The Big London Night Walk 2016

IMG_2070Here I am (right) with Stephen Robertson CEO of The Big Issue Foundation

After taking part in 3 sleep out challenges, I decided to sign up for The Big London Night Walk 2016. This took place on the night of Friday 11th March.

I left work a little earlier to catch the 1523 train from Taunton to Paddington. The last time I travelled by train was to the Sleep Out in London last summer and the train didn’t actually make it! I put in a claim and today’s travel was using the replacement ticket I was sent in the post.

I arrived in London around 5.45 which left me just over a couple of hours until I have to be at the start point in Waterloo. I started my walk from here through the busy streets to Marble Arch and into the traffic free Hyde Park, walking across to the Serpentine then to Hyde Park Corner. From here, I walked along Piccadilly to Piccadilly Circus then down to Leicester Square where I stopped for something to eat at Burger King and to make the most of a sit down before my long night ahead. I moved on to Covent Garden then down to the Embankment and crossed Waterloo Bridge to the start and finish point at St. John’s Church where the registration was open and lots of people were also arriving for the event.

In England alone, over 3,500 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night which increased had 30% from 2014 to 2015 while since 2010, there has been an increase of 102%. The south west saw the biggest percentage in rough sleeping over the past year (41%). This is followed by the East (38%), the south east (36%) and the West Midlands (34%). This will increase each year with a shortage of housing and rents increasing. Nearly 100 people a week turn to the Big Issue for an opportunity to help themselves at the time of personal crisis. Last year, the Big Issue Foundation helped over 2,200 individuals take control of their lives. Homelessness could affect anyone at anytime with family breakdown being the biggest cause. I recall a Big Issue vendor I chatted with in Bristol who told me the story of how he became homeless. “I lost my job and fell into debt. My wife left me then I lost the house and all I was left with was a few belongings and my dog who gives me a reason to keep going.” This story is not at all unusual and there are some harrowing tales of life on the streets. Many homeless do not sleep at night as they feel vulnerable on the move and find it safer to sleep during the daytime.

At St. John’s Church, I registered and was given a jacket to wear. The weather was colder so I had plenty of layers on to keep me warm. I chatted to other people there including people who had come on their own from across the country for this worthy cause. We were treated to some entertainment from the wonderful London City Voices Choir who sang a few songs including One Day Like This by Elbow and ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. CEO of TBIF Stephen Robertson gave a talk about the Big Issue’s work and James Bowen with Street Cat Bob also took to the stage. James admits that it was Bob who saved his life. If you have not read his books, they have sold millions across the world and a film has just been made with Street Cat Bob appearing as himself.

Chatting to a few more people, I met Big Issue Vendor George who told me his story about coming to London to restart his life but shortly after, his cousin who he was staying with died and George found himself homeless. George stays positive on life and is an inspiration to others. I met Jane who had travelled up from Fowey in Cornwall to take part so we agreed to walk together. It was around 10:15pm when we started the walk.

The Big London Night Walk took us across Waterloo Bridge to Victoria Embankment and along to Westminster Bridge which we then crossed and down some steps to Albert Embankment. Here, there was someone wrapped up in blankets to keep warm and asleep, a reminder of what we’re doing this for. A little further and 2 miles completed, we arrived at our first checkpoint, Beaconsfield where we could have a coffee from ‘Change Please’ – a project between The Big Issue Foundation and The Old Spike Roastery which sees homeless people being trained as baristas and selling fresh coffee from mobile carts, earning an income to help turn their lives around. Inside Beaconsfield, we watched theatre group ‘On The Button’ performing their play ‘Britain’s Got Tenants’ which told the history of social housing with story and song. From here, it was along the Thames and across Vauxhall Bridge and along to Parliament Square just in time to hear Big Ben chime midnight and a chance to sing Happy Birthday to a fellow walker! Crossing the road, we entered Whitehall passing Downing Street and along to Trafalgar Square before heading into Pall Mall and St. James’ Square which I recognised as one of my sister’s used to work for a company here. Around the Square, into Duke of York Street and Jermyn Street, we had now completed 5 miles. We crossed Piccadilly which was jammed with traffic at 12:30, through some back streets into Soho to our 2nd checkpoint at the Samaritans HQ. It was busy here with walkers having a rest and more refreshments available. Continuing the walk, onto Wardour Street and into Oxford Street, we arrived at Tottenham Court Road where we nearly took a wrong turn as we headed into Great Russell Street and past the British Museum and into Bloomsbury Square towards North East London. With 7 miles completed, it was getting tough now after a long day at 2.30am and as we passed Angel tube station into Islington, we were relieved to have another break at Checkpoint 3, St. James’ Church where we stayed until told we needed to move on 3am! It was a short walk to the 4th and final Checkpoint at Shoreditch Town Hall which is a wonderful building with a lot of history. The streets were still busy with late night revellers as we started the last stretch of the Night Walk passing underneath Barbican and as we went along Aldersgate Street and The Museum of London, I recognised this as the location of my abseil finale when I took part in the first ever London 3 Peaks challenge! The streets were deserted and quite eerie as we passed St. Paul’s Cathedral and as we walked down Peter’s Hill onto Millennium Bridge, there were amazing views of the city lights from the Thames as the city slept which included the gulls lined up along the rails of the bridge. Everything was quiet at last. The last mile was over the bridge and onto South Bank, past Tate Modern, the OXO Tower and under Blackfriars Bridge and back into Waterloo for a welcome by Stephen Robertson who congratulated us on completion and a medal. Back inside St.John’s Church, we were glad to sit down and Jane opened her bottle of chocolate whisky she brought back from a trip to Malaysia and had been waiting for the right occasion which we enjoyed a toast together. I had been intending walking back to Paddington for my 8am train but having been up for 24 hours, worked, travelled to London, walked all night, I deserved a rest and got the tube!

