David Matthews, a volunteer for the Samaritans, set off on his 58th birthday in April, 2019, aiming to visit every one of the charity’s 202 branches across the UK and Northern Ireland.
Covid-19 lockdowns and social distancing rules played havoc with his plans, and two more birthdays have come and gone.
But after visiting the Mansfield branch on Grove Street, David is now only three more stops away from completing his mammoth challenge.
He has already raised £24,000 for the Samaritans, thanks to donations from friends and supporters, and hopes to push the final total up to £30,000.
"It has been amazing,” said David. “There have been some painful memories along the way, particularly when the weather was bad or I had a minor injury. But I’m so glad I have done it.
"It started as a fundraiser, and also to raise the profile of the charity. But I have met so many people who have told me their personal stories.
"I have handed out Samaritans contact cards to them, and I have actually been there days later when they have rung a branch for help. Also, others have been inspired to join the charity.”
David runs a holiday home at the scenic Knoydart Peninsular on the west coast of Scotland. A friend, Kira Holroyd, agreed to look after it while he was away, and he embarked on his walk from Doncaster, where he used to live and still does the occasional shift for the Samaritans.
Overnight, he has been staying at the branches, camping out or sofa-surfing, and he admits the challenge became “a bit of a logistical nightmare” at times.
"I didn’t plan the route in detail,” he said. “It just flowed.
"But some of the branches aren’t manned 24/7, so they needed a bit of notice. And then of course, I had to stop for the two lockdowns, including from March to December last year. I finally got out and picked up the trail again properly on March 27.”
David was greeted in Mansfield by a trio of hard-working Samaritans volunteers. If you want to donate to his cause, visit his website, www.thelisteningwalk.co.uk, which has a link to his Virgin Money Giving page.