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Homeless Swansea man walks 8,000 miles as thank you for help

image copyrightChris Lewis
image captionChris Lewis with his rescue dog Jet

When Chris Lewis became homeless in August 2017, he decided it was time to give back to those who had helped him.

The 38-year-old left Swansea with £10 to his name in a 14,000km walk along every coastline in the UK to raise funds for SSAFA - the Armed Forces Charity.

And he is still walking, along with his rescue dog Jet.

"I knew it wouldn't be a walk in the park, but I wanted to give back," he said.

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Since leaving from Llangennith Beach on 1 August last year, Mr Lewis has battled the elements; hiking through snow and strong winds and rain, in storms and scorching temperatures in the recent heatwave.

He hurt his ankle in a remote area on the Scottish coast, which left him facing the possibility of starvation until he made his own crutch and got to safety.

But his journey has had its highlights; he found a message in a bottle which had been cast out to sea from Northern Ireland more than 20 years ago, and took the ferry across to return it.

While he was there, he also got to take a slight detour from his route and walk the Northern Ireland coast.

He has spent the last 12 months foraging for food and living in a tent, relying on the goodwill of strangers to help him along the way.

image copyrightChris Lewis
image captionChris and Jet are currently in Scotland

In the meantime, he has raised nearly £18,000 for SSAFA, and hopes to reach his target of £100,000 by the end of his journey back on Llangennith Beach, which he estimates is a year and a half away.

He is currently walking along the coast of the Isle of Jura, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland.

"I've always wanted to do something big like this. I've seen people make these big gestures and raise money for charity, so I've always been interested in doing something similar," he said.

"I've been bringing up my daughter as a single parent for the last 10 years and the SSAFA have really helped us in that time. I don't know where we would be without them.

image copyrightChris Lewis

"My daughter went off to Bournemouth to study last year and it got me thinking about how I could give back. This time last year, I was also effectively homeless, so I made the decision to just go, and three weeks later, I was off."

Chris served with the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment for several years, before leaving in 2004 to bring up his daughter.

It means that he has the right military training to see him through the difficulties of living in the wild.

image copyrightChris Lewis
image captionHe has had to forage for his food

"I joined up as young as you can," he said. "Then, when I got custody of my daughter and became a single dad, I left to raise her.

"I've always been outdoorsy so this has really suited me down to the ground, but each day brings a different obstacle.

"It's all a state of mind really; each day is a new day. If it's cold, wet, hard terrain and in the middle of nowhere, I know I have to keep going so I just do.

"Problem solving is at its most important when in the wild.

"A bad choice or a bad decision can be catastrophic, so I focus daily on getting from A to B safely and make sure Jet and I are fed and warm enough to sleep."

image copyrightChris Lewis
image captionChris has taken his flag everywhere with him

He added that it can be difficult to be in a very remote location.

Scotland has also posed the biggest challenge so far; he was there while the UK seared in the summer heatwave and had periods where he had to carry Jet due to the scorching temperatures.

"Here in Scotland, it's very barren. It might be days before I see anyone. The isolation can be a bit frustrating," he said.

image copyrightChris Lewis
image captionThe pair have had to face severe weather including Storm Emma, which brought snow in February and March

"These sort of things can faze you a bit, but I have to push through it. It's been an amazing experience so far.

"This is my life for the next year and a half!"

Related Topics

  • Swansea

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