A man has walked all the way from the north of England to Poland for a charitable cause. Gordon Wilson covered a grand total of 1537.7 kilometres in aid of the Lions Clubs International Foundation and has raised over £3,000 so far. And he even managed to pop into Durham for a quick visit on the way.
Gordon got the idea when he decided to quit his teaching job in Manchester and move to Poznan, Poland, where he and his Polish wife, Ela, had lived previously.
Gordon said, “When you leave a job with savings, anything is possible – well, almost, my wife didn’t want me to go and do anything dangerous. So I decided to go straight home – on foot! How could she object?”
“Initially, she thought I was joking, but soon realised it was going ahead and was very supportive. Ela thinks it is a direct result of Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods!”
Gordon set off from Leeds Town Hall on 1st September. He walked through North and East Yorkshire then got the ferry from Hull before walking through Holland, Germany and Poland.
As well as camping in woods and sleeping in fields, Gordon stayed at the houses of supporters as well as with people he met along the way or online. Gordon said,
“Many people stopped to chat to me while I was walking, with six people actually inviting me into their homes as a complete stranger to feed me and offer me rest.”
“This generally was accompanied with being made to feel like a real part of the family and included in family activities.”
While walking through one Polish village, Gordon got talking to an elderly lady.
“I was invited into the house – or more like a demand I joined them for coffee. The lady didn’t have very much, but was so proud of her new coffee machine, which was by now pumping out delicious fragrant coffee. We sat and the owner discussed life. I learnt all about the hardships in the village, the fact her closest relatives had passed on and she only had one real friend left.”
“Then my phone rang – who could it be? It was my wife! She had followed my GPS beacon and was driving up and down the road worried as she couldn’t see me. I told her I’d come outside. I encouraged the elderly lady to join me and to her delight she saw my wife pull up on her nicely tended verge.”
“Ela told me she had a gift for me in the car. ‘What gift?’ I asked with surprise. Inside was a pile of bedding. I said, ‘It’s a lovely thought, but I really can’t take on more weight.’ Then the bedding moved and my cousin David emerged who I thought was in Newcastle! Well, the elderly lady was now in complete shock!”
“There was so much love and excitement shared before the lady went back inside to check she wasn’t dreaming! Ela drove off and David and I spent the next three days together walking along roads and forest paths.”
The walk was, however, not all easy as Gordon suffered from shin splints and was hospitalised in Germany after drinking contaminated water from a stream. After he left hospital, he decided to take a break and flew to Newcastle, where his wife was staying with his cousin.
Ela, however, didn’t know he was coming and Gordon surprised her in a pub where she was having lunch.
“Sneaking up to the table quietly, I presented her with flowers. What amazement! It was a wonderful experience!”
“We stayed in a small village for a few days and took a day trip to Durham, where we explored the cathedral and the new visitors’ centre as well as admiring the market and cobbled streets.”
His legs now pain-free, Gordon flew back to Germany and resumed his walk from the border town of Frankfurt Oder. He arrived at Poznan Town Hall on 12th November, while being filmed live by a local TV station. This led to Gordon and Ela becoming minor celebrities in Poland. They have been interviewed by several newspapers and have appeared on Polish national breakfast TV.
The money Gordon Wilson has raised will be split between two Lions Clubs International Foundation projects. The Lions’ Disaster Relief project gets emergency aid to people affected by disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, and also assists communities with long-term rebuilding efforts. The Humanitarian Efforts project empowers people with disabilities and addresses global health issues such as measles and diabetes.