Woman on mammoth trek around UK “absolutely overwhelmed” by Swanage welcome

As part of a four year journey walking around the British Isles – raising an impressive £70,000 for charity on the way – Karen Penny described the kindness of Swanage residents as “very moving.”

She is currently embarking on a herculean voyage – walking all the way around the coastline of both Great Britain and Ireland to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.


Since January 2019, when she set off from her home in the Gower in Wales, she has spent most of her days walking along this route.

The coronavirus lockdown put her plans on hold for a while, but now she is back on the road, heading east along the south coast of England.

After heading from her home in Wales at the end of lockdown and journeying round the tip of Cornwall, she has been walking around the South West Coast Path via towns including Lyme Regis and Weymouth.

She stopped by Swanage on Sunday 25th October 2020.

Walking for Alzheimer’s research

Karen is undertaking her gargantuan journey to raise both awareness and money for Alzheimer’s research in the UK.

She was inspired to walk in support of the charity after members of her own family fell ill with the condition. After running a marathon and doing a similar walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End for the charity – and raising £6,000 in the process – she decided to follow up with her current journey.

Karen added that during her travels, she has spoken to numerous people with similar family stories.

She said: 

“The support has been absolutely formidable, because there’s nobody I’ve spoken to who doesn’t know somebody who lives with Alzheimers and dementia. That’s the reason why I’m doing it.”

On her JustGiving page, she further explained:

“Many people have preconceptions about dementia, and often, it is only when someone is personally affected that they begin to find out about it.

“Dementia has had a profound impact upon our family. During the last 10 years we have lost two very dear family members. 

“Alma who succumbed to the effects of vascular dementia in a matter of months, and Kingsley, who  deteriorated to such an extent both mentally and physically that ultimately he couldn’t even recognise family members.​“

Karen Penny raising money for Alzheimers in Swanage

Big support from Swanage

Karen’s stop in Swanage was her first time visiting the town – and she said she was “overwhelmed” by the support she has received from the locals.

She explained:

“I’ve never been to Swanage. What’s lovely about it is that when we were children, our family holidays were always in Dorset. We used to come down to Dorchester, we used to go to Ansty, we used to be inland a little bit as opposed to being on the coast.

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed at the response that we’ve had to our JustGiving page from people who’ve put donations online that I’ve never met and they’ve put anonymous donations on but they’ve said: you don’t know me but I’m a resident from Swanage and thank you for doing what you’re doing for Alzheimer’s. That is very moving and very motivating for me.”

“People think I’m mad”

Karen now more than halfway through her journey – and even closer to the £100,000 target on her JustGiving page.

After Swanage, she is heading to the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. After that, she’ll continue around England up the east coast with a view to finishing in Shetland in around 14 months time.

She said:

“I do love walking. I’ve always walked. I’ve walked the path from Wales north to south, and I’ve walked John O’Groats to Land’s End. Walking is in my bones. I love it.”

But despite having to brace the odd spell of bad weather, she said she thinks her lengthy voyage is worth it and is making a difference.

She added: 

“People think I’m mad. But the beauty about being mad is that the initials spell MAD, which means Makes A Difference – and that’s the way you’ve got to look upon it.

“You’ve got to step outside the box, and step outside the security of your own home and do something a little bit different just to make people sit up and talk about something that’s important, which is Alzheimer’s.”

Find out more details about Karen’s fundraiser on her JustGiving page.

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