Most of us were putting our feet up over the holidays.
But Ricky Simpson has been putting his best foot forward and walking 150 miles around London for the Royal National Institute for the Blind – with only 20 per cent vision.
The visually impaired English teacher has been taking a train from his home in Woolwich Road, Greenwich and walking 10 miles a day around the London Loop – and it’s actually helping him to isolate as Omicron numbers mushroom.
He has so far raised more than £3,100 for the charity.
But since he has lost 80 per cent of his vision – he is registered blind – he regularly gets lost.
He said: “I end up doing a lot more miles then I’m supposed to.
“People have been helping by walking with me a couple of days at a time.
“It’s cold and wet but COVID friendly.
“Weirdly, people don’t seem to want to go out at the moment – I don’t think they realise being outside is probably the safest place right now.
“I’m quite confident walking, using a stick to feel ground in front of me. I want to prove that it can be done because unfortunately people tend to regard us as redundant.”
Ricky also walked from John o’Groats to Land’s End over three months in the summer, raising almost £3,000.
He slept wherever he could find somewhere to pitch his tent – and was never moved on. Some of the places he stayed the night included stone circles, Thirsk Racecourse, a GCHQ listening post and a site where witches were burned in Scotland.
“None of that was planned,” he said. “Everyone along the route was brilliant and very helpful especially when I got lost.
“I can use Google Maps but mostly I follow the road.”
He was walking the stretch from Elstree to Cockfosters last Friday [Dec 31] when we spoke to him.
The former Street Buddy with homeless charity, The Connection at St. Martin’s in the West End, is preparing to start teaching English.
Born and raised in Harrogate, Yorkshire, he is a former accountant and mining engineer who studied at Imperial College, London and has two degrees.
His early entry on the London Loop for three weeks ago said: “Set off in the wrong direction from Addington village after asking another VI person. Got soaking wet, got lost again, got cold and now have a second blister. Also got rammed by a trolley in Tesco. Serves me right for going in through the exit.”
He joked later: “If you see me wandering along the road with my cane, feel free to to give me a shout; waving doesn’t work for me.”
His justgiving page says: “Two years ago I was suddenly diagnosed as Severely Sight Impaired (SSI). Bit of a shock. Never thought it would happen to me. A very traumatic and lonely period. I’m now stable and, touch wood, my residual sight will remain stable. Still working and fully independent, I intend to remain so and refuse to be institutionalised, despite occasionally bumping into things or falling down holes.
“Over the last two years, some wonderful people have helped me come to terms with my disability. Inspirational people from the blind community have included mountaineers, marathon runners, writers, singers, artists, comedians and tech geeks. The magnificent achievements of these people gives us all hope.
“Every day 250 people are told the life-changing news that they’re losing their sight. We want to ensure no one faces this diagnosis alone, and that people with sight loss can live independently in a world with no barriers in the way of the life they want to lead.”
He added: “I may lose my sight completely – some people with glaucoma don’t. Who knows? But I am not going to take it lying down. I want to prove Severe Sight Impairment is not a barrier to anything.”
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