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Man (80) set for record attempt at walking Land's End to John O'Groats

By Ali Morrison

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Tony Bishop is aiming to become the oldest person to walk from Land's End to John O'Groats.
Tony Bishop is aiming to become the oldest person to walk from Land's End to John O'Groats.

An 80-year-old man from West Sussex is aiming to becoming the oldest person to walk from Land's End to John O'Groats.

Tony Bishop, who was due to start his journey on Thursday, says he was inspired to take on the challenge after listening to the story of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry on his car radio.

“The story was about this man who was friends with this woman on England’s south coast, but one day she left and he was quite disappointed," he explained.

"He never heard from her again until 20 years later he got a letter from her saying she was dying of cancer. The guy then decided to post a letter to her, and carried on walking until he reached her hospice centre in Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

“I thought, that’s nice, I could do that!”

The story shares similarities with that of his sister, Jacqueline Bishop – who passed away just over a decade ago.

“She died 11 years ago in hospice care and we were close ever since childhood," said Tony. "We were brought up together by an auntie and uncle because our mother was in and out of hospital.”

In preparation for the journey, Tony – who is a marathon runner and mountaineer – became aware of Allan Knight, currently the oldest person to walk the 875-mile End-to-End route.

“I started looking into it, and saw that the book of Guinness World Records said a man of 76 years was the oldest to walk the distance. I thought that was great inspiration and I might as well try to break it.

“I’ve been in contact with some people who have done the journey, albeit the other way around – but they all said how fantastic the journey was and how pleased they are to have done it. It seems like really inspiring stuff for me.”

While Tony said he was looking forward to visiting the whole of the United Kingdom, Caithness’s natural beauty was something he was particularly looking forward to seeing first-hand.

“The farthest north I’ve ever been is Stirling, so I haven't really seen much of the Highlands and surrounding area. I’ve been to places like Fort William, but never up the east coast. I’m looking forward to it.

“Having lived in South Africa for such a long while, and having climbed mountains like Kilimanjaro and doing the Inca Trail, I realised that I don’t know Scotland that well. I’m told it’s quite bleak in some areas, but quite stunning once you reach John O’Groats.”

Tony’s journey across the country is estimated to take him around two months. He has set up a JustGiving page in memory of his sister, with any proceeds going towards his local hospice, St Barnabas House in Worthing. It has already raised almost £1000 of a £5000 target.

He added: “It’s only when I’ve started driving to my starting point I’m beginning to think… Oh my goodness, what a long way to go!”

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