From the 19th May to the 9th June The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT) supporter Will Boyd-Wallis trekked the entire boundary of the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, in Scotland in support of our pioneering Parkinson’s research. Here is Will’s story:

“For 22 days in May and June this year I walked around the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park, a walk that covered roughly 260 miles. I say ‘roughly’ because that’s exactly how it was. The boundary is just a blurry yellow line on the Ordinance Survey map, there were few paths. Most days were spent wading through thick heather, in and out of peat hags, following burns and mountain ridges sometimes in the most obscure of places. All in all over the whole walk I had to climb 33,000 feet; a bit like climbing both Everest and our very own Ben Nevis from sea level.

The primary reason I took three weeks off work and away from my family to take on the challenge was to fundraise for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and to raise awareness of the fabulous work they do. With their unceasing pursuit to slow, stop and reverse the disease I think one of the most important things the Trust achieves is to bring hope to those who live with Parkinson’s every day.

This walk was not about breaking any records, it was about just being out in the hills for a long time, absorbing the nature around me and meeting up with great people along the way. For much of the time on my walk I was alone, but I never felt alone. I was constantly accompanied by wildlife: mountain hares, golden plover, curlew, eagles, deer, grouse, skylarks and numerous other creatures large and small, including the very small, dreaded midge.

Along with the wildlife, many people managed to walk with me for hours or even a few days. Often they brought food and on four memorable occasions I was even given a bed and shower! It is quite funny when I look back because I have to admit some of the most satisfying and enjoyable moments on the walk were food related! Julie’s pastries on Beinn Udlamain (at 1011m the highest mountain on the walk), Rami’s stunning Mediterranean rolls, Charlotte’s pork pies, Rory’s BBQ, Polly’s brownies, Carol’s macaroni cheese, Rob’s cake, Tom’s salad, Patrick’s fish supper, the Drover’s pavlova... too many more to mention. All of these led to the final day when I finished the walk to be greeted by Vicki Dillon with her vintage tea caravan called Queen Bea and the biggest piece of carrot cake ever consumed in one sitting.

Despite leaving 5 food stashes with friends around the boundary of the park and carrying the bare minimum kit which included my camping gear, my pack generally weighed around 20kg. On some of the big hills and in the hot weather this weight took its toll. There were times when putting one foot in front of the other required serious determination; this often made me think of the many people who battle with Parkinson’s every day.

Using the walk to fundraise for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust made the whole experience so rewarding. All along the way many people were willing me on. I set out to raise £10,000 and wasn’t sure if this was realistic or not, but while I rose to the challenge I have been overwhelmed by the way so many friends and family have helped and as I write we’ve raised over £9,000.

On the second from last day of my walk I was very aware that it was about to end and the different pressures of everyday life were about to return.  I had the whole day to myself and had time to reflect. I suppose it’s inevitable that I had lots of conflicting emotions. I was tired, but I was used to the daily routine of unzipping the tent, packing everything up, putting on my big boots and walking. My strongest thought was that I was about to leave something behind, a freedom, the pleasure of constant movement, absorbed by my changing surroundings. Seeing the season turn, each day new flowers and new butterflies emerging. When I began the walk grouse were protecting their nests, by the end the eggs were hatched and chicks were fledging.  

On that last day alone I was followed for a long time by a short-eared owl which circled me and kept making its strange barking call. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it. It was difficult not to feel like that owl was a talisman for all of the nature I had been with day and night for three weeks. It was hard to move on and leave it all behind.  

My feet carried me to the end of the walk, but in my heart I am still going. I have a strengthened desire to do the best I can in my conservation work as Head of Land Management and Conservation at the Cairngorms National Park. I hope I will be able to always remember and remind others how wonderful nature is and how much it heals our weary souls, how important it is for us all to keep exploring, and how rewarding taking on a personal challenge can be.”

Congratulations Will, what an amazing achievement! Thank you so much for your magnificent fundraising efforts and support. You can read more of Will’s story and support his fundraising here or take a look back at his adventure on his Round the Park for Parkinson’s Facebook page.

Will (left) starting out at the Slochd boundary marker at 10am on the 19th May

Will navigating the rolling hills and peat bogs in thick mist on day 3

Will keeping check on the route and boundary of the Cairngorms

Will is joined by daughter Hebe on day 6 for a few days of walking and camping

Morning view from the tent on day 7

Day 12 as Will reaches Glen Clova with its stunning views

Day 17 and Will is joined by friend Charlotte Milburn (right) as she swings by with tea, pork pies and cider supplies

More stunning landscapes as Will reaches day 18 of his challenge

Last box of food supplies picked up en route from friends Louise (left) and Steve

Day 19 finding a good place to cross the beautiful River Avon

Drying out after things got a bit wet crossing the Avon

Day 21 and a beautiful view from a cliff top as Will continues to navigate the boundary 

Day 22 and the last Hill of the walk with just 1 mile to go

Will completing the last few steps of his trek with Team '4 Feet 4 Paws 4 Parkinson's' and CPT's Helen Matthews (left)

Vicki Dillon and Will about to tuck into a well earnt wedge of homemade carrot cake at the end of his 250 mile walk around the Cairngorms National Park

If you’d like to take on a trekking challenge for CPT we have a fantastic range of challenges for all hiking enthusiasts here. Alternatively please contact George or call 020 7487 3892 to discuss your fundraising ideas and find out how we can support you.