A DOUGLAS woman is to embark on a 500-mile trek to support three Manx animal charities.
Kathleen Swan, who set off on Friday, plans to walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela om Spain where St James is reputed to be buried.
Mrs Swan, who lives with her husband Robert on Woodbourne Road, will be joined on the trek by a friend, Sarah Macdonald, from her native Canada.
‘I leave initially for Canada then we start the walk on March 19 and expect it to take about a month. We should be covering about 120 miles per week,’ she said.
The route is a well-trodden path with hostels to stay in along the way. Moreover villagers and householders on the route are used to offering support to the many people who have undertaken the pilgrimage over the years.
The purpose is to support three Manx charities. One of those is Paws for Therapy, which runs a programme of visits by dogs with their owners to the hospice, old people’s homes and similar institutions, to offer comfort and companionship to the residents.
The others are the Manx Greyhound Aid League and the Pets’ Aid League.
Mrs Swan was anxious to emphasis all money donated would go to the charities and none was being used to fund the trip which she is financing independently.
Though they would like to complete the whole trek there are contingency plans.
‘If for some reason it looks as if we won’t make it we could cycle some of it or even take the bus,’ she said.
Though there is a card-stamping system along the route to verify people have completed each section, it is still possible to claim the pilgrim’s credentials at the end.
‘But to get that credit you have to have walked at least the last 100 miles or, if you are cycling, you must have ridden the last 200 miles,’ she said.
‘We hope not to have to take the bus – but we are both old,’ she laughed. (She is in her 50s)
‘My husband is going to chart our progress from the Isle of Man using the map! I’m sure he will be rooting for us from the sidelines.’
Remarkably, up to 90 per cent of people attempt the walk without undertaking any training beforehand but she has avoided falling into this trap.
‘I do a bit of running as well as yoga and I’ve been walking a lot. To walk 20 miles per day for a month is significant. It’s not like doing a marathon where you complete it on the day then rest, instead you are walking day after day.’
There are actually five routes that can be followed between start and finish but Mrs Swan’s route is the best known as it is the one reputedly followed by St Francis in 1514.
‘There is also a more rugged northern route along the coast and some southern routes,’ she said.
‘And in the past 20 years or so there has been a real upsurge in people doing it. It starts off in the Pyrenees and the first few days are the toughest because you are climbing steeply then going down again, which can be even harder.’
As for celebrations at the end of the trek, she said: ‘I haven’t really planned that far! I suppose my ideal would be to find a really nice hotel and have a good long bath – and a sleep!’
Donations to support Mrs Swan’s trek can be made via her friends in the new animal charity shop at 4 Windsor Road in Douglas.
The shop, called Rhosyn, sells a range of clothing, furniture, decorative and household items and is also keen to receive donations of items, including small furniture, to sell.
To make donations or find out more call Rosie Richmond on 431272.