Durham fresher walks 950 miles to the Somme for charity

He called it ‘essay procrastination at its worst’

At the end of last term, as most us were winding down, or alternatively getting ready for exams, Durham foundation year History student Jordan Blunsom decided to walk all the way from his university town to the Sommes memorial, in time for the centenary of the Battle of the Sommes on July 2nd.

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In a feat Jordan described as ‘essay procrastination gone wrong’, he decided to walk 950 miles, taking both the Pennines Way and the North Downs way, which made for some ‘pretty tough terrain.’ After spending the previous four and a half years in the army, inspiration came after binge-watching Levison Wood trekking in the Himalayas, and he saw the opportunity to raise funds for Walking with the Wounded, whose mission is to support veterans and family and provide them with long-term security.

On route

En route

When asked what the response to his epic 31-day journey was like, Blunsom said that “…people I’d never met in my life helped along the way, which was incredibly humbling. Obviously family and friends gave goodwill and donations, but I had absolute strangers paying for my meals or taking me in for the night. It gave me faith in humanity.”

Support from locals

Support from locals

But the trek was not without it’s challenges, as one day saw Jordan on the side of a peak near collapse, chugging water furiously as the sun beat down on him, a point described as ‘horrendous’. However, Jordan was not one to be defeated. A sore hamstring and Achilles forced him to take a rest day, and he told me:

“I felt begrudged I had to take even that really. At that point, when I’d reached halfway, I’d just caught up to my schedule, and then immediately I was behind a day again. You do set this challenge, so you don’t want to let anyone down. I’m quite competitive, I didn’t want to lose to myself.”

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“I always kept in mind the target of being there on July 2. I didn’t want to mess that up.”

As preparation for the walk conflicted with his studying time, it was only in the two weeks before the start date that he ‘started going mental and running everywhere’ and when it came to the walk, it became more a matter of ‘one foot in front of the other.’

Encouragement and support was posted daily on a Facebook page set up for the walk, and Jordan chronicled his journey in numerous photos and vlogs, which showed community and council members rally him as he made his way through the country.

Jordan vlogs from his tent

Jordan vlogs from his tent

Since returning home, Jordan has been enjoying a well-deserved rest. There weren’t any formal celebrations held to celebrate his walk, but his birthday is coming up next week, which he admitted will be “a messy one.”

Asked to describe the moment when he finally reached The Sommes:

“It’s hard to pin a single emotion on it. Obviously, it’s a very emotional sort of place, it’s a memorial with the names of 72,000 people whose bodies were never recovered, and that in itself is an incredibly overwhelming thing at any time, even without walking 950 miles, it’s pertinent on its own. After walking that sort of distance, to finally get where you were walking to for a month, it’s a relief, but it puts it all into perspective.”

Jordan arrives at the Sommes

Jordan arrives at the Somme

And when he thought the hard part was over, he then had to navigate his return journey to England without a phone. English tourists were eager to congratulate him on his success, and bought him ‘beer after beer after beer’ until he was in such a state a local French family took him in for the night. The next morning he left without his smartphone and had to sort his way home phoneless.

When asked whether he had any good tips for other trekkers, Blunsom stressed the importance of not underestimating the challenge, noting his luck that his nonchalance didn’t stop him completing his task. As well as this, inspired walkers should “use Vaseline on your feet instead of blister plasters!”

To donate to Jordan and Walking with the Wounded click here

Check out Jordan’s vlog about his experiences

@_phoebeharding

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