Civil servant to walk length of UK for charity

DSIT official says managers have been "extremely supportive" of his career break
Ian Wainwright on a walking adventure. Photo: Ian Wainwright

By Tevye Markson

27 Apr 2023

A civil servant will walk the distance of the UK, from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Scotland, for charity.

Ian Wainwright, a senior policy advisor in the newly-formed Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, has taken a six-month career break (with an option of early return) to walk across the UK, fundraising for Rennie Grove Hospice Care.

At DSIT, Wainwright works on data economy and innovation as part of the National Data Strategy. He was at DCMS before the prime minister's recent rejig of departments, working on trade agreements and the Brexit negotiations, as well as being part of the London Bridge response last year when Queen Elizabeth II died.

He is due to begin the 1,000-mile walk on 1 May and has set aside 10 to 12 weeks to complete it.

Wainwright said he had found the process of securing leave “relatively painless.”.

“The civil service has a policy on taking mid-career breaks, recognising that it helps departments retain and support long-term employees. I first told my deputy director a year before I wanted to take the leave, and he and my line manager have been extremely supportive of my ambition.

“We worked out a way of ensuring that I could take the break whilst minimising disruption to the team's work. I'm very grateful for the understanding and support that was given to me to enable the challenge." 

Wainwright said he was moved to take on the epic challenge after witnessing the care Rennie Grove Hospice Care gave to his grandfather before he died last December.

“When my grandad was ill the charity’s nurses visited him at home to offer the care and support he needed,” he said.

Wainwright and his grandad

“Without these visits at home, I think it’s unlikely that he would have been able to stay in his own home as he wished to. Rennie Grove was such a big support to our whole family that I’m delighted to be fundraising to ensure that other families can access the same kind of support when they need it.”

Wainwright said he started going on walks during lockdown but it took a backseat when his grandfather was ill.

“After he died, it seemed right to take on a charity challenge in his memory,” he said.

“My grandad was active all his life, even doing press ups at 90! The challenge of walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats seems like a fitting way to honour him while fundraising for the charity that cared for him towards the end.”

Wainwright will start the walk with his sister, who will join him for the first week. Other friends and relatives will join him for parts of the journey as he goes.

Planning the routeWainwright's kit

“My plan for the route is to stitch together some of England and Scotland’s most beautiful long-distance footpaths,” Wainwright said.

“I am making my own way through Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, before picking up the Cotswolds Way in Bath. I will follow this to its end near Chipping Camden, then the Heart of England Way, going east of Birmingham.

“The Pennine Way will take me through my grandad’s home county, all the way to the Scottish borders.

“In Scotland I’ll take the John Muir Way and the West Highland Way before following the Great Glenn Way and the final stretch along the John O'Groats Trail. I expect to arrive by mid-late July.”
He said his focus now is currently on training and preparing his kitbag, which will include camping gear, so that the weight is as low as possible.

Wainwright is raising money here for Rennie Grove.

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