Buddy Bag Teddy on Wrekin
Buddy at the top of the Wrekin

A businessman recovering from a severe joint disorder that left him unable to walk has trekked up the Wrekin 12 times – covering 200k – to raise money for those fleeing domestic violence.

Neil Hargreaves, a sign-maker and printer, from Great Wyrley, made the 16k trip round the Wrekin 12 times on behalf of his company Q Safe Solutions which is part of Aqua Sign and Print – completing a third of a million steps.

He has managed to raise half of his £1,400 total for Midlands charity the Buddy Bag Foundation, that provides bags of essentials and home comforts for children in emergency care after fleeing violent homes. https://buddybagfoundation.co.uk/.

His 200k mission is particularly remarkable as four years ago he could not walk due to a severe case of saturated gout, a type of arthritis that runs in Neil’s family but was triggered when he contracted Rheumatic fever. His doctor saw little hope of improvement so told him to register as disabled.

The gout affected all his joints and the pain was so unbearable he was confined to a chair and couldn’t hold a glass of water.

“The pain got so bad towards the end, at one point I hadn’t left the house in nine months, and I didn’t know if I could carry on” he said.

After 18 months of physio, a long-term course of medication and a diet designed by a specialist, Neil can not only walk but is fitter than ever and walking has become his passion. Walking 150,000 steps a week he has not let his disorder stop him.

“I was determined to not let it define me. I spent 18 months recovering both physically and mentally, now walking is a big part of my life,” he added.

“After 14 months of my treatment my doctor couldn’t believe how far I’d come but he hasn’t even seen me now.”

After facing many challenges including sub-zero temperatures, snow and lockdown restrictions Neil has now finished the walk but donations are still coming in.

The Wrekin hike was initially meant to be every day of the 12 days of Christmas, but when lockdown hit he was unsure of the rules and took a break. He then completed the challenge in January on his 55th birthday.

Father-of-four Neil said: “The hardest parts were the early starts and the freezing conditions, out of the 50 hours I spent walking 40 of them were in snow and ice. This made it so slippery and tricky to get to the top, so I ended up taking different routes and walking more than the 180km I originally planned.

“But I met so many people when hiking up there every day, and a strong sense of community developed because they were very supportive.”

Neil wanted to help a local charity and added: “I chose the Buddy Bag Foundation because they are so devoted to helping kids in need and 100 per cent of donations go towards this goal.”

Buddy Bag founder Karen Williams OBE said “What a brilliant effort by Neil.

“We are so thankful he chose the BBF to donate to and involve in his extraordinary journey.”

Neil’s now got his sights set on climbing Snowdon and Ben Nevis in the name of charity when lockdown is over. This is a far cry from four years ago when his joint disorder was causing him a lot of pain.

Neil’s JustGiving page can be found at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/qsafesolutions

Find out more about the Buddy Bag Foundation here: https://buddybagfoundation.co.uk/.