Having taken part in The Big London Night Walk, this was a wonderful experience and let you experience London in another light. We were very lucky that tonight was a dry, clear night though a bit chilly. It would have been another story had it have been poring with rain or even snowing. We did that walk through choice – too many do that every night, not by choice.

Here are my Fitbit Stats for the past 24 hours: 49,542steps. 22.1 miles. 33 floors climbed. 3862 calories burned.

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Dunster 3 Peaks

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The weather today was a bit overcast and chilly but good walking weather. I was a bit limited for time so decided I was going to head to Dunster and do a brisk walk on the three hills surrounding the village.

I parked the car near the railway station and walked along the riverside walk where the birds were singing louder than usual. There were a lot of green finches in the trees beside the river and the sound was a wonderful start to my walk.

Once across the A39 (using the subway), I walked up to Conygar Tower and enjoyed the view with a cup of coffee from my flask before heading down to the village and over to Grabbist hill. There are lots of paths to choose from but I always choose the steep path straight up to the top. From here, you can see all along the coastline, across to Wales as well as inland and over to Dunkery. Another quick cuppa and a biscuit before walking down a circular path to the village, over the Packhorse Bridge then to Gallox Hill and up to Bat’s Castle with more stunning views. Picked up some litter along the way which is always disappointing. I’m not sure why people out for a walk in the countryside, which they must enjoy too, think it’s fine to throw their empty drink can or crisp packet, etc. onto the ground so that people like myself have to pick it up and dispose of it instead! I continued over to Aller Hill then down to walk back across the Deer Park and into the village and back to the car.

A much quicker walk than usual but all helping towards my walk later this week when I will be spending Friday night walking the streets of London for The Big Issue Foundation’s Big London Night Walk.

Today’s stats: 24,632 steps, 10.76 miles, 164 floors climbed and 2922 calories burned.

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Returning to Rambling

Fitbit results: 11.46 miles walked, 25,677 steps, ‘191 floors’ climbed, 3,866 calories burned.

At last, I am back out on my travels again after a busy couple of months followed by a few weeks of feeling ‘under the weather’. What better way than to get out walking.

This morning was a balmy 14c which is 20c warmer than it was midweek! I parked the car at Wootton Courtenay (Exmoor) and walked along the lanes towards Timberscombe and a short way on the A396 to Drapers Way. As you walk along this single track road, once reaching the stream at this time of year, you will be lucky enough to see hundreds of snowdrops along the roadside before reaching a wooded area known locally as ‘Snowdrop Valley’ where a path will lead you through carpets of white flowers which cover the ground alongside the river. During mid February each year, the road is closed to allow for the thousands of visitors who come to be entranced by this view. The flowers are earlier this year due the unseasonable climate over recent weeks but another week to ten days will see them at their best. After taking a few photos, I carried on up the lane and turned right onto a footpath sign posted for Dunkery Gate. As expected, it was extremely muddy and any such walking on Exmoor should be done with suitable footwear and a pair of walking poles if you want to stay vertical. My sturdy walking boots kept my feet dry and with laces tied tightly, my boots fought against the mud which was trying it’s best to pull them off me. The path is well signed by following blue markers. If you note the signposts with colours next to the destination, you shouldn’t go wrong.

