What's inspiring?

Updated: Nov 2, 2018


Rhossili beach, on the Gower peninsula, South Wales

As I stroll round the coast, people quite often say that this journey is inspiring. While that is flattering, I wonder whether there are different levels of inspiration. For example, seeing someone live their lives, day in day out, according to a creed which involves helping or motivating others seems to reach a higher level. In that spirit, here are some stories of inspiring people from those I've met along the way. Using a brief 2-3 line format.


The house in Hartland, North Devon, where Mary Norton, author of The Borrowers lived her last years.

Mary Norton inspired generations of children with her Borrowers series of fantasy novels. Previously the house was occupied by a vicar and his wife who fostered over 100 children. The current lady of the house helped reintroduce wild horses to the Mongolian plains!


A young woman taking two weeks of her leave to teach at the University of Kabul. Her boss hears about it and asks to join. And his boss learns too, and is going as well...


For the last 20 years, a man has cleaned up the litter and leaves from the village's bus stop every Thursday because...well, that's how the village should be.


For 30 years, Micki Schloessinck has operated Bridge Pottery in the tiny Gower village of Llanmadoc, as well as helping to source organic vegetables for the village's community shop.

Two women set up a foundation over 30 years ago to provide schooling for girls and boys in northern Afghanistan. They've travelled there regularly and have built and continue to support over 40 schools - see: http://www.afghanistan-schulen.de/english-version.html


A woman works for over 50 years to lead the guide movement in her local area, including arranging the purchase and renovation of an outdoor activity centre. In her 80s, she is still catering for the students. She and her husband also lead Duke of Edinburgh award training.


These redoubtable and generally marvellous women, all in their 80s, kindly took me on a (pretty rugged) section of the Gower coast path. They have been walking the whole of the Gower peninsula over the past few months. Incredible.


Grandparents serving as the official carers for their grandson, as the parents are unable to look after him. Every day, no fuss, with boundaries, love and humour. (For a great example of the importance of grandparenting, read Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance.)


These are just a small subset of the inspiring stories I've encountered. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention my late wife, who, apart from serving as the inspiration for this walk, was consistent throughout her life in demonstrating her commitment to the environment, and living beings. She volunteered for many years at Washington zoo, counted invertebrates in streams, measured water quality, sat on an advisory panel for Montgomery County, instituted a neighbourhood Earth Day cleanup, ensured that her garden was friendly to flora and fauna, worked in a community organic garden...the list goes on.

Cancer Research UK
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Cancer Research UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1089464), Scotland (SC041666) and the Isle of Man (1103). A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales (4325234) and the Isle of Man (5713F). Registered address: Angel Building, 407 St John Street, London EC1V 4AD.

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