Walking and the Countryside are known to help our bodies and our minds, and there are increasing opportunities enabling people to benefit, from unmarked routes through remote hills to Dementia Friendly Walks in easier reach. And it’s not just those who need to escape the rat race who unwind in the wild; earlier this year a well-weathered countryman took to the hills for 24 days of walking across Scotland. But A Walk with Shaun was no ordinary trek.
The incredible journey was Ronald Rose’s 480 mile walk from the Solway Coast to Cape Wrath in memory of his much-valued friend and colleague Shaun, who took his own life in 2019. As well as raising vital funds for the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust (GWT), Ronald was generating invaluable awareness among his rural peers - “Given the work the GWT does to support those in our industry, I wanted to use the trek to fundraise for the GWT and raise awareness about the help available for those struggling with their wellbeing in general, as well as those who consider taking their own life.”
Ronald, a Wildlife Ranger Manager for Forestry & Land Scotland, is from a long line of deer and wildlife managers. Despite many years in this line of work, or perhaps because of it, he doesn’t take the personal challenges lightly: long hours, challenging weather, solitary working, and more. “It’s OK not to be OK. And it’s more than OK, it’s the strong thing to do, to tell a family member, a trusted friend or work colleague, or specialists like the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust, about what problems you are facing and how you are feeling.”
Throughout his journey, he met a number of walkers who had lost loved ones to suicide or considered it themselves; a stark reminder that mental ill health isn’t rare, with figures showing 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year . Impressed by his undertaking, some people donated to his cause there and then.
The walk took Ronald though a wide variety of landscapes managed by the very people he was walking for. “When I was travelling through the remote mountainous areas on the Cape Wrath Trail it became evident that most of the roads, paths, bridges etc. used were created and maintained by estates owners, keepers, stalkers and ghillies. This provides the infrastructure that enables us all to get out into these areas for the benefit of our wellbeing. If something goes awry whilst out there it is inevitably the same keepers, stalkers and ghillies who have the local knowledge and equipment to assist us in our time of need”.
A Walk with Shaun raised over £3000 for the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust. The charity, who managed a Facebook page to document Ronald’s journey, are publishing a short film about the walk on their social media and the Facebook page A Walk with Shaun on 2 August.
Anyone in the gamekeeping community who needs help can contact the GWT, free and in confidence, on Jamie’s Helpline 0300 1233 088.