Apart from one person on their horse, I didn’t see anyone until I reached Dunkery Gate where a few cars were parked up. I could see Dunkery Beacon was hidden by low cloud so stopped here to have my flask of coffee and a cheese roll before walking up the stoney track where at 1500ft the view around me disappeared into the mist. Once I reached the Beacon (1705ft), it was much cooler at 8c with a windchill of 5c. A viewpoint shows locations and distances of places you can see on a clear day but today was around 50ft. A group of young walkers doing part of a DofE challenge arrived, took a quick photo and headed on. I walked back down the hill ENE and soon enjoyed a good view towards to coast where pockets of blue sky were letting the sun through like spotlights on the landscape. Crossing the road and a bit further down, I saw a herd of deer with a stag keeping a watch on me to make sure I kept heading down the hill. It feels great to be back out on the moors again and I hope to return next weekend. IMG_1794

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Back in Bristol with 1625ip for the 2015 Sleep Out

Settling down for the night at the Bristol 1625ip Sleep Out 2015

Settling down for the night at the Bristol 1625ip Sleep Out 2015

On November 12th, I travelled to Bristol for another ‘Sleep Out’ to raise awareness of homelessness.

Last year, I took part in my first sleep out and spent a wet and windy night in a car park at Bristol Temple Meads. What I learnt over 15 hours opened my eyes to the situation that affects too many people. 83,000 young people aged between 16 and 25 find themselves without a home each year through no fault of their own. Family breakdown is the most common cause but there are many other situations including abuse and debt.

The Bristol based charity ‘1625 independent people’ helped 1800 young people last year not just find a place to live but giving advice and support to those who needed it. With less social housing and more private landlords, rent prices are making it more difficult to find an affordable home for many. 1625ip has 200 units which help a handful of people.

Sponsors of the event OVO energy hosted the Sleep Out at their wonderful building on Temple Quay. My daughter Poppy was joining me this year as were 136 others who felt this was a worthy cause. As I signed in at the reception, I was met by the CEO, Dom of 1625ip who thanked me for attending again and complimented me on my write-up on last year’s event. Along the corridor, I bumped into Jamie, Pilar and later on, Tia (also of 1625ip) who were pleased to see me returning. In the atrium, everyone was gathering to enjoy the start of the evening with ‘Pieminister’ donating 200 pies and ‘Friska’, who have a cafe there as well as across Bristol, kept us refreshed until midnight and provided Brioche breakfast rolls from 7am. Entertainers also gave up their evening to come and entertain us with dancers, a magician and musicians taking to the stage.

At 8pm, we listened to Steven of Ovo talk to us about the Ovo Foundation which invests in projects helping youth poverty. Dom of 1625ip then talked about the evening with some shocking figures including how the average age of death for a homeless male is 47 (Huffington Post figures for UK average 79) while for females it is 43 (HP = 82). He also mentioned that Beau, who was supported by 1625ip and volunteered at last year’s sleep out, sadly died earlier this year age just 21. Na was  back this year to talk again about his experience of being homeless and how he would be kicked about in broad daylight with people walking by preferring not to get involved. On another occasion, he was actually set on fire. Na now helps out at 1625ip because, as he explained to me last year, the charity saved his life.

Esme of the Bristol Post came and chatted with me about why I was doing the event and admitted that she was rather nervous about taking part. Even the Lord Mayor of Bristol was sleeping out tonight at age 72.

At the end of the evening, before we headed to bed, we were treated to a bedtime story by children’s author Oliver Rigby who read his first book ‘The Bristol Giants’ which was the best selling children’s book in Bristol last Christmas. He then read us his new book, ‘The Bristol Giants Save Christmas’ which everyone enjoyed.

Tonight’s weather was not good with winds and heavy rain causing us to head to Ovo’s covered car park to set up our beds for the night. There was plenty of cardboard to put down onto the cold, concrete floor plus some large waxed paper sacks to get inside with our sleeping bags. Once it stopped raining, some decided to chance the weather and go outside but by 3am, their cardboard and sleeping bags were sodden. The night was noisy with the sound of sirens and vehicles, the wind whistling through and the temperature dropping. I would say I had a maximum of 2 hours sleep all night and ached next day from the hard floor. After breakfast, I said goodbye to everyone and headed to the station in the rain and was soaked through by the time I got there. I was pleased to know that the next night, I would be sleeping in my comfortable bed but was also sad that knowing how tired, cold and wet I was, for many, that’s a normal day for them.

