Wales

Swansea mum quarter-way through 20,000-mile coast trek

Karen Penny Image copyright Karen Penny
Image caption Karen Penny is ready to take on the Ayrshire Coast path

Five pairs of walking boots, three rucksacks and 5,000 miles down, Karen Penny is a quarter of the way through her epic trek around the coastline of the UK and Ireland.

The 54-year-old mother from Swansea is walking the 20,000 miles (32,000km) to raise money for charity.

Having "made lifelong friends" along the way, she has ticked off Ireland and Wales and is now in Scotland.

"People do look out for me, it's heart-warming," she said.

Mrs Penny is keeping her social media followers up to date with her journey and through that network she has been given meals, places to stay and countless cups of tea.

"In Wales I didn't walk a single day by myself, from Fishguard all the way up to near the Wirral peninsula," she said.

"I lose track of time and dates, but it's been the most unique time.

"I'm on my fifth pair of walking boots, each pair roughly does 1,000 [miles], so I'll get my sixth pair for Christmas.

"I'm on my third rucksack, the straps just went on the first one."

Image copyright Karen Penny
Image caption Trekking on familiar ground in Wales earlier in the year

The generosity of other people has kept Mrs Penny going. In the summer months, while walking on Anglesey in 35C heat, she said people would take her rucksack for her and leave it further ahead.

And now, in the winter months, people are still offering a helping hand.

"A few days ago, it was torrential rain and a car stopped to see if I was ok, then they came back with a flask of hot chocolate and biscuits," she said.

'Never been healthier'

Mountain rescue teams have been checking in, asking what routes she will be taking "because they want to look out for me".

She has also been joined by the Army and SAS on her many walking routes.

Her aim is to raise £100,000 for Alzheimer's Research UK after she lost both her parents-in-law to vascular dementia and Alzheimer's.

"The donations, my word, it's incredible, that keeps you going," she said after reaching £47,000 on her JustGiving fundraising page.

She has found the islands of the Outer Hebrides "quite lonely", but said the scenery helps.

While it is "tough" being away from her son and husband, she is looking forward to spending Christmas with them in a cottage while she makes her way round Scotland.

"I'll still be walking every day, but I'll have a home to go to over Christmas."

Image copyright Karen Penny
Image caption Mrs Penny in south-west Scotland on a blustery day

Having walked every day since 14 January in the "rain, snow, sleet, hail and sun", you would expect a few injuries or illnesses along the way, but the mother-of-one said she has "never been healthier".

"I haven't had any illnesses, not had a cold once, I've not even had a blister, and I've lost a couple of stone.

"I've fallen over a few times and the other day I fell into a ditch."

But she admits she has started to experience black ice and needs to "be careful".

"My worst fear is that I'll turn over my foot," she said.

Living "frugally" she keeps to a "strict budget", buying mainly fruit and bread to eat, saying most of her spending goes on accommodation, water and laundrette costs.

Mrs Penny said she was pleased to be "very ahead of schedule" but, despite family calls to be home over Christmas, she said: "I need to keep going, it'll take another two and a half years."

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