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Wycombe Wanderers To Reading

Words by Charlie Richardson

We decided to do this walk in the daytime, itEver since the first walk I did with Walk and Talk MMH from Fulham to Reading in October 2019, and the return leg on New Years Eve. I only ever had one answer for the first “Reading fans” walk of the season in 2020-2021 from Wycombe to Reading which was YES!

Since the Covid 19 outbreak began in March, two days after my 17th birthday. The hardest and toughest year began for my mental health and getting put into lockdown for just over 4 months. It was very challenging for all surviving with a mental health condition like myself and many others in the world. It could go one of two ways for me - go walking, running or cycling and lose weight or stay in and feel down as I’m not working and missing watching live football and doing what I love - refereeing and coaching. However, I had three goals and I wanted to achieve them all…I was determined to lose 2 stone over lockdown; to get over my worst fear which is meeting and speaking to new people; and organise my own mental health charity walk.

Within two months my first goal was in progress - setting up a walk in memory of the Forbury Garden victims who lost their lives in an awful terrorist attack and also raise money for mind and men's mental health. I was extremely nervous and my anxiety was at an all time high, and was thinking what's the point anymore. I set up a gofundme page for mind with a £100 target, I was worried that was too high and also worried about who would turn up. The week of the walk I had phone calls with two big radio stations, heart and BBC Berkshire, interviewing me about the walk and to share my story of my struggles with mental health and to also remember to walk talk and save lives, the message was clear.

Two days before the walk, we had raised £400 and over 20 people confirmed for the walk. Saturday morning arrived for the Walk day and I approached Reading Station, the meeting point, with the Mad Stad, the final destination just over 3 miles away. There were over 25 people already which made my week and year as so many people turned out for such a brilliant cause - men's mental health and the message of Walk and Talk MMH is clear - bringing football fans together in unity to walk, talk and save lives. We started the walk with just over 40 people with some familiar faces from recent walks - Sam, Jamie, Kieran and Jack. It went so well with people sharing stories of what they had been through and most walkers first actual chat in 4 months!

The reaction after made me feel not only proud but so pleased people came out to support such an amazing cause and charity. For me to also meet new people who I didn't know was a big challenge, but felt natural, as I had never met them or spoke to them before. This is what football does and what it can do for your mental health. Ever since I have gone on walks with Lee Adams, founder of Walk and Talk, my confidence has grown too and I can't thank Lee enough for his work.

With the next walk only two months away, a stone already lost, my confidence, anxiety and mental health improving every day, I went back to work and into a brand new challenge and job!

was doable in under 14 hours, so thought we wouldn’t need to do this as an overnight walk. We set the meeting point and start time for 8am from Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park. I reached Adams Park around 7.50am, it was throwing it down with rain and was very thankful I’d brought the correct footwear. 10 minutes later Lee turns up late due to the largest car park in England - the M25 having an accident. I really wanted to get a photo next to the pitch, and was made up when we got in the ground to get photos. Lee, myself, Shawn, Jamie, Jack, Kieran, and Matt started the 20 mile walk to the Mad Stad around 8.20am.

We walked down what seemed like the longest industrial estate in Wycombe and at the end of the road we approached the first big climb up a hill in Wycombe, shock! It was tough! After walking just over 2.5 miles we reached Wycombe Wanderers training ground, where Sam joined us not far from here in Marlow. We finally reached a forest/trail way where we were stopped by a superb hilarious character called Barney and Barney’s mum. Barney was a wild and funny dog and some said they wished they stayed behind in Marlow with them, but we moved on with the walk into the woodland. It was such a nice walk, with some stunning houses and countryside. All of the walkers were dreaming of being in the mansions and swimming pools as we were walking past in the fields.

Three Miles on we approached the main stretch of walk on the canal, the Thames Path to Reading. This route went via Henley, Shiplake, Wargrave, Caversham and Thames Valley Park. Shawn, one of the organisers who did the walk, had an extremely good idea of a lunchtime stop in Wetherspoons Henley. We approached Henley Bridge just after 12.30pm, stopping for a few cheeky beers in Henley. From there we continued the next 8 miles on the Thames Path, with 11 miles walking already under our belt.

Eight miles to go via Shiplake, and Lower Shiplake, along the beautiful Thames Path which was extremely muddy, but surprise surprise the sun came out and the jumpers and coats started to come off. We were way over halfway and had just under 4 miles to go. As we approached the millionaires houses/street we saw a miniature train and village at the back of one of the gardens!

We were approaching the final stretch into Reading and needed the last push as everyone was exhausted. We were delighted to see the Mad Stad in sight. It was just after 7pm but unfortunately we were not allowed to go any further due to the ground being fenced off for Covid restrictions. It really was a superb achievement by all. We had all completed it, and reached our one aim, one goal, of bringing football fans together in unity to walk, talk and save lives.

On a personal note, this year has been extremely challenging but proves anything is possible if you put your mind to it. To the many others going through mental health problems day to day like myself… you are not alone. #mentalhealthmatters #savethemale #nevergiveup #speakout #yournotalone #endthestigma

Now, onto the next one! With all my 3 goals achieved too, and onto the walk from Reading to Brentford!

Stay safe.

Charlie richardson x

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