Woman walks 500 miles to support Norwich charity

Pilgrim's progress: Amanda Maundrell on the 500-mile Camino trail Picture: Family collection

Pilgrim's progress: Amanda Maundrell on the 500-mile Camino trail Picture: Family collection - Credit: Archant

Amanda Maundrell tells Tony Wenham about the feat, and how the challenge helped her cope with her grief.

Good times: Amanda and John Maundrell pictured in France's Auvergne region in 2005 Picture: Contrib

Good times: Amanda and John Maundrell pictured in France's Auvergne region in 2005 Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Emotionally and physically drained after months of caring for a husband dying slowly from an agonising and incurable disease, Amanda Maundrell needed help - for both of them.

And so began a year-long relationship with Priscilla Bacon Lodge, the specialist palliative care centre in Norwich, where staff cared for the patient and tended to his emotionally traumatised wife.

"I can't thank them enough," says Amanda, recently returned to her home at Field Dalling, near Holt, after a remarkable 500-mile walk that has yielded £9,000 for the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal which aims to raise £12.5 million to build a new state-of-the-art 24-bed unit on a semi-rural site near the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

"They looked after John, initially at the day care centre, then at the end as an in-patient. They never gave up on him - and they did a lot for me too."

John spent the last 10 days of his life at Priscilla Bacon Lodge and, after his death from the degenerative neurological disease Multiple Systems Atrophy in September 2018, his bereaved widow started to think about practical ways that she could repay the Lodge for its care of the couple, who had been together for 20 years.

She became aware of the £12.5 million appeal for the new hospice which will serve all of Norfolk. After 40 years, the Lodge's trustees actively acknowledge that ever-increasing demand for in-patient beds as well as day and respite care means that greater capacity is desperately needed in the county. Priscilla Bacon Lodge offers just 16 beds.

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"The staff and volunteers at Priscilla Bacon Lodge are incredible and do amazing work, for which I owe them endless thanks," says Amanda. "But the facilities at present are outdated and a little cramped, so this appeal is very important for everyone in Norfolk."

The new hospice will offer the most modern facilities, plus a wider range of community day care and out-patient services, giving those who need care a greater breadth of choice.

Like the current Lodge, it will focus on enabling a "good death", caring for patients and supporting loved ones through and beyond bereavement. Currently, the appeal stands at £5 million.

"John and I had a passion for walking," says Amanda. "I knew people who had done parts of the Camino pilgrimage then, on holiday in Spain earlier this year, I thought: let's do it properly, and raise some cash for Priscilla Bacon.

"I felt if I did it on my own it would be a worthy challenge as well as a reflection of the life that John and I had shared together."

The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, also known as the Way of St James, extends from different countries ending at Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

Amanda, aged 60, flew to Biarritz and took two buses to begin her walk at St Jean de Pied Port at the foot of a pass in the French Pyrenees mountains. Five hundred miles and 24 days later, she reached her destination, exactly two months ago on October 7.

"There are four or five mountainous bits, but on the whole the route is fairly flat," Amanda recalls. "I didn't book anywhere to stay, but it's a well-trodden path supported by a series of hostels. That said, finding oneself in a bunk room with up to 25 other people was a different experience!"

She adds: "Everyone does it for their own reasons. For me, the journey was completely cathartic. It's taken about a year for me to feel a bit more normal after John's illness and death.

"I'm very lucky to have had the support of some very kind and generous people to help me raise funds for this great cause. John's illness was a horrible time, but good things have come out of it."

Donate or support the appeal with a fundraising project here or call, call 03302 234274 or email hugostevenson@priscillabaconhospice.org.uk

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