A Stagecoach North East bus driver from Washington is about to embark on his next journey to help his beloved church and local community with a coast to coast walk over seven days and 100 miles.
63-year-old Alan Beck, who was born only yards away from Holy Trinity Church in South Hetton, Co Durham, will be setting off on the epic journey on Sunday 20th August from Bowness-on-Solway to help raise funds for the damaged church roof in South Hetton.
The bus driver, who has worked at the depot in Sunderland for the past 37 years, has planned his own route and accommodation for the week-long trek, finishing in Seaburn on Sunday 26th Aug where his family will meet him.
Not content with walking over 100 miles from West to East, Alan plans to recover for one day and then walk from Seaburn to his much loved church in South Hetton, joined by his family and friends as he walks through the villages for his final collection.
Although now living in Washington, Alan grew up in South Hetton, and after accompanying his Dad to church every week, he became a regular member of the congregation and then a church warden. He was also confirmed and married at the church and his son and daughter were christened there, so Holy Trinity Church is very close to his heart.
The roof at Holy Trinity Church is in desperate need of repair due to extremely bad weather, so £50,000 must be found for restoration work and long term repairs. Over £14,000 has been raised so far, with Alan contributing a whopping £9,000 when he completed a tandem parachute jump in October 2015.
Alan’s walk will see him travel through some stunning countryside across the Pennines. The route will take him from Bowness-on-Solway, through villages including Park Broom, Talkin and Alston, along Cowshill to Woolsingham, then Durham and finally arrive in Seaburn.
Keen walker Alan is very much looking forward to the event, which has been over a year in the planning and believes this is the first time this particular route has been done. He said: “I first had the idea early in 2016 - and wanted to something different to help raise more funds for the roof restoration - but realised it was too soon after the parachute jump so I put it on hold until this year. It has taken some preparation, especially around my job and duties as a church warden, with three or four trips to Bowness-on-Solway for accommodation and route planning.
“Originally I was planning to do a joint expedition with the Vicar for the church but unfortunately he has had to pull out due to ill health, so I will be mostly travelling on my own. However, I am looking forward to meeting people along the way and I have had some great support from the B&Bs that I will be staying at en route.”
Alan has kindly been offered a private donation of £500 to cover his accommodation but will be providing his own food and travel expenses. He has also worked with a local graphic designer to create a large number of posters and leaflets which have been displayed and delivered around the local area, although most local people know about Alan’s epic journey.
In terms of preparation for the challenges ahead Alan has created a special programme at the Washington Leisure Centre gym to help him, including managing a back problem that he suffers from. He said: “I have a 90-minute routine to help build up my arms and legs, with some stretching and strength work built in. I also walk to and from the gym as my warm up and cool down, which is about three miles in total, and I am out and about generally when not driving a bus or on church warden duties.”
During the walk, Alan plans to listen to his favourite bands, including Beatles and Queen, and is looking forward to growing a beard while away, as back at home his wife prefers him clean shaven! He added: “For me, the most difficult stage will be the fourth day where I walk from Alston to Cowshill, as it is very hilly, and I even have the lady owner of the B&B looking out for me! I see this as a personal journey for myself as well as raising money and I don’t think it has ever been done before so I am now just hoping for nice weather along the way.”
Laura Smith, Operations Manager for Stagecoach North East’s Sunderland depot, said: “We are tremendously proud of Alan and wish him the very best on his walking challenge. We hope he enjoys the experience as well as raising as much money as possible and encourage people who see him on his travels to give him a wave and to dig deep to help restore this 19th Century community church to its former glory.”