Why I am walking the West Highland Way

With the prospect of walking 20 miles a day over some beautiful yet challenging countryside, the potential of swarms of midges, horizontal rain and knee high clouds, not to mention my eight fellow walkers, including Matt Ryan, Ian Sansbury and Paul Moring from St Mary’s, you may be wondering why I’ve taken on the challenge to walk the West Highland Way for Pace.

We heard about Pace’s work from Ian Sansbury’s sermon a few weeks ago (available to listen again on our website). I feel very strongly that children, or anyone, with disabilities or difference should be given every chance to live life to the full and be included in society and the church.

I visited the Pace Centre a few weeks ago, and was amazed and humbled by the fantastic work that is done by the team there. The children are learning and fighting to train their bodies to make movements that we take for granted. The patience of the staff working one-on-one with the children in the centre to work through exercises; and at the school where lessons are tailored to the particular needs of the child. All of this and they’re having fun too – Pace is a wonderfully happy place.

CP (Cerebral Palsy) affects 1 in 400 children – think about that number for a moment! I certainly did. It is vital that the babies get treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. This is the part that is not funded by the state, and is dependent on donations.

Another reason for walking is that one of my nieces has hemiplegia a form of cerebral palsy, a mild form compared to most of the children at Pace, but not without its challenges. Hemiplegia affects all of the responses on one side of the body and reveals its effects bit by bit, so is difficult to diagnose and treat. It can affect eyes, hearing, responses or functions on one side. 1 in 1000 children is affected by hemiplegia.

My niece was not diagnosed until she was two and her parents had to fight for care – there was no Pace Centre where they lived. She has gone through mainstream school, as her parents were determined not to make a ‘thing’ about her condition. However, she couldn’t take part in activities such as sports and music. She had to wear splints (not a good look for a fashion conscious teen) and have regular physio and treatment to strengthen her muscles. One of her role models is Francesca Martinez a comedian with CP. My niece is a very determined and independent young lady, she’s now at university reading English, and I’m very proud of her achievements.

So when I’m halfway up the Devil’s Staircase with blisters, in the pouring rain and Matt is singing Disney songs, I will think of those determined young people at Pace and keep walking.

If you feel able to donate to the St Mary’s group Pace fundraising page can be found here :



Xenia Murray