Pensioner on ramble through France for Sick Kids

Richard Buffery. Picture: Hamish Campbell
Richard Buffery. Picture: Hamish Campbell
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Most people who have reached retirement age are happy to take it easy or enjoy a relaxing hobby.

But one sprightly pensioner has embarked on an ambitious solo challenge to walk hundreds of miles to raise funds for a charity close to his heart.

Ritchie Buffery, 71, is trying to fulfil a lifelong dream to walk from the south of France at the Mediterranean, all the way to the north.

He was inspired to raise cash for the Sick Kids Foundation after seeing the support the hospital gave 16-year-old Kayleigh Lamond during her battle against cancer.

Despite going through gruelling chemotherapy, the youngster managed to complete several Higher exams and she is doing well after finishing her treatment.

Mr Buffery’s challenge is also in memory of Kayleigh’s great-uncle Billy Lamond, his best friend for more than five decades. The retired Lothian Buses driver, from Broxburn, has so far raised more than £300 but said he is determined to beat his £500 target for the Sick Kids.

He said: “I’ve always wanted to walk through France. I was a bus driver in Lothian for 20 years. I have just lost my best pal Billy, and, I just wanted to do it to take my mind of it, and to raise a few bob for the Sick Kids.”

He said that Kayleigh, from Uphall, was an inspiration and he praised the medical team at the Sick Kids for the “message of hope” which they give to all its patients.

Despite the difficult time Kayleigh has been through, she still passed three Highers and is now back at school to continue her studies in S6.

Mr Buffery added: “I have known her since she was a wee lassie. She managed to get through her chemo, they just stay up the road. Her chemo was six-hour sessions, so I used to help take their dogs out for walks.”

Mr Buffery will walk the 800 miles from Sete on the Mediterranean coast to Roscoff in the north-west, camping or staying in hostels where he can.

His solo journey will initially follow the Canal des Deux Mers – made up of the Canal du Midi and the Canal de Garonne – via Toulouse and Bordeaux, before he follows the coastal route to Roscoff.

He has always been a keen walker but he has been doing long-term training walks – including completing the West Highland and Borders Southern Upland Ways – to build up his stamina.

“I’ve been going round the Dalmeny estate with a rucksack, and along the canal to Edinburgh. I wanted to make sure the mind wasn’t making plans that I couldn’t keep,” he said.

“I know it’s a feat – people say I’m mad but I’ve been looking forward to it. I’m hoping to do it in two months but if it takes me three months I’m not in that much of a hurry.

“If I get halfway through and I find it too much, I’ll cut it short and do the other half next year. I like walking anyway.”

Mr Buffery flew to Montpelier on Saturday, ahead of the start of his challenge yesterday.

He said he was grateful for all the support he has had so far from family, friends, and the pubs he used to visit with Mr Lamond, including The Anchor, Ferry Tap and the Stags Head in South Queensferry and the Open Door Church Café in Uphall.

Anyone who wishes to donate can visit www.justgiving.com/richard-buffery/