A former tank driver has swapped his army vehicle for a mobility scooter and set off on a journey around the coast of Britain, accompanied by his two cats.
Mark Newton, 47, from Swansea, suffered a life-changing injury to his leg while serving with the UN in Cyprus in 1991.
By 2009, he says, walking had become extremely painful, and through ssafa (the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens Families Association) he was able to get himself a mobility scooter.
After being made redundant in 2010, Mark, originally from Swansea, embarked on trip around Wales on his scooter. Soon he fancied a go at a longer journey.
“I decided to go round Britain,” he said, all round the coast. And it’s funny, because there’s another former squaddie, Christian, who’s doing the same thing for Help for Heroes, except he’s walking, and he’s going round the country the other way to me.
“Most people seem to have done it anti-clockwise. I don’t know what made me think I’d go the other way.
“Having said that, I’m glad I’m on the east coast, now, because it’s Christian getting battered by the wind and rain on the west!”
So far, Mark has travelled over 20,000 miles, sleeping in a small trailer that he pulls behind his scooter, and he has raised more than £16,000 for Help for Heroes, ssafa, the Royal British Legion, 1 Queens Royal Dragoons and the RNLI. His high speed on the scooter is about 8mph, and he says he can count on roughly 20 miles before having to charge his battery. He says that he doesn’t want to have a target when it comes to fundraising, partly because he’d be upset if he didn’t reach it, and partly because if he did, then the public may not continue to give.
He is being accompanied on the trip by his two cats, Missy and Smudge, who certainly draw a crowd when he parks up. “I have to keep Missy tethered to the trailer,” said, “otherwise she’d be off chasing birds - but she hasn’t caught one since Shetland! She’s been obsessed with the seals along the coast, as well.
He also says he doesn’t know when he’ll finish his journey, and when he does, he’ll probably go straight out on another one. “I think I’d like to see all the country’s war graves,” he said. “Some of them I’ve seen on this trip, and it’s noticeable that they’ve been clean and very well-kept, even when other graves are all overgrown.
Wherever he’s been, he has been able to count on the support of the public, especially lifeboat crews and fellow ex-servicemen. “I stopped at the lifeboat station in Eyemouth, to charge the scooter, and everybody there, and at the Ship Inn, was great. I’m off to Holy Island next, and I’m giving myself plenty of time to clear the tides!”
Berwick resident Stuart Peters charged Mark’s mobility scooter and offered him food and a bed, but Mark opted to sleep outside in his trailer outside.
“I just wanted to help after hearing his amazing story,” explained Stuart. “You wouldn’t believe some of the things he’s told us about. He needs help charging his mobility scooter, so we did that. And we gave him a cup of tea this morning.
“But he needs more publicity as he continues his journey so that more people are aware of what he is trying to do and can help.”
“One of the oddest places I’ve been so far was Edinburgh,” he said. “I was there in the run-up to Christmas. I went up and down Rose Street and Princes Street, all day. And can you imagine, the only contribution I got that day was from a beggar!
“I’m very obvious when I come through, but I’ve only been pulled over the once, and that was in Oban, when an unmarked police car wanted to see what I was up to.
Having served in Northern Ireland and Germany, Mark is glad to have the chance to see more of his home country, although he says some of the roads he’s been on could do with more looking after.
“I originally had the four-wheeled version of this scooter, but I was persuaded that this three-wheeled version might be better for what I’m doing.
“It’s pretty open to the elements when I’m on it, but a girlfriend made me these handwarmers to go over the handlebars, and they’re reflective as well, so it’s not too bad.
“My major worry is in the stronger winds, in case the tailer goes over. Apart from that, the worst thing is potholes: I really feel them sat on here.”
Mark does admit to one other annoyance: litter.
“It’s awful in some places,” he said, “all the wrappers and bottles everywhere.
“Because I wanted to do all the islands in Britain as well as the mainland, I’ve been right up to the Orkneys. Up there, the roads are great, really clean.
“I knew that I was getting back towards so called ‘civilisation’ when the Tesco bags and McDonalds wrappers started appearing again.”
You can keep up to date with Mark’s progress and contribute at virginmoneygiving.com/aroundbritain