South West Coast Path challenge

Mon, Aug 20th 2018 at 9:00 am- Wed, Oct 17th 2018 - 4:00 pm

Former Club President Chris Dowse is walking the entire 632 miles of the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Poole to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and Rotary Foundation's 'End Polio Now'. His trek will end on his 70th birthday.

Chris is drawing attention to his challenge by flying RFUK's 'Stop Polio Now' helium balloons from his back pack and is carrying copies of the promotional leaflet which he and his Rotarian colleagues produced earlier in the year.  He also has a stock of Crieff Rotary pennants that he hopes to exchange with those from the various West Country clubs he plans to visit on the way.

Walk updates:


By Tuesday 21 August:  Chris started on time and had also visited the Rotary Club of Minehead.  He was now well underway, although three of his balloons had already burst on gorse bushes! 


By Tuesday 28 August:  His wife reported that she had dropped Chris at Westward Ho! that morning from where he was walking to Clovelly.  The going was hard – very up and down – but he had reported that he was going well.  He would have completed 100 miles when he reached Clovelly that afternoon.  It was now dry but Sunday had been horrendously wet, as it was everywhere across the UK.  She had collected a partially drowned and dripping Chris when he got to Instow at the end of the day's walk.  The balloons were working well – already attracting attention and donations!


By Tuesday 4 September:  Chris himself reported he had covered 154 miles with no blisters, etc.  He had fallen the previous day, bending his pole and denting his flask, but his pride was intact as no-one was watching!  He would be visiting the Rotary Club of Padstow that evening.  Incidentally, a check on his Virgin Giving page showed that he had already achieved 113% of his funding target – the total plus Gift Aid being £7,418.25 while a further £1,652 had been raised offline.


Extra update on Thursday 6 September:  Chris sent the following at 1120am:  "Just read the latest update – brilliant, thank you!  I'm high up on a cliff having my coffee and looking towards Newquay in the distance, my objective today.  When I get there I will have walked 191 miles which becomes the longest walk I've ever done (the Pembokeshire Coast Path is 188).  All going well so far and still no blisters.  Flying balloons really works and yesterday, which was lovely weather-wise, I collected £82 with £25 on line in the evening!  I had to work hard though and talk to every man and his dog!  Quite a number of people take photos of the 'prat with the balloons'!  Anyway, must get cracking and I will send another update in due course."


By Tuesday 11 September:  On Sunday Chris spoke to many people on the trail, two of whom contributed online and many of whom gave him some cash.  He and his wife met friends for supper in St Ives and he was given another cheque.  He is amazed at how generous people are – even when he finished that day's walk a lady came up to him in the car park while he was putting his rucksack away and gave him some money!  His wife managed to obtain fresh supplies of helium so that the balloons were once more flying properly from Monday (he had managed over the weekend by merely blowing them up with air).  After 18 hard miles on Monday, he has now completed 232 miles.  The Scoreboard is ticking over well and he should get to Lands End this week.


By Tuesday 18 September:  Chris reached The Lizard yesterday and completed 300 miles of walking since setting out from Minehead.  He expects to reach the halfway point (316 miles) tomorrow.  On Monday he met his first Rotarian on the path – Chris Scruby who sends greetings from the Rotary Club of Oxford North, which Chris reciprocated on our behalf.  Today, he and his wife (Chris) are looking forward to visiting the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard.  Also, by 0900 this morning, the donations and Gift Aid total had reached £8,762.56 which is 134% of his target!

Five days later, the total raised had reached £9,488.42.  With the Gates Foundation matching all Rotary polio campaign donations on a 2 for 1 basis, this means that Chris has already enabled the RFUK 'Stop Polio Now' fund to be increased by £13,164.38 while Prostate Cancer UK will benefit by £4,744.21 – and the money is still rolling in!


By Tuesday 25 September:  Chris got to Par on Monday afternoon, so 372 miles now completed and still no blisters!  He reports that the balloons are working well – they help uphill but one has to work hard to pull them downhill!  Monday was Day 31 which leaves only 20 walking days, if all goes according to plan.  He escaped the worst day of weather on Saturday by taking it off as a rest day – whereas we in Scotland enjoyed an excellent sunny weekend, of course!  It has been very windy in the south west of England, except on Monday which was one of the quietest – helping the balloons to fly well.

