Bristol Big Issue vendor Garry Buchan has completed his mammoth walking journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and insists he is looking forward to returning to his pitch.
Garry, originally from Aberdeenshire, left Land’s End on July 31 and took 81 days to complete the gruelling challenge, braving some of the worst conditions that Storm Callum could throw at him.
He finally reached John O’Groats yesterday afternoon to complete a challenge that has raised more than £4,000 for The Big Issue Foundation, our charitable arm, and also allowed Garry to spread awareness of homeless issues.
“It’s gone really well,” said Garry after reaching the finishing line. “The money that I have raised is going to help a lot of people and it was great to speak to people about social injustice, poverty and homelessness on my journey.
“A lot of people are surprised when they hear stats about foodbanks, for example, and it’s important to get across the message that it is easy to fall for almost anyone to fall into homelessness.”
During his travels, Garry, 43, lost most of his belongings during storms on the West Highland Way – a crushing blow in a challenge that saw the former construction worker camping throughout.
And he admits that there were a number of highs and lows on the trek.
“I think walking through the Pennines was the toughest bit, it rained for around five days straight and it’s obviously a lot of uphill walking so can be quite tiring while it gets pitch black at night and can be isolating,” said Garry.
“I would say that the highlights were Hebden Bridge – that is a place with a wonderful community spirit – as well as Milngavie and Ullapool.
“They are the only places where you could see that community spirit and there was almost no need for foodbanks – everyone pulled together to help others.”
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It has been quite the year for Garry, who also hit the headlines after leaping to the aid of a stricken moped rider in April, and he insists that he is now considering how he can top this challenge.
He had already conquered the West Highland Way and the Great Glen in 2016 in aid of charity Help for Heroes. He then went on to cover 190 miles last year to raise £495 for The Big Issue Foundation.
And his initial plan this year was to walk from Land’s End to Dover, a distance of 119 miles, before a misprint in local media inspired him to take on the heftier challenge of going from the UK’s most south-westerly point to its most north-easterly landmark.
Now, he is keen to return to his Park Street pitch in Bristol to sell the magazine once again.
“There’s nothing in the pipeline just yet,” said Garry. “But I’ll have a look at the funding and see if I can top this – it was an expensive challenge.
“I’m looking forward to get back on the pitch once I get back to Bristol. I’ve missed a lot of people from Bristol so I can’t wait to get back and see everybody. I wanted to show that it could be done and I’ve done it.”
Lewis Stewart, The Big Issue team leader in Bristol and Bath said: “Garry’s walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats has been an incredible feat and his achievement in raising £4,150 – more than twice what we all thought was a very ambitious target – for The Big Issue Foundation is gigantic.
“He has often spoken of his commitment to helping other homeless people and this is about the biggest demonstration of that you could imagine. Everyone at TBI would like to thank him for taking on the challenge and for pulling it off in some style. Garry, you can expect a hero’s welcome when you get back down to Bristol!”