Three young men with autism and their support staff have walked one hundred miles along the Shropshire Union canal to raise awareness of the condition which now impacts one in every hundred people in the UK.
The eight day canal-side journey, which took place earlier this month, was planned by the Community Health and Wellbeing team at Autism Together, a multi-award-winning North West charity supporting over 400 people with autism.
The walkers were accompanied by the Raby Enterprise, a narrow boat maintained by Autism Together and used as part of a comprehensive programme of outdoor activities designed to enrich the lives of people with autism.
Service manager Kevin Mulligan, who heads up the Community Health and Wellbeing team, said that the walkers had raised much-needed funds for the charity through sponsorship but that the most successful aspect of the project had been the interaction with members of the public.
“We realised, when we got talking to people along the route, just how much autism touches people’s lives,” he said. “So many people said that they knew someone who had autism. At one marina we are given free fuel and water by the owner, whose son has autism.”
The group began their journey near Tarporley in Cheshire, walked to LLangolen in north Wales and then returned by the same route. The trek included passage across the dramatic Trevor aqueduct, the highest in the country, and through the 420m Chirk tunnel in the pitch black, guided only by a wooden handrail and torches.
The group had many challenges along the way including blisters, cramped overnight conditions in the Raby Enterprise, wet and windy weather and hold-ups at locks.
Robin Bush, Chief Executive of Autism Together, who walked part of the route with the team, said, “We are all so proud of our colleagues’ achievements. This has been a real morale-booster for the whole charity. It shows what you can do when you put your mind to it – and the amazing feats people with autism can achieve given the right guidance.”
Autism Together’s Community Health and Wellbeing team offers extensive outdoor opportunities for people with autism including rock climbing, hill walking, canoeing, horse riding and cycling and indoor opportunities including trampolining and swimming.
Autism Together is the new operating name of Wirral Autistic Society: A multi award-winning autism charity founded in 1968, employing more than 900 people in Merseyside and the North West and caring for and supporting more than 400 people with autism and social communication difficulties. It offers specialist support services for families and children, residential care, respite care and supported living and a wide range of day services. www.autismtogether.co.uk