Derbyshire businesswoman Jen completes her 1000-mile ‘Walk In The Parks’ challenge to raise £10,000 for Peak District projects

Adventurous travel writer and chair of charity the Peak District National Park Foundation, Jen Lowthrop has successfully completed her biggest challenge yet – hiking across England’s 10 national parks to raise £10,000 for Peak District projects.

Matlock-born and raised Jen (38) who  has hiked almost 1000 miles with her rescue dog, Cookie has now reached her ambitious target. That’s over 1.7 million steps walked in every kind of weather averaging a half-marathon a day, blisters on blisters, hip pain and twelve falls to date. Her lowest moment was when Cookie’s paw was injured and her faithful companion needed to rest for a week.

A Walk in the Parks began on Saturday 19 August. The final nine days across the Peak District from Marsden in the North saw Jen end her epic journey near Ashbourne in the South on 30 October, cheered on the final mile by friends, family and sponsors.

Throughout the 1000-mile journey, Jen has met key people to learn more about what makes each national park special and why they need to be protected. Her match-funders Alpkit will then help her select two projects from each of England’s 10 national parks and award them with a £500 grant each to support the grassroots work they are doing.

“Huge thanks to my sponsors Alpkit and Komoot. I can’t wait to see which projects from national parks across England receive the Alpkit funding,” says Jen. “Komoot has quite literally saved my bacon when lost on moorland, I just needed to follow the blue dot!”

She adds: “There have been some pretty hairy moments, from being cornered by over thirty young cows to getting lost on the never-ending rainy moorlands. There’s been blisters on blisters and I think I may have put ten years on my knees. There have been tearful calls home wondering how I could take another step and other days why I wondered why I wasn’t walking double the miles.

The highest point physically and emotionally was reaching the 930m summit of Scafell Pike in the Lake District on my own, clambering across giant boulders and up steep scree paths in thick cloud to be greeted with 360 degree views when I reached the top. For me, that’s what this walking thing is all about.”

Jen believes immersive journeys like this can fundamentally change us.

“I have often been asked how this journey has changed me” she reflects. “I know I have loved it despite some incredibly hard parts and lots of tears. It only takes a beautiful view or the glint of sunshine through the trees to put a smile back on my face. Nature is honestly incredible, and my journey has made me want to learn more about how it works and how we can protect it.

I want to do more for our national parks, especially around access. I am so privileged to have grown up within the Peak District and it’s taken all this walking to make me realise how much it has made me the person I am today. I want more people, especially young people to experience the joys of connecting to nature, so we can grow the pioneers and custodians of the future.

Jen also reveals she has realised how much she needed to slow down.

“Life was too hectic before I stopped to walk. With two businesses, a blog, a Chair role and many other things in my life, I didn’t stop, and had been precariously close to burnout for a while. When I return home next week, I am stepping back a notch and making sure I don’t get that close to burnout again. I want time to cook, to walk, to enjoy the changing seasons and time with family and friends.

I’m also going to be spending the next couple of months sitting reflecting and writing about what I’ve learnt.”

She has been supported by many other businesses including Peak Cottages, Danner Boots and Unique Hideaways. Her accommodation included camping, staying with locals and hotels and B&Bs, thanks to her sponsors.

She concludes: “I have had so many people help me along the way. A challenge of this magnitude is far from a solo endeavour. It has taken a village to help me prepare, give me lifts to places, feed me, host me for the night, share advice and experience and keep me motivated on the tough days. My thank you list is long: the national park staff who have supported me, the accommodation providers who have given us a free place to stay, the random strangers who kept me company along the hike and even donated, the Peak District National Park Authority and Foundation staff and trustees- and my incredible family who have gone above and beyond, driving across the country to help. I could not have done it without them.

And I have been blown away by the generous donations to my fundraiser. Every penny raised will go towards projects around accessibility and inclusivity in the park and to increase our Connect Fund grant pot to support grassroots community projects around connection to nature and sustainability.”

There is still time to donate