The Long March

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It’s not every day a pike-bearing helmeted soldier walks straight out of the English Civil War into the Yorkshire Dales.

And it’s definitely not every Civil War soldier who travels the country armed with a pike, a sword and a GPS-enabled Blackberry phone!

Meet Malcolm Cray, aka The Pikeman, who’s walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End to raise funds for the charity Help or Heroes. He’s walking the entire route in the uniform of a Parliamentarian pikeman – which includes heavy chest and back armour, a weighty iron helmet, and rather authentic clothing, all of which weighs a ton… well, not a ton, but when he left Dunnett Head almost 40 days ago he was struggling under 80lb of gear.

His kit isn’t the usual mix of outdoor gear you might be familiar with. Take my word for it, walking in the sweltering heat we’ve had this week, bearing a burden like this, takes extraordinary commitment and resolve.

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Malcolm had arrived at Horton-in-Ribblesdale after a Pennine Way deluge on Wednesday afternoon; his kit – not an ounce of Gore-Tex among it – was sodden and heavy, the traditional dyes had run through his layers of clothing… most of us would have thrown in the towel at that stage.

But I shared a couple of hours with Malcolm over breakfast at his comfy Horton B&B at Broad Croft House, Thursday morning and was extremely impressed by his focus and determination to succeed at the great challenge he’s set himself, to raise money for Help for Heroes and raise awareness of the great risks that members of the Armed Forces are making.

Malcolm’s a re-enactment enthusiast; nevertheless, this is an extreme undertaking and one that has problems most walkers wouldn’t imaging: the chafing, the rubbing of the heavy armour, the weight of the satchels his gear is carried in – they didn’t have rucksacks back in them days!

Malcolm, who recently left the Royal Navy after 23 years, looks to be well on target to meet his £10,000 target.

To find out more, visit his website here; to donate to his great cause, try this site.

John Manning

Freelance outdoor writer John Manning and his family are based in the Yorkshire Dales

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