Our head of year group Fiona Bilsborough and good friend Sophie Painter recently completed their Camino fundraising challenge! After months of hard work and training they managed to complete their 116k walking challenge in an inspiring 5 days, tackling a minimum of 20 kilometres (12 miles) a day! Read on to find out more about their journey.

Monday 23rd January – an invigorating walk to, around and back from Cannon Hill Park

After a long day at work exhausted by the weekend’s activities and having walked 20 miles over the weekend, we decided to embark on a rather shorter trip this evening. I met Sophie at her house in Moseley and we decided to walk back to Cannon Hill Park. Very cold, but beautiful scenery around the park as the sun was setting. Rather eery as it was so dark without lighting. Out trusted head torches came into play once more. We were invigorated by our 3-mile walk!

Wednesday 25th January – Yoga at Edgbaston Community Centre

Me and Sophie had talked my eldest daughter Emily into joining us on the Mat. A fantastic session stretching out all o

ur tired muscles from the previous few day’s fitness activities. Another fantastic session with Beck.

Thursday 26th January Early morning sessions

An early start with a spot of Qi gong with Theresa at work to set us up for the day!

Tuesday 31st January Combat Aerobics at Northfield Leisure Centre

Back with the old gang of a few old school friends hoping to experience someZumba dancing, but again to our surprise this session was led by a young man called Josh.  No dancing in sight just high impact combat aerobics! Thank goodness he got stuck in traffic and arrived late which meant the class was slightly shortened! A great invigorating military style work out – not for the faint hearted!

Wednesday 1st February – A walk to work and back.  

Up at 6am to ensure I have all the necessities packed neatly into my very small backpack. An exhilarating walk through Bournville as I had a work meeting, so had to quicken my pace! Sophie meanwhile walked with her mom before work to, around and from Mosely bog.

Monday 6th February – A walk through Moseley Bog and back again.

No need for head torches tonight – the nights are getting lighter thank goodness! We managed a 5 mile walk after work. To be honest I could have cancelled quite easily as I was exhausted. My high protein diet has gone to pot as I’m now craving carbs and keep tuck

ing into the left-over Christmas biscuits in the staff room. All this walking and still not lost a pound, I wonder why? I did feel very invigorated though and now thinking about packing for our trip.

Saturday 11th February – 15-mile circular walk – the longest we’ve done yet. 

Started at 10.15am and finished at 4.00pm. Not bad going as we managed to stop off at Sophie’s dads for tea and biscuits.  I could hardly get off the sofa after and still had 7 ½ miles to go! The day was a little warmer than expected and we broke out into a sweat. I think the temperature may be a little warmer in Spain so we may have to re-think our items of clothing!

The last week before the big day!!!

We’ve decided not to do much exercise this week to rest in preparation for the long journey ahead. I’m beginning to get worried now as I ached so much after Saturday’s walk after just one day! I will go to yoga on Wednesday to prepare my muscles for the long walks. We’ve decided to invest in some more merino wool socks as Sophie had the start of blisters after Saturday. I’ve made sure we have plenty of blister plasters at hand just in case.

Friday 17th February – And we’re off!

Alarm rings out at 6am to pick Sophie up at 7.30am for our drive to Gatwick Airport. Seamless journey – no traffic and arrived in time to check in and have a cheeky glass of fizz to start our adventure. On arrival in Spain we even managed to find the bus to La Caruna bus station to catch another to Ferrol.  A short walk to our first hotel.  Although we did manage to get lost on the way and was re-directed by a lovely elderly Spanish lady.

Saturday 18th February – Ferrol to Neda – Total 13.7 Miles

We began our journey searching for the starting point of the Camino de Ingles outside the pharmacy in Ferrol (wrongly named on our directions). After much walking up and down we were pointed in the right direction by an elderly gentleman and realised that the route went back past our hotel where we had started 30 minutes ago! Now on our way heading for Neda, we managed to complete the left leg of our journey (with a few minor hiccups). When we arrived in Neda, we were told that our hotel was another 4 miles away. Meaning we had to walk an extra 4 miles the next day to get back onto the Camino trail!

Sunday 19th February – Neda to Pontedueme – Total 14.1 Miles

The next day we started off on our pilgrimage (plus our extra 4 miles) to Pontedueme.  We took a quick moment for some quiet contemplation amongst the eucalyptus trees, the scent was amazing!  The trees are planted in straight lines so that they can be maintained easily and take up less room to get more revenue per acre. Sophie taking it all in before our journey ahead.  This took us via La Magdalena beach where we met a very nice old gentleman ‘Gasper’ who very kindly  set us back on the right track – exactly where we had been the day before (I think this will be somewhat of an adventure as we keep going in circles!)

Monday 20th February – Pontedeume to Bentanzos – 14.6 Miles

We started the day full of optimism and started off on the next leg of our journey. We luckily managed to avoid getting lost, which was a huge sigh of relief for our feet! We meet some lovely people along the way. One gentleman in particular had a 20 minute conversation with us, even though he didn’t speak a word of English and we only spoke basic Spanish. We had a great laugh and managed to get some great photos of us together.

Tuesday 21st February – Bentanzos to Bruma – Total 18 Miles

We had prepared for this our longest day of fifteen miles or so we thought.  We were hoping to ignite a spiritual experience by visiting the many quaint churches on route.  However, this was not to be, travelling out of season meant they were all closed except one tiny church in Bruma. After nineteen miles we finally found our accommodation which to our delight had a bath. Maybe this was the spiritual experience we were both hoping for.

Wednesday 22nd February – Bruma to Sigueiro – Total 12.3 Miles

Today was a little bit less strenuous than our previous days. We had a lovely walk through Bruma and the villages and towns along the way. It was amazing to see all of the local sites and visit parts of Spain that we wouldn’t have had a chance to visit before. We even managed to befriend a lovely donkey on the way!

Thursday 23rd February – Sigueiro to Santiago de Compostela – Total 18.8 Miles

We had very mixed emotions after reaching our destination – both feeling a sense of elation and exhaustion. But we had made it! We had just a few more metres to the tourist information centre to pick up our well-deserved pilgrim’s certificate, Sophie was so excited! It felt well worth sore feet and all those extra miles.  We had reached 99% of our funding target and just hoped some generous souls would donate to enable us to achieve 100% before we left Spain the next day. Our feelings of elation were celebrated with a well-deserved drink.

Friday 24th February – Camino Complete and time to go home – We did a grand total of 91.5 Miles!

Our initial 116K ended up being a total of 150K! We decide it was a good idea to spend a day in Santiago and rest and recover. We went to the Cathedral to experience Mass and hear the names of all the Pilgrims read out, celebrating their amazing achievements. Although it was all in Spanish, it was a great experience.  After, we took in the delights of the architecture and decided to explore more of Santiago. We ended up

crashing on a bench in the sun as walking any further was just not an option!  Checking Facebook we had reached our 100% target – alas no jumping for joy – our aching bodies would not allow!

Although our body ached and we were exhausted, what an experience. We can 100% say it was well worth the journey, the laughs, the pain, and money raised. I want to send a massive Thank You to everyone who donated, supported, and lived through our journey. We are so very grateful. Needless to say, no more head torches and after work walks just early nights for the next few weeks.

You can support NICE by making a one-off or regular donation here or find out more about our upcoming events and other ways to get involved.

Fiona and Sophie’s Camino Walk Challenge