THE death of a grandmother inspired a man to walk more than 500 miles in her memory.
Wealth management consultant Mark Nicklen, 38, has just completed a gruelling trek through Italy in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The trek covered sights such as the Pilgrim Trail, which is famous for its outstanding scenery and hostile walking conditions.
The former St John’s College pupil, from Lee-on-the-Solent, trekked from Milan to Rome, a route chosen because Mr Nicklen’s grandfather Harry Williams spent time in Italy during the Second World War.
Mr Nicklen said: ‘I have wanted to do this trek for many years but it has never been the right time. Then when my gran Hedvig died last year with Alzheimers it spurred me on to do it in her memory’.
Mark set himself a 21 day time limit.
To achieve his goal, he had to walk a gruelling 26 miles a day in temperatures of more than 35C, while carrying a rucksack weighing 33lbs.
The budget for Mark’s trip was also very tight, which meant he stayed in some interesting places – including churches, monasteries and pilgrim hostels and under the stars.
Mr Nicklen recalled a scary moment on his trip where he came face to face with a wolf.
He said: ‘There was this urge to turn and run but I thought I would stare him out and shine my torch on him.
‘He didn’t flinch. I made a good decision with a slow retreat backwards before he disappeared into the forest.’
The trek finished at Vatican City in the pouring rain, just 19 days after it began.
Mr Nicklen said: ‘It’s was a roller coaster journey.
‘I’ve had two hospital visits for foot infections and two rounds of antibiotics.
‘It took a week to get through the Apennine mountains which involved some off-track moments, which maybe even Bear Grylls would be proud of.’
Mark has so far raised £500 for Alzheimer’s Research UK. To donate go to justgiving.com/fundraising/Mark-Nicklen.