Group with sight difficulties tackles 100-mile walk

The South Downs are special and what better way to appreciate the rolling hills than to walk the full length of the National Trail from Eastbourne to Winchester.

Thursday, 15th June 2017, 10:56 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 5:14 am
David Pool, far left, with his group of friends on the Annual South Downs Way Walk. Picture: Shirley Rushmer

Footprints of Sussex gives people the opportunity to do just that with a supported nine-day experience, the Annual South Downs Way Walk held in June each year.

Joining the 100-mile walk this year are a group of eight friends from all over the UK, four of them with visual impairment and four helpers.

One of them, 64-year-old David Pool, decided to use the opportunity to raise money for the talking book service he uses back at home.

Each person with visual impairment has a helper to guide them on their way. Picture: Shirley Rushmer

“There is no substitute for a good book because they build pictures in your head and you can’t get that from any other medium,” he said.

David, from Kenilworth, Warwickshire, said he was lucky to have a normal childhood and early working life before retinal dystrophy caused the back of his eye to gradually close down and his eyesight to deteriorate.

Good friends and the camaraderie on the walk are helping him through what he describes as a tough challenge and although he cannot see the landscape, he has no trouble appreciating the beauty around him.

David explained: “Just to be up on the hills, it is beautiful. You forget just how special the UK is, England’s green and pleasant land.

“There is an enormous sense of community and a tremendous camaraderie talking to others on the walk.

“I am lucky that I have had sight so I have memory. You form memories from observation around you. You can feel what is under your feet, you can feel the breeze and hear the birds. Someone else can tell me what they can see so I can use their observations to form a picture.”

David started walking in the Lake District with his dad in 1967, so when his friend suggested the Annual South Downs Way Walk 50 years later, it seemed a good time to do his first long linear walk.

He started his working life in retail, then spent 20 years in banking, followed by ten years at Connections, a careers service for young people.

David said: “Now I am retired, I am busier than I ever used to be. It is something you encourage yourself to do and it is important when you have a debilitating condition.”

He is both a client and a board member of DeMontfort Talking Books Service and wants to raise £1,000 to purchase new books.

“It is a cassette-based service that is trying to move to the 21st century and update to USB sticks,” he explained.

The Annual South Downs Way Walk started in Eastbourne on Friday and is due to end in Winchester on Saturday. Visit for more information.