A RETIRED priest and his
wife are planning to use their bus passes for a coast-to-coast
sponsored ride in aid of their village hall.
Canon Neil Russell and
his wife, Kathy, will set off next Wednesday from their home in the
village of Gainford, near Darlington, in Co. Durham. They hope to
complete the 322-mile round trip via Workington, on the west coast,
and Saltburn-by-the Sea, on the east coast, and be back home by
early evening the next day.
Because their passes are
valid only on local services, the journey - which Canon Russell
describes as "a bizarre fund-raising escapade" - will involve 14
Canon Russell, who is 66,
retired from All Saints', in Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 2008,
shortly before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and he
and Mrs Russell moved to Co. Durham in 2011 to be near family.
"I help in the church and
community," he said. "My incapacity restricts me physically, but I
still like to be involved. Parkinson's is an incurable and
progressive disease, and I know that I shall be less and less able
to take part in many activities. So I take every opportunity to
make a contribution. I am secretary of the village hall, and on the
"Kathy and I decided we
would like to say 'thank you' to the community for their warm
welcome. The village hall has just had a £5000 bill for roof
repairs; so, as I cannot walk far, run, or jump from aeroplanes, I
decided to do a bus marathon. I have raised £600 so far. I also
wanted to show that it is possible to get around with a
"I have checked all my
bus timetables, but the most crucial part is the first bus from
home for the eight miles into Darlington. If I miss that one, then
I shall be behind for the rest of the day. There is a bit of
flexibility built in, but there are one or two tight moments when
the time between connections is just ten minutes."
Mrs Russell had
originally planned to follow in their car - "to handle any panic
calls if I was stuck" - but will now accompany him. They expect to
be travelling for ten hours on both days, having refreshments in
bus stations along the way. "I have a good book to pass the time,
and will try to update my blog, neilrussell.wordpress.com, as I go
along," he said.
"It might not be the most
fascinating of travelogues, but hopefully there will be some
moments in it. We arrive in Workington about 7 p.m., and have
booked a hotel near the bus station; but we have to be back on the
bus by 9.30 the next morning.
"I shall certainly be able to reflect on the state of our bus
services across three or four counties."