20-year-old Cam Mackellar from Bedford, and Kieron Gibson, 21, from Newcastle, are second year students at the University of York. They are taking on the iconic Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk this July to raise funds for national healthcare charity Sue Ryder, which cared for their friend’s mother at the end of her life.
Cam who studies law and Kieron who studies economics decided to take on the challenge after being inspired by the palliative care that Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading provided to the mother of their friend Naomi.
“Kieron, Naomi and I met in our first year at the University of York and we quickly became really good friends,” said Cam. “Unfortunately, we found out the sad news that Naomi wouldn’t be able to come back to university in the second year because her mum had been diagnosed with cancer, and we saw how affected she was by the situation.”
Naomi’s mum, Rachel Anne Barlow, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in October 2022 and died four months later in February 2023 aged just 56.
Talking about her family’s experience of Sue Ryder’s care, Naomi, who is from Reading, said: “The palliative care and bereavement support provided by Sue Ryder was crucial to ensuring my mum could be as comfortable as possible when her life was coming to an end.
“Although the pain of my mum’s passing can never be healed, the comfortable ending she was able to receive provided my family with the reassurance that she got the best possible care. It is through charities like Sue Ryder that the dark days are a little less darker, and the pain of losing a loved one can reach a peaceful end.”
To support Naomi in memory of her mum, and raise awareness of the services that Sue Ryder provides, Kieron and Cam are now preparing to walk almost 200 miles from St Bee’s in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. They will set off on Monday 3 July and hope to finish on Sunday 16 July.
Nouse caught up with the York students to hear how they have been preparing for their challenge. Cam told Nouse, “We’ve been going to the gym a lot more recently to get ourselves ready and ensure we’re as fit as we can be. We have all our equipment too and visited Robin Hood’s Bay together to test out our gear and get used to the terrain”.
The famous walk is 190-miles and a physically enduring challenge. Nouse asked the York students, before training, what was the longest distance they had walked. Kieron explained, “I’ve never done anything similar to this before. The longest distance I’ve done was in fact during training where we walked 10 miles at Robin Hood’s Bay”. Cam had a bit more experience explaining, “I’ve done Duke of Edinburgh and the West Highland Way with my family”.
Nouse also asked which part of England in the coast to coast walk the friends were most looking forward to visiting. They both agreed it was the Lake District. Came added, “We are both really looking forward to taking on this challenge as the walk will take us through the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors. We’re going to be camping out for the majority of the journey while carrying all our gear, so it’s definitely going to be a serious physical and mental test for us”.
The group added that the walk has taken quite a bit of planning including sorting the route, accommodation, camp sites, equipment and the fundraising. Kieron even confessed that he has only ever camped at festivals but is excited to try a different style of camping.
The York students think the walk will take them two weeks. Nouse asked the friends how they would keep each other motivated. They explained, “we plan to play a lot of music and games along the way. The weather should be good as well which will definitely help!”.
Nouse followed up, asking the students their go-to snack on the walk. For Kieron, it is pistachios whereas Cam prefers dried mango. They then explained the importance of their snacks since for their walk their meals will be mostly from tins or pubs. Kieron said, “We have a gas canister and trangia so we are able to cook some basic meals from a tin, on days where we are wild camping. But there will be pubs along the route to refuel”.
The lads will be carrying their gear on their 190-mile walk. Nouse asked how heavy their bags were. Cam explained, “We anticipate that our bags will weigh anywhere between 15-20 kg but this could vary day to day depending on what food we have, whether our gear is wet etc”.
To help with motivation, Nouse also asked what their favourite song and artist are to listen to when walking. Kieron explained, “I love a bit of soul music, so my go-to song would be something by Jeff Buckley”. Cam added, “For me, it’s probably something by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Sam Fender”.
Nouse concluded by asking why the York friends decided to do the walk. Kieron explained, “We were inspired by people online doing the walk, and it really appealed to us. We both had free time over summer and the end of the walk is relatively close to York. Most importantly, however, we thought it would be a good opportunity to fundraise for Naomi’s mum’s cause”.
Cam added, “We’re so determined to do this as we were deeply moved by the dedicated care provided by Sue Ryder and wanted to honour Rachel by supporting the charity’s vital work. We’d be so grateful for any donations to support us along the way – it really will make a difference to people who are going through the most difficult times of their lives.”
They ended the interview by explaining the reaction of their friend Naomi when they first told her they were walking 190 miles in honour of her mum. Cam said, “Her family were very thankful and overwhelmed that we had chosen to raise money for her mum Rachel. Naomi is actually meeting us at the end of the walk as well to support us”.
The York friends have already surpassed their fundraising target of £1000 and are continuing to raise more money. To donate to Sue Ryder for Cameron and Kieron’s walk, you can find their fundraising page here.