He and wife Chris have just had an enjoyable evening with the Rotary Club of St Austell Bay which meets in a pub near where they are staying, so that was quite easy.  Tomorrow they are out to meet friends for supper and more will be coming to walk with him for a few days next week.  He also plans to meet an old friend from his time in Lincolnshire (Chris is an Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Market Rasen); this friend moved to South Devon which is convenient for the next major stage of Chris's walk.  Everything is still on schedule for the walk to end on 17th October, Chris's 70th birthday.


By Tuesday 2 October:  Chris supplied a quick update on Monday evening:  "Reached Salcombe this afternoon, so now completed 453 miles.  Weather still excellent and today was like summer!  I had a friend walking with me for the last couple of days.  Fund still growing well thanks to the generosity of many people I meet while I'm walking.  Day 37 tomorrow so only 14 left by tomorrow evening.  All downhill now except for the uphills!"

Three days later, the total he had raised reached £9,135.60.  With Gift Aid, his 50:50 split and the 2 for 1 matching from the Gates Foundation on Rotary Polio donations, the current value to the two charities Chris is supporting would be £5,141.93 to Prostate Cancer UK and £15,425.79 to RFUK 'Stop Polio Now'.


By Tuesday 9 October:  Chris reached Sidmouth yesterday afternoon 527 miles done now and only 103 left.  He reports that the balloons are still working their magic!  He had a friend walking with him for three days last week and who put the experience on Facebook with remarkable results!  Scoreboard still ticking over....

Callum MacLeod (Crieff's SVP) has arranged to meet Chris and Chris in Weymouth for a pub meal on Sunday 14th – just three days before the end of this epic trek.


By Sunday 14 October:  Callum duly met Chris and Chris in Weymouth and all three enjoyed an excellent evening meal in a pleasant restaurant opposite the railway station.  Callum handed over the 70th birthday card that had been signed by all Rotarians attending the previous Tuesday's Club meeting.  Chris explained that earlier in the day he had completed the circuit of Portland Bill which actually brought him back to where he had started that morning.  On Monday he planned to continue to Lulworth Cove but on Tuesday he would face his first obstruction as the Army had advised him that the Lulworth Ranges would be closed for training, blocking a two-mile section of the SW Path between West Lulworth and Swanage; wife Chris would need to drive him on the twelve-mile diversion around that section.

Callum subsequently warned Crieff Rotarians at Tuesday's Club meeting to expect a greatly slimmed-down version of our colleague when he finally returns to us on 23rd October!


By Wednesday 17 October:  Under the heading 'Cracked It!'. Chris sent Callum the following email on Thursday morning:

"Just thought you would like to know that I got to the finishing post yesterday at 2.30pm as planned where Chris had arranged a celebration of both my walk and birthday.  I had two of my grandchildren with me on the day and a half as well as their dad.  The weather on the final four days was a bit dull but the rain only really arrived as we were enjoying our bubbles.  I wonder what passers-by thought!?  

Thank you for all your help and support and for meeting us the other night which was very enjoyable.  See you on Tuesday evening..."



Chris and his wife rejoined the Crieff members at the Club meeting on Tuesday 23 October.  With the kind assistance of Assistant Governor (Area 7) John Holme, President Trevor Rae surprised Chris by first presenting him with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award which included a certificate, lapel pin and pendant.  He then went on to present Chris with a 4-jewel Multiple Paul Harris Fellowship lapel pin, pointing out that Rotary GB&I's Foundation HQ at Alcester had immediately insisted that Chris's achievement in gaining over £16,000 for the 'Stop Polio Now' camapign had merited this 'instant' promotion!

Finally, in gratitude for her assistance in getting Chris to and from his daily walks, President Trevor presented Mrs Chris Dowse with a large box of Guliyan Seashell chocolates as a special thank you from the Club.

A final picture has now been added to the picture show above.



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Former Club President Chris Dowse is walking the entire 632 miles of the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Poole to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and Rotary Foundation's 'End Polio Now'. His trek will end on his 70th birthday.


Chris Harnish, who happens to be the son of one of the Benzie Sunrise club members, is working to build a medical centre in Malawi and will update everyone on progress to date.

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