Val Stones, 67
Retired primary school head and a popular contestant last year on BBC One’s Great British Bake Off. She lives in Somerton, Somerset with her husband.
In October, she and three girlfriends will be walking part of the Great Wall of China to raise money for Childline and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
China is by turns ancient ultra-modern, and a land of immense natural beauty. Find out more about our holidays to China here.
Every year I set myself a new challenge. It’s great for the soul.
Too many people get ‘comfy-chair’ syndrome as they get older. When I retired, I began to realise my mortality and think: ‘What haven’t you done that you can have a go at while you’re still fit and able?’
A challenge has to test my capacity to learn, must enhance my life but also add to the lives of others
I’m aiming to raise £50,000 for Childline, because of my long links with children, and for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The target’s been set because I have more than 50,000 followers on Instagram (@valcake.walks). Imagine if they each donated £1!
As a teacher I’ve done skipathons at school for the British Heart Foundation, Tesco’s 10km walks for Cancer Relief and twice cycled from Bath to London for charity, which was gruelling. Soon after the second ride, I returned from work to find a man wheeling my racing bike away: my worried husband had sold it.
I’ve never failed a challenge. I’ve got stamina and I’m bloody-minded. I like to keep moving and I wear a pedometer: I can do 4,000 steps making jam!
Since the New Year everyone’s been coming round to use my crosstrainer and we’re also going up and down the steep hill in this valley. I used to run the two and a half miles every morning, now I wobble – I run 100 metres, then walk 100 metres.
I suffer from osteoporosis and, after a fall in 2013, I now have a metal plate with nine screws in my right arm and a plate with two screws in my left hand. It hurts when I do a lot of baking, but as long as I’m not doing handstands in China, I’ll be fine.
Exercise is good for your brain
I’m the child of two bright parents who couldn’t get to grammar school and I was also initially written off by the education system. But my Mum and Dad had aspirations and we’ve all of us achieved lots.
I knew I wasn’t stupid. I did my Open University degree while pregnant; I read Cipolla’s Economic History of World Population while in labour.
I’ve learnt from all the challenges of my life that the human spirit is strong enough to keep you going when your body is shouting: ‘No! Stop!
China and its history fascinate me. When I walk the Great Wall, I hope to feel a connection with those who’ve left their footprints before me. Raising money for good causes is a legacy for the future. I’m already planning the next challenge…
To donate, go to justgiving.com and search for ‘Val Stones’. Follow Val’s journey on facebook.com/valerianstones
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