The role for the past eight and three quarters years’ has been so full of highlights, it is difficult to choose which to write about next. But this one definitely rises to the top of my memories and brings sunshine with it. 

I first met Kate Hedges back in 2017. She had undergone life saving surgery here at Royal Brompton Hospital and was determined to give something back which would help other patients. Not content to support via her own philanthropy and via the Anglo American Charity, Kate and husband Jeff started to plan a mammoth sponsored walking challenge following a route described in one of Bill Bryson’s books from the northernmost tip of Scotland to Bognor Regis.

Author Bill Bryson needs no introduction here, and he welcomed the plan and joined this walk on several of the days. Kate and her team – brilliant planners, map readers and of course the backup support which ensured they had a place to stay and food to eat walked 569 miles in 30 days. And they raised a huge sum – split over a handful of Charities and our Charity was thrilled to be a significant beneficiary. 

Kate and the team encouraged people to join the core group of walkers for stretches of The Bryson Line and I leapt at the chance. I could tie it in to a visit to Lancashire to see family, plus the main part of the walk was a canal, and being a clever woman, I knew that canals proceed along flat ground. The Bryson Line team had just come from the Lake District, which was far from flat so I chose wisely!

It was a beautiful walk and a stunning day, with excellent company – I definitely could not call it work! I joined Kate again for another fantastic walk which was to mark Bryson Line 2 – to keep the spirit of the ambition alive. This is Kate all over – as well as raising funds for brilliant causes, Kate is passionate about the link between walking and being fit and well. (Oh, by the way, did I tell you that following on from her life saving surgery, Kate ran, and completed of course, the Los Angeles marathon.) 

Our walk was from Long Hanborough to Oxford. We were joined by several of the original team, including Bill and Cynthia Bryson. The walk was wonderful, taking in a bit of Blenheim Palace and ending up in Oxford – in my case, weary but triumphant. If you haven’t read The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, it is absolutely going to cheer any dull day and I am on the lookout for his latest book too.

Kate and Jeff have done even more than raise funds through their long distance walks. Kate has spoken publicly about her experience at Royal Brompton and how much she values her life following the surgery. They have given, and given again, including being pioneers when we took part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge. 

This job has brought me to meet some very special people indeed – and enjoy extraordinary days. Thank you Dr Simon Jordan for treating Kate here at Royal Brompton which became the start of a deep and lasting friendship. And thank you to you both, Kate and Jeff Hedges.