A walk to remember dad

Mark Houghton at his dad Barrie's grave in Scotforth Cemetery, pictured with his mum and daughter.
Mark Houghton at his dad Barrie's grave in Scotforth Cemetery, pictured with his mum and daughter.

Dad-of-two Mark Houghton walked to Lancaster to visit his dad’s grave on Father’s Day – a total of more than 400 miles from his home in northern France.

Mark undertook the mammoth trek along England’s canal network in tribute to his father Barrie, who died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 66 in 2003.

Mark near Folkestone in Kent during the walk.

Mark near Folkestone in Kent during the walk.

Mark, 51, was raising awareness of the illness as he walked – and also raised more than £2,500 for the Alzheimer’s Society in the process.

Mark, who was brought up in Lancaster but now lives in Pas de Calais, planned his trip to coincide with Father’s Day on Sunday.

He walked around 20 miles a day, from Dover to London and then along the Grand Union Canal route to Birmingham, the Shropshire Union Canal to Liverpool and then on to Preston and Lancaster.

He said: “It was physically gruelling, like an endurance event that I hadn’t trained for.

“But it all worked out to plan. I left on May 30 and was on the go every day except for two rest days.”

Along the route, Mark stayed with friends and at Birmingham University where he did his degree, as well as camping for three nights.

He was also helped out by generous strangers using couchsurfing websites.

He said: “The highlight of the trip was the people I met along the way. Walking along towpaths is not exciting but the people I met made it great.

“The interaction was great. There were moments when someone would catch me up and put £10 in my bucket and that made it all worthwhile.

“I think it struck a chord with a lot of people who knew someone who had died from Alzheimer’s.

“I hope that out of the tragedy of my dad’s death I can find a positive, and that can only be good.”

Fortunately for Mark, the weather largely held out and he arrived in Garstang on Saturday before walking to Galgate on Sunday morning, where his mum Margaret, 73, who lives in Ellel, and daughter Hannah, 25, joined him on the short trip to Scotforth cemetery, where his dad is buried.

Mark now hopes to write a book about the experience, and is also planning a new walk through the Pyrenees and a cycle ride across France.

You can still sponsor Mark by going to www.justgiving.com/remember/160636/Barrie-Houghton.