Eighteen months ago, I made a routine phone call to the walking coordinator of the organisation where I volunteer as a walking leader to review the walks we had done between us and discuss plans for the coming year. I knew he had been unwell, so I asked him if he was ok. Expecting him to say he was fine, he replied, in a matter-of-fact way that he had cancer. An inoperable brain tumour. I was taken aback by the news and tried to keep the rest of the conversation as positive as possible. He was planning walks and trips and sounded like he was going to make the most of the time he had left.
Sadly, I found out last week he has finally lost the fight. Whilst we were never close friends, we always had lengthy chats about the outdoors, and would see each other four or five times a year for group walking duties. He was, however, one of the most important figures in steering my life towards the path I’m on now. We met through mutual friends, as he was looking for walking leaders and I was looking for volunteering opportunities, and his number was given to me. After a long chat on the phone, we met face to face and I began to organise and lead walks for his groups. That was 2011, and since then, I’ve carried on with my ambitions to spend more time outdoors.
See, in 2010, a previous voluntary opportunity had disappointingly wilted away to nothing. When this one presented itself, I fully took it. Steve took me on (probably because he was desperate) but I like to think I paid him back. Together we introduced a winter walks programme that operated in the off months when the organisation wasn’t so keen to put on any walks, but had interested parties. Numerous pub lunches all over the place, and great memories like the flighty pony that chased him down and stole his hat, which I then had to retrieve, despite having an 18kgs backpack on. I managed to get it, while he and everyone else hid in the next field (I couldn’t jump the gate – my bag was too heavy).
A great guy, as always, taken away too soon. His enthusiasm and energy will mean he will live on in the stories told about him.