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'I'm a blind man from Greenwich trekking 1,200 miles from Canterbury to Rome'

'I'm a blind man from Greenwich trekking 1,200 miles from Canterbury to Rome' <i>(Image: RNIB/Richard Simpson)</i>
'I'm a blind man from Greenwich trekking 1,200 miles from Canterbury to Rome' (Image: RNIB/Richard Simpson)

A blind man from Greenwich is currently trekking an estimated 1200 miles across Europe to raise funds for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Using his cane to guide him, Richard Simpson set off on October 2 to do the Via Francigena, which is an ancient road pilgrimage route from the cathedral city of Canterbury to Rome.

Richard said: “I’ve taken on several challenges to raise money for RNIB that it’s become a way of life.

“So far, it’s been brilliant taking in the culture and it’s the wonder people one meets along the way that makes it special.”

Five years ago, Richard was registered blind after being diagnosed as severely sight impaired.

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He has since taken on several challenges to raise money for RNIB such as the LEJOGLE (walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats), The London Loop, kayaking 180 miles from Lechlade-on-Thames to Greenwich, and most recently the Camino de Santiago.

Richard added: “I’m not walking point-to-point but conversation-to-conversation.

“The scenery has also been breath-taking.

“One thing I have noticed is there are little guidelines for blind and partially sighted people when travelling but people have been polite and helpful, and no one has tried to jump over my cane when I’m navigating just yet.”

It will take Richard an estimated four to six months to complete the Via Francigena and for part of the walk, he is accompanied by his partner Fiona, who is also registered blind.

So far, the couple have been camping mostly but have also stayed with nuns that they met during their journey, and in ex-pilgrims for accommodation.

Fiona said: “It’s been a fun adventure; the first week was the hardest as I’m not used to long-distance walking or camping but I’ve learned so much.

“It reminds you about how important the small things are like fresh clothes or a cup of tea.

“It’s also taught me how to use my cane on different surfaces like grass, cobbles and offroad. I’m glad I’ve been able to support Richard during this epic challenge.”

Since Richard’s diagnosis, he has been supported by many of RNIB’s services.

He is a regular user of RNIB Talking Books and enjoys listening to autobiographies.

The funds raised will help the charity to continue to support people with sight loss across the UK.

Chris Perrin, Head of Supporter Led Fundraising at RNIB, said: “We would like to thank Richard for his continued efforts in raising funds for RNIB.

“It’s with the help of supporters and donors, like Richard, which helps the charity to break down some of the barriers people with sight loss face every day. Good luck, Richard.”