#sleepout, #brizzz, #homeless, #homelessness

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Another Taste of Being Homeless

Sleep Mask at the ready!

Sleep Mask at the ready!

In a few days time, I will be returning to the streets of Bristol and spending another night under the stars (or rain clouds!) to raise awareness of the homeless which affects 80,000 people. The charity 1625 independent people helps young people aged 16 to 25 ‘reboot’ their lives. I took part in this event last year to get an insight to homelessness and it opened my eyes to the sad situation that too many are in. You can read my story by typing sleep bristol into the search bar on my home page then come back soon for my latest report on this year’s event.

If you would like to help my fundraising for this event, please visit:

http://www.justgiving.com/KeithHunt501

Thank you.

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Stand Up To Cancer Campaign 2015

Here I am preparing to abseil during the London 3 Peaks 2014

Here I am preparing to abseil during the London 3 Peaks 2014

Lots of people have been discovering my blog as they prepare to take part in this year’s London 3 Peaks on Sunday 11th October. Check out YouTube and type in London 3 Peaks Movie to see more photos I took during my challenge last year. There will be lots of events taking place across the country on Friday 9th October for the Stand up To Cancer campaign which I will also be involved in. Look out for one near you!

You can read my report for last year’s challenge by typing London 3 Peaks in the search bar at the top of my Home Page.

Channel 4’s live show takes place on Friday 17th October 2015.

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My Visit to the UK’s Latest Theme Park

Dismaland Bemusement Park

Dismaland Bemusement Park

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I was lucky (or should I say unlucky) enough to get hold of much sought after tickets to the ‘Dismaland Bemusement Park’ in Weston Super Mare which I visited this week with Poppy. Our admission time was 11am so we arrived on time and were directed across the road onto the green into a massive queue which was zig zagging slowly between barriers where we were treated like cattle for the first hour until reaching the front of the queue. I got the feeling that this is part of the ‘fun’ to get rid of any smiles and laughter because if you dare to laugh or giggle on walking through the airport style entrance, you are likely to be taken to one side until you are miserable. The next step is to try and get hold of a leaflet you are offered as you go in though this is a challenge as to may have to beg for it, snatch it or watch as the grumpy looking man screws it up into a ball and drops it on the ground for you to retrieve.

Dismaland has been set up onto a derelict site on Weston’s Sea Front which was a popular water fun park (The Tropicana) back in the eighties. Parts of the pool and other features have been adapted for alternative art features which is the idea of Banksy who has been joined by other artists including Damien Hurst.

The weather forecast had been wind and heavy rain today which would have made it even more dismal but the sun came out and it was quite warm. There is plenty to see in a couple of hours but ideally, you need a good three hours once inside. You can wander around the ‘park’ and look at the pool where a police riot van is partly submerged with a slide coming out of the side, admire the whale emerging from a toilet to jump through a hoop into a paddling pool, sit in a deck chair and watch an even more controversial version of Punch and Judy or you might like to try your luck at ‘Topple The Anvil’ (alternative coconut shy) with 3 ping pong balls for £1.00. You might be lucky enough to be thrown a wristband for your efforts. There is a Carousel to ride where a couple of horses have been removed. If you look closer at the photo, you will see why! There is a rifle range which looks like someone used a machine gun on it and a chance to ‘Hook a Duck from the Muck’ where you could win a fish finger in a bag. With an alternative Mini Golf (with oil slick) and a kiosk offering ‘Pocket Money Loans’, you can also visit some indoor areas where there more ‘attractions’ including ‘The Dance of Death’ with the Grim Reaper riding a dodgem to the sound of ‘Staying Alive’, some very clever animations, a miniature town at night-time full off blue flashing lights, sculptures and plenty of wall art. In the centre of the ‘park’ is a replica of the iconic ‘Sleeping Beauty’s Castle’ (ruin) which you can go inside to see even more. There is food available on site and a bar overlooking the site.

I didn’t realise quite how much there would be to see and wished I had time to stay longer. I dare not say I enjoyed it in case I get into trouble from the legal team!

Dismal and Bemusement Part is open daily until 27th September 2015.

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