Today I had the privilege of joining David Matthews on his Listening Walk as he walked between Turnpike Lane and Walthamstow. It’s a tiny fraction of his 6000-mile journey between all 200 Samaritans branches in England, Scotland and Wales. David is just an ordinary guy like you and I with no special training or military background – his mission grew from volunteering at his local Samaritans, to a plan to visit all his local branches, then snowballed to visiting every single branch Great Britain!
The COVID pandemic has meant he’s had to break up the adventure as the country has locked down. But with mental health issues quadrupling as people have struggled with what COVID and isolation means to them during lockdown David feels this journey is now more important than ever.
David has already covered over 4000 miles and plans to finish in November. To take some of the effort out of his epic navigation feat we let Slow Ways take the strain, walking Woodwal Slow Way (Wood Green to Walthamstow) which didn’t let us down. The Slow Ways route will certainly get a recommended status from us when we complete our reviews. It was well drawn, and there were no access issues. Access is an important issue for David as he is carrying a 40kg walking trailer containing his clothes and camping equipment. Too many styles or obstacles can be a problem but not so today as we walked alongside this cycling Quiet Way across East London.
Despite it being a baking hot day David is full of energy, saying ‘hello’ to everybody we meet and happily stopping for selfies with the numerous people who stop to ask about his journey. Although a country man at heart David was equally at home in the urban sprawl of East London. I was overwhelmed by the friendliness received from everybody we met.
Our conversation ranged between talking about the environment, the challenges of transport, the pollution we felt from the city’s roads, through David’s time volunteering at the Samaritans and his dream for there to be on site counselling services at each of England’s schools.
You can keep track of David’s remarkable journey on his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. Already he’s raised over £13,000 for the Samaritans. If you’d like to support this amazing cause you can do so via his giving page.
So if you see a friendly man wearing a blue t-shirt towing a 40kg walking trailer be sure to say hello and ask him where he is going to today.