Kathy undertakes 200 mile trek to support Sussex hospices

Hospice supporter Kathy Gore has completed the achievement of walking all 200 miles of the Sussex Hospice Trail.Here Kathy recounts her journey.

Kathy Gore Walk 3 SUS-200814-113918001
Kathy Gore Walk 3 SUS-200814-113918001

Hospice supporter Kathy Gore has completed the achievement of walking all 200 miles of the Sussex Hospice Trail.

Here Kathy recounts her journey.

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I’ve always felt passionately about supporting hospice care – and have fund raised and beaten the drum for it over the past 25 years. However, I hadn’t until recently experienced personally how very special that care is.

Kathy Gore Hospice Walk 2 SUS-200814-110024001

Two years ago my husband, Jack, was able to die peacefully at home with me thanks to the support of St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne. In March, just a couple of weeks before lockdown, my sister, Mary, died in St Helena’s Hospice in Colchester. We, her family, were able to be with her round the clock. Her pain and symptoms were controlled and her death was peaceful and just as she’d have wanted it. I can’t tell you how much that meant to us.

COVID-19 has created serious challenges for our hospices, with fundraising events cancelled and shops closed but demand for their services is undiminished and likely to increase due to late diagnoses and delayed treatment.

I thought a solo, socially distanced, walk would highlight their plight and raise funds to help bridge some of that huge funding gap. From July 1 to July 31 I walked the Sussex Hospices Trail and it was a truly wonderful experience. I saw parts of the county I’ve never seen before. I was blessed with good weather and the footpaths were clear and dry the whole way round.

I was able to use the walk as a meditative journey to explore what was important in my life. I connected with nature and could see the vibrant beauty of so many living things. I met some lovely people on the way who helped me when I was lost or shared a smile or a brief chat.

Kathy Gore Walk Arun riverside SUS-200817-092353001

I called at each of the 13 hospice care providers FSH supports. Hospices have suffered huge losses of income due to the pandemic and many will have to draw on reserves to continue delivering vital care.

Hospice nursing teams have had to overcome the difficulties of wearing face masks and distancing which go against the ethos of hospice care, where touch and facial expression are the primary language of compassion. Before COVID-19 most hospice care was delivered in people’s homes and in care homes, working alongside district nurses and GPs. With patients and their loved ones fearing separation many more have opted for hospice at home care.

The circular Sussex Hospices Trail was created by Friends of Sussex Hospices (FSH) in 2016 to link the areas served by the 13 adult and children’s hospice care providers across Sussex. It has 26 sections, ranging in distance from three to eleven miles.

Section 1 – Chichester to Barnham - took me alongside the Chichester Ship Canal with the most fabulous view from Poyntz Bridge of spire of Chichester Cathedral, a scene captured on canvas by J W Turner in 1828.

Kathy Gore Walk at Burwash Common SUS-200817-091647001

Section 3 – Arundel to Goring - started along the Wildfowl and Wetlands Nature Reserve - the view looking back at Arundel Castle in the early morning sunshine was uplifting.

Section 5 - Shoreham to Brighton – took me through Shoreham Port and across the bridges of Shoreham Lock on a very blustery day.

Section 6 – Brighton to Southease – combined coastal and pastoral paths. I was fascinated by a snail colony I spied in a derelict wooden gate post on the Downs.

Section 9 - Eastbourne to Normans Bay - was a pleasant seaside stroll with interesting features such as the four Martello Towers.

Kathy Gore Hospice Walk 1 SUS-200814-110013001

Section 11 – West St Leonards to Crowhurst - took me through the Combe Valley Countryside Park, which has 2,456 recorded species of wildlife. Section 12 – Crowhurst to Battle – took me along Senlac Hill ridge, the site of the Battle of Hastings, to finish at Battle Abbey.

Section 15 – Etchingham to Burwash Common – On this section I was joined by the actor Robert Bathurst, an FSH patron, who walked with me from Bateman’s to Burwash Common.

Section 19 - North Chailey to Haywards Heath – commenced at Chailey Windmill with some fantastic views from its elevated site. The mill stands next to an ancient yew tree which is said to mark the centre of the historic county of Sussex.

Section 24 – Pulborough to Amberley – the trail crosses the River Arun at various points, one crossing being via Greatham Bridge, a scheduled historic monument and a special feature of the lovely Arun valley.

Section 26 – Halnaker to Chichester – I was treated to outstanding panoramic views from the top of St Roche’s Hill and, on the Centurian Way, I met The Chichester Road Gang, an army of spade-wielding Roman workers made of scrap metal, the creation of sculptor, David Kemp. I took asylum from what had been the hottest day of the year in the cool and majestic interior of Chichester Cathedral and celebrated the end of the walk with a visit to St Wilfrid’s hospice at Bosham.

I’m bowled over by how generous people have been in supporting my walk – to date it has raised £38,500. Anyone wishing to add to this can do so via the Friends of Sussex Hospices website.

Kathy Gore Walk 4 SUS-200814-113929001

If you would like to walk a section of the Trail as part of our ‘Walk The Hospice Trail’ event on Saturday October 3, you can register on the Sussex Hospices Trail website. Any money raised can go to your local hospice or to FSH.

Hospice care doesn’t cure people but it does a lot of healing. It doesn’t add days to life but it adds quality of life to the days that remain. Friends of Sussex Hospices champions and raises funds for the 13 hospice care providers that serve the adults and children of Sussex. The charity is run entirely by volunteers and since it started, 25 years ago, it has distributed over £3 million.