See you in 1,250 miles! Sophia sets off on epic walk for mental health

Charity walker Sophia Badger leaves N16 to walk to Rome. Picture: Polly Hancock

Charity walker Sophia Badger leaves N16 to walk to Rome. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

On Monday morning, Sophia Badger started her charity walk to Rome carrying just a 35-litre backpack.

Sophia, who lives in Stoke Newington, will be following the Via Francingena, a historical pilgrimage route based on a trip by an Archbishop of Canterbury. The 1,250-mile walk will go through England, France, Switzerland and Italy, and taking more than three months.

She was inspired to make the journey by tragic circumstances: two of her friends killed themselves last year.

Sophia decided to raise awareness (and cash) for mental health causes, and wanted to change the way mental health is discussed.

"They both had a history of mental health problems," she said, "but no one realised they were at that point where they didn't want to be here anymore.

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"The trip is in their memory. It is something that they would've done."

She added: "We need to get to a place where we strip away the stigma and make people understand that it is normal to struggle with your mental health."

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At the time of publication, Sophia has raised £6,430 - which will increase to £7,595 with Gift Aid - for mental health charity Mind.

To prepare for the journey, Sophia, 36, has taken long walks through Hackney, planning her routes with the borough's green spaces in mind.

"I go from Stoke Newington to Clissold Park, up to the Castle Climbing Centre, around the reservoirs, to Springfield Park and along the Lee Valley Canal," she said. "It is a very green walk and that's what Hackney is great for."

Sophia will have to deal with the heatwave hitting mainland Europe and is planning on waking up at the crack of dawn to complete her miles early in the day and avoid the scorching sun.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," she said.

"I feel like even if I didn't leave my front door I've achieved a lot and started a lot of conversations about mental health and raised a lot of money for Mind.

"I'll be devastated if I don't get to Rome but for me those two are the goals that are more important."

To sponsor Sophie, visit her fundraising page:

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