Charity walker makes Hardie Park stop on 616-mile walk across the country

A CHARITY walker was given