Granny to walk 500 miles for St Francis!

Adventurous granny Tanya Wheway is swapping her elegant trouser suits and high heels for mosquito protection gear and walking boots to take on a gruelling 500-mile trek in Spain for the Hospice, which cared for her late husband.

Tanya Wheway in her walking gearThe grandmother of five, who will be 70 next May, leaves next month for the pilgrimage walk Santiago de Compostela – otherwise known as the St James’s Way – and hopes to raise £10k, split 80/20 between The Hospice of St Francis and Prostate Cancer UK.

Bravely, she is planning to do the whole walk on her own, backpacking and staying in hostels, which line the popular route.

Since losing her husband Allan six years ago, Tanya has taken on a challenge in memory of him every two years to raise funds for the Berkhamsted-based Hospice, including high-wiring and skydiving, raising £3.5k and £6.5k respectively.

“My children think I'm absolutely mad,” she says, “but my grandchildren think 'Dee', (their nickname for me) is cool and are supporting me both in my training and by setting me up on social media so I can provide live updates on my challenge from the wilds of northernSpain.

“I have the stamina, but I’m a bit worried that my feet, ankles, knees, hips, back and neck will hold out!” she says. “The walk starts at the base of the French Pyrenees and the first 100 miles or so are meant to be the toughest. The mountain terrain and areas of heavy rainfall are going to be challenging!”

Tanya, from Tring, usually spends her time running the 'Fab@50+', special residential holistic retreat programmes at Champneys Health Spa in Tring - in between creating spas for developers in the UK and abroad, writing a book and looking after some of her grandchildren, aged 9-19, pictured below.

Tanya Wheway and family

But she is taking six weeks “off” to complete the adventure, recommended by a friend for its beautiful scenery, challenging terrain and potential for being a highly spiritual experience.

Tanya has never undertaken an endurance challenge before but her training regime includes a four-hour walk every other day and she is confident that her positivity and determination will keep her going.

“Many people have asked why I’ve chosen to do a 500-mile walk on my own but I want to maximise the experience on all levels - mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” she explains, “and I feel I can achieve all of this far more effectively alone.”

Tanya and her late husband were pioneers of the modern health farm movement, promoting a holistic approach to wellbeing, running Champneys in Tring for over 20 years, as well as Covent Garden’s Sanctuary Day Spa and through their company Wheway Lifestyle International, creating many award-winning spas around the world.

Poignantly, during her walk, Tanya will mark the sixth anniversary of Allan’s passing. “We worked, lived and played together almost 24/7 for 42 years so it was like losing a half of myself when he went,” she says.

“But there is a wonderful saying: “As we go through life, we all experience pain, but misery is our choice!” I still miss Allan terribly every day but I continue to embrace life, which is a gift, with great gusto and know he’d be proud of me - if not a little surprised that I'm going to be a lone backpacker for six weeks!

“I’m enormously grateful to the Hospice for the amazing support and care that Allan, me and my family received through an incredibly difficult time before, during and after his death. As an organisation, it is extraordinarily special and I’m so pleased that in my small way, I’m able to continue to support them in my darling Allan’s memory.”

If you’d like to sponsor Tanya and help raise the £4.7m the hospice needs every year to fund its free care for people living with life-shortening illnesses across Herts and Bucks, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/tanyawheway . You can also follow Tanya’s progress on her Facebook page - TanyaWheway.

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