The football fan, pub purist and tube taker with complete sets

By Duncan Leatherdale
BBC News

  • Published
Red Lion sign, Old Trafford, gold postbox and a tube sign

There are many enthusiasts who spend their spare time adding to their collection. But we are not talking stamps and stickers, these fans collect locations. Their mission is to visit all of one kind of place, from football stadiums to every station on the London Underground.

Earlier this month, personal trainer Cathy Price visited her 656th and final pub called the Red Lion.

Now Ms Price and other people who make a hobby out of visiting complete sets of places have spoken to the BBC about their travels and travails.

Simon Henig - The 92 Club

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Simon Henig's favourite ground is Aston Villa's Villa Park in Birmingham as it represents a "traditional football stadium"

During working hours Simon Henig is a politics lecturer at Sunderland University and the leader of Durham County Council.

But away from work he is an avid collector and, after a visit to Barnet last month, his collection is complete - for the next few months at least.

The Leicester City fan has visited all 92 current football league stadiums in England. It is a list that can change every year with the construction of new grounds and promotion of new clubs.

He completed his first set in 1995 with a visit to Scunthorpe United's Glanford Park and, apart from a slight blip in the early 2000s, has kept the list fully topped up since 2005.

"It's a great way of seeing so many different parts of the country," he said.

English football league stadiums


Clubs in the four divisions

  • 2,019,323 Total capacity of all 92 stadiums in Premiership, Championship, Leagues One and Two

  • 75,731 Capacity of Manchester United's Old Trafford (pictured), England's largest club ground

  • £17 Cost of ticket for match at Barnet FC's The Hive stadium the newest addition to the 92 Club

Getty Images

To count as a visit Mr Henig said he must see a competitive match at the ground.

In total he has visited 146 different English stadiums, more than 100 more non-league grounds, dozens abroad and is two thirds of his way through completing Scotland with 28 of the 42 stadiums ticked off.

Mr Henig has seen his beloved Leicester play at 70 different grounds.

"I'm a traditionalist, I like the older stadiums with a sense of history, four distinct stands and floodlights," he said.

Image source, Simon Henig
Image caption,
By day Simon Henig leads Durham County Council but come the weekend he keeps up his membership of the 92 Club

"I'm not a fan of most new stadiums, they lack the quirks that make each stadium special."

His son Sam is also a keen football fan and has clocked up 35 different grounds.

"If there was a new stadium and I wasn't able to get to it I would be frustrated," said Mr Henig.

"I'm a purist and want to have the full set, I am quite frustrated that there were two I didn't get to (Bradford City played at Odsal Stadium for a while after a fire at Valley Parade in 1985 while Bournemouth spent two months at Dorchester Town's The Avenue Stadium in 2001)."

"I made sure to get to the only new ground this season (Barnet's The Hive) early on, I wanted it done."

Image source, Simon Henig
Image caption,
Now Simon Henig and his son Sam are working their way through the Scottish stadiums

Michael and Louise George - Gold postboxes

Image source, Louise George
Image caption,
The George family spent three years visiting each golden postbox including the one dedicated to cyclist Peter Kennaugh in Onchan

During the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a postbox was painted gold in the home town of each gold medal winner.

Michael and Louise George and their daughters Jessica, four, and Sophie two, have spent their weekends and holidays visiting them all.

"Jessica's godfather had issued a challenge on Facebook to see who could visit the most gold boxes," Mrs George, from Slough, said.

Going for gold


Gold postboxes, 63 for the Olympics and 43 for the Paralympics

  • 85 In England, eight each in Scotland and Wales, three in Northern Ireland and one each for the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands

  • Lossiemouth The most northern is for rower Heather Stanning

  • 115,000 Postboxes in the UK, they have been red since 1874 having originally been green

Getty Images

"As it happened we were going to Scotland so we decided to see how many we could find, then we got it into our heads to go and see them all, so we did it."

Jessica has hypoplastic left heart syndrome which effectively means only half her heart is working.

She has already undergone three open heart surgeries and a fourth is scheduled.

"It's been really nice for us as a family to do this challenge," Mrs George said.

"We have spent quality time together and have a picture of Jessica at each postbox, it's lovely to be able to see how she has grown over three years."

The family has form when it comes to tracking trails having completed the Shaun the Sheep searches in London and Bristol.

"We are pretty determined, with anything like this," said Mrs George.

"We do want to get to all of them but we are also not too upset if that's just not possible."

Image source, Louise George
Image caption,
Their gold postbox challenge took them all over the country, including to Bradford on Avon, hometown of kayaker Ed Mckeever

Elizabeth Sellers and Raj Dhokia - County collectors

Image source, Elizabeth Sellers
Image caption,
Raj Dhokia and Elizabeth Sellers met while travelling abroad, now they want to visit every county in the UK

Elizabeth and her partner Raj Dhokia plan to visit every county in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland over the next 12 months (she reckons there are 96).

The couple from Birmingham have already ticked 12 off the list including Cornwall, Warwickshire and, most recently, Hertfordshire.

"I count a visit as either an overnight stay or doing an activity somewhere" said Ms Sellers, 32, a blogger and social media consultant."

Counting the counties


Counties in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland identified by Elizabeth Sellers

  • North Yorkshire England's largest county at 3,212 sq miles, attractions include Staithes (pictured)

  • 874 miles (1,407km) from Lands End in Cornwall to John O'Groats in Caithness, greatest distance between two mainland counties

Ms Sellers met Mr Dhokia, 27, an accountant, while they were both travelling in Thailand.

"We both love travelling but both realised there was so much more of our own country that we were yet to see," she said.

"We have such a rich culture and history in this country, it seems crazy that I have been to major tourist attractions in other countries but not the ones we have here.

"This challenge has really resonated with people when I tell them about it, they all say it's something they would like to do, I figure while we are young and able we should get on and do it."

Image source, Elizabeth Sellers
Image caption,
Elizabeth Sellers and Raj Dhokia are converting a van into a camper to use on their travels

Cathy Price - The Red Lioness

Image source, Cathy Price
Image caption,
Cathy Price has visited all 656 Red Lions in the UK including one in the waiting lounge at Gatwick

Cathy Price's four-and-a-half year-long quest came to an end in the Oxfordshire village of Northmoor this month.

The 56-year-old personal trainer from Preston can finally say she has visited every pub called the Red Lion in the UK - all 656 of them.

Her hobby started while watching the Grand National and supping a pint at a Red Lion in the Lake District.

"There was a sign that said the Red Lion was the most common pub name in the country so it got me thinking what all the other places with Red Lions might be like," she said.

"This challenge has let me get to know the UK really well, there are some beautiful parts which I knew nothing about."

Lure of the Red Lion


UK pubs called the Red Lion

  • 4.5 Years it's taken Cathy Price to visit them all

  • 90,000 Miles she has traveled for her challenge

  • James I Is said to have ordered his coat of arms, a red lion, be placed on all public buildings of importance, including pubs

Cathy Price

She said visiting Red Lions had become "entwined" with her life so what will she do now she has finished?

"There are mixed emotions but it's not the end, this is only the beginning.

"There are Red Lions all over the world for me to go to."

She is also releasing a book about her exploits.

Image source, Cathy Price
Image caption,
Cathy Price plans to release a book about her challenge after visiting the 656th pub at Northmoor in Oxfordshire

Marc Gawley - Tube conqueror

Image source, Marc Gawley
Image caption,
In 2011, Marc Gawley broke the world record for the fastest time taken to visit all 270 stations on the London Underground

Manchester-born Marc Gawley first fell in love with London's underground rail network as a seven-year-old visitor to the nation's capital.

"It wasn't even the train or the Tube itself that I liked," he said, "It was the map."

So fixated was he with the colourful lines and mixture of place names he set himself a challenge - to visit every tube station in a world record breaking time.

He started at 6.50am on 21 April, 2011, at Chesham in Zone 9 on the Metropolitan Line.

Precisely 16 hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds later he alighted at Heathrow Terminal 4, a weary world record holder.

Unraveling the Underground


Stations on the London Tube

  • 1863 Year the network opened

  • 1.265bn Passengers a year

  • 250 Miles of track (402km)

  • 11 Lines in the network

"I was exhausted but pleased," he said.

Mr Gawley changed trains more than 50 times and was dependent on the lines all running to time.

"I was very lucky," he said.

"I chose the Thursday of Easter week because I knew there would be fewer people but the full services would be running.

A new world record has since been set for the Tube Challenge, Londoners Clive Burgess and Ronan McDonald completed it in 16 hours 14 minutes and 10 seconds on 19 February this year.

But for Mr Gawley, just being able to say he completed the challenge is enough satisfaction.

"I do like to complete a set," he said.

It is an attitude common to all the location collectors.

Image source, Marc Gawley
Image caption,
Marc Gawley meticulously planned his route before attempting his challenge, a single delay at any station would have ended his hopes of breaking the world record