Two “fat old men” take on 125km walk in memory of Beaver Scout leader

L-R Gary Swift and David CritchlowL-R Gary Swift and David Critchlow
L-R Gary Swift and David Critchlow
TWO “fat old men” will tackle one of the world’s most scenic pilgrimages to raise money for Rotherham Hospital.

Gary Swift and David Critchlow, both 62, will walk the 125km Camino Portuguese — or Portuguese Way — from Valenca in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain nezt month (September).

The pair are taking the challenge in memory of Gary’s wife Diane (54), who suffered a massive stroke shortly after her 50th birthday.

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This left her paralysed down her left side and blind in her left eye — she died four years later, in 2015, at Rotherham Hospital.

The pals expect their gruelling walk to take at least two weeks, with the route crossing beaches and forests, Roman roads, medieval bridges, traditional towns and historic cities.

Gary, of Kiveton Park, said: “Diane was outgoing, with a real zest for life.

“She loved the outdoors — in addition being a Beaver Scout leader for 15 years, she was also a talented artist.

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“Through all the pain and struggles, Diane never lost hope or her sense of humour. But unfortunately she never recovered.”

He added: “I wanted to do something special to raise money in her memory and I think this challenge fits the bill perfectly.

“Diane would have been really enthusiastic about this challenge and would have loved to do it herself.”

Gary and David are seeking sponsorship for the trek, which they have christened Two Fat Old Men Walking.

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Proceeds will be donated to the Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity’s Purple Butterfly Appeal.

This raises money to build purpose-built rooms at the hospital, which offer privacy and dignity to patients nearing the end of their lives.

The hospital has three such rooms, which cost around £75,000 each to build.

Each is outfited with specialist equipment and home comforts, providing peaceful, private accommodation for patients and their relatives.

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Diane did not have the benefit of a Purple Butterfly Room, but Gary would like others in their situation to do so.

He said: “It would have been wonderful to have somewhere private and away from the busy ward to say our goodbyes.

“I hope that by fundraising in Diane’s memory we will raise the profile of the appeal and money to help build a fourth room.”

The friends are stepping up to the challenge by walking several times a week and are learning Spanish, to help them travel the rural route more easily. 

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David, of Stocksbridge, said: “We hope the name will grab people’s attention and make them smile.

“We’ve lost more than eight stone between us since we started walking and feel fitter and healthier. We absolutely can’t wait to go now.

“We think the biggest challenges will be dealing with the hot weather, finding places to stay and trying out our new language skills.”

Barry Mellor, chair of the charitable funds committee, also said: “The charity is incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated and ambitious fundraisers like Gary and David.

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“The Camino Portuguese sounds like a wonderful challenge to honour Gary’s late wife and I hope as many people as possible sponsor them to help spur them on.”

To sponsor Gary and David visit

For more information about the charity, contact Suzanne Rutter on 01709 426821 or at [email protected].