Veteran Big Issue vendor Rob is leaving his pitch in Kent after 16 years – to embark on a mammoth two-year walking challenge from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
The 49-year-old, who sells the magazine outside Waitrose in Longfield, will be accompanied by his Staffordshire bull terrier companion Molly on the trek in which he will be sleeping in a tent and selling the magazine from town to town.
The “dream” journey will raise funds for various dog charities. Rob said he has already raised around £1,000 with a percentage going towards living costs.
Former mechanic Rob insists that his time spent walking in the two decades he has lived on the streets has prepared him well for the challenge.
“I feel like I’m ready. I’ve previously walked the 43 miles from Hastings to Dover over 17 hours,” she said. “I was out seven hours at a time walking on Christmas Day and Boxing Day – normally if I go out for walk that’s me out for the day.
“I’m looking forward to selling on different pitches and meeting different customers.”
Rob has been involved with The Big Issue since the very beginning. He was sleeping rough on Victoria Street in London in 1991 when he received his first magazines to sell as an alternative to begging.
Since then he has sold the magazine on and off, but he will be enlisting the help of Big Issue sales and operations offices all over the country as he makes his way southwards.
Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.
Rob will be starting at John O’Groats before walking down to Wick and making his way to Edinburgh from there. Once he makes it to England, he will be moving down the east of the country, taking in Newcastle and Hull as well as Norwich, Essex, Kent and across the south coast before going to Plymouth and on to the finishing point at Land’s End.
It’s the reverse of how Garry Buchan travelled through the country. The then-Bristol vendor opted for speed when he went from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 81 days in 2018.
But Rob insists that his customers will miss him as he vacates his pitch for up to two years to complete his challenge.
“All my customers are going to miss me. I’ve been on my pitch in Longfield for 16 years on and off so everybody knows me,” Rob told The Big Issue. “When you’re selling The Big Issue, you are also helping people. You’re helping people to fetch a trolley or helping the old lady across the road. You’re meeting people and that’s what life’s all about – you’re not just stood there selling the magazine. You put a little bit in then you get a little bit out, you put nothing in, you get nothing out.”
Rhys Corley-Morgan, The Big Issue’s sales and operations manager, added: “Rob is undertaking a really exciting and difficult challenge and The Big Issue Operations team will be giving him as much support as we possibly can, both morally and by enabling him to sell The Big Issue magazine in as many locations as possible during his walk.
“It’ll be a big task, with our teams in Scotland, North East England, East Anglia, South East England and the South Coast all working together to give Rob the best support we can.”
Rob will be keeping his supporters informed of his progress with newly set-up Twitter and Instagram accounts. See how he gets on here.