – just enter the code COUNTRYWALKING during checkout.

“I walk side by side with the guide on wide paths” says John; “When things are more challenging or narrow, I hold on to the guide’s rucksack and try to follow their feet while they describe what obstacles may lie ahead – steps up or down, rocks to be avoided or branches to duck for. It doesn’t always work out perfectly and sometimes I tread on their feet or graze my head on a low branch”.

No such difficulties for you – just the question of 52 miles in one go. Could you? Probably. Dare you? Let us know in the Facebook group...