Ten days. Thirty people. Nearly three hundred miles. Millions of steps contributed by remote walkers across the country. It could only be the Big Step 5.
Last Sunday, following a herculean effort, a group of over 30 of us arrived at Wembley Stadium. Ten days earlier we’d set off from Scotland, covering almost 300 miles on our journey, with many others joining us for sections of the walk to support us.
Along the way, there was plenty of sunburn, blisters and bruises, but nothing was going to stop us – we were walking for change and in memory of those who have lost their lives as a result of their gambling addiction.
We honoured to be supported by of hundreds of remote walkers from around the country, all contributing millions of steps toward a shared cause and calling for an end to gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.
Read more: The Big Step 5: why we’re walking
Scotland to Wembley
We were given a splendid send-off as we left Gretna on Friday, with their youth team cheering us on as we began our long journey south. Some members of the Carlisle Supporters’ Club even joined us on the first leg of the walk, along with Ronnie Cowan MP, which took us from Gretna across the border to Carlisle – another club that gave us a fantastic reception.
From Carlisle, we walked to Kendal and then Lancaster, where we were wonderfully accommodated by both clubs, and then across the Lake District on Sunday. The hilly terrain and the hot sun made for tough going, but we persevered and arrived in Preston by Monday. On Monday evening, the Channel 4 documentary ‘Football’s Gambling Addiction’ aired, which provided a timely reminder of why we were walking.
Whenever fatigue kicked in, we were spurred on by the fantastic support of the public we received on our route. Countless cars beeped their horns and cheered us on as they drove past a sea of yellow t-shirts, people stopped to talk and lend us their support, and complete strangers donated online to buy us a drink and food.
A turning tide
The amazing support we experienced on the walk just goes to show how public opinion on gambling reform has changed over the past few years, as did the plentiful media coverage. Barely a lunch stop went past without someone finding a quiet spot for a radio interview or a BBC news team turning up.
People from all walks of life stopped to speak with us and shared stories of their loved ones’ battles with gambling addiction, which laid bare the scale of the problem we’re facing but motivated us to complete the walk.
The next few days took us across the Pennines to Manchester, including a 31-mile slog in a single day, then across the Peak District from Stockport County FC, who also gave us a fantastic welcome as we met with local councillors and the club stuff at the ground.
A long day of walking along the flat path next to the Trent and Mersey Canal followed, and was a welcome change from the Peaks, as we arrived in Nuneaton by nightfall, with Wembley inching closer by the step. By Saturday, we’d arrived at Luton Town FC’s Kenilworth Road Stadium, where the wonderful staff accommodated us in the ground.
We were now on the home straight, and before long, the welcoming sight of Wembley’s arches came into view. The sun was bleating down on the hottest day of year, but we were there.
We’d made it. Nearly 300 miles in 10 days.
Each walker’s determination and commitment kept the others going. That is a force to be reckoned with, and cannot be silenced.
The wonderful remote walkers
Alongside the Scotland–Wembley walk, hundreds of walkers supported us from up and down the country, contributing well over 11 million steps between them – a total distance of 4,698 miles!
That’s the same distance it would take to walk from London to Mount Everest. Among the remote walkers were several parliamentarians, including Dawn Butler, Paul Blomfield and Margaret Ferrier.
We were genuinely overwhelmed by the support of the remote walkers, and of people we met along the way. When the going got tough – and believe me it really did – they helped to keep us going.
To everyone that walked, supported, donated and tooted their horns at us – thank you.