After his wife passed away, Terry Darby realised he needed a source of comfort in his life.
So he turned to reading books about pilgrimages and their meaning.
He was so blown away by the impact the religious treks had on people’s lives that he vowed to embark on one once he retired from his post as a school teacher.
Now 18 years later, Terry, of Knowsley Road, Cosham, has stayed true to his word and the challenge has taken on a new meaning.
Terry will embark on a 500-mile pilgrimage with his new partner, Helen Jenkins, from St Jean Pied de Port, in France, to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, on April 26.
The couple, who met three years after Terry’s wife, Helen, died, are doing it to raise money for Naomi House children’s hospice near Winchester.
They have chosen to support the charity because it was one of the causes supported by Bohunt School in Liphook – where Terry worked before he retired last July.
When the couple arrive at Santiago de Compostela they will visit a cathedral which holds the remains of the first Christian disciple James.
Terry, 76, says: ‘Now that I’ve retired I have all the time in the world to do exciting challenges.
‘This is one of them.
‘I’m not a particularly religious person, but I’ve read how much of an impact it can have on people’s lives.’
He says of the pilgrimage: ‘I don’t really know what to expect until we get there.
‘After my wife died I went through a rough stage and took to reading up on pilgrimages.
‘It was just something that I became really interested in.
‘Now this is about raising money for an excellent cause.
‘Hopefully all the kids at Bohunt will dig deep and raise some money too.’
Terry estimates it will take just a month to complete the mammoth trek.
‘We’re really looking forward to it,’ Terry says.
‘It’s going to be tough, and we’re not sure what it’s going to be like.’
As part of their training the couple have been walking up Southwick Hill Road past Queen Alexandra Hospital at Cosham each day.
Helen, 72, who grew up in Landport, said: ‘I’m really excited.
‘This adventure has given me a new lease of life.
‘I’m quite fit and I do a lot of walking and swimming anyway.
‘This is just an extension of what I love doing. I had to have a knee replacement three years ago but fortunately it hasn’t given me too much trouble.
‘I’m determined to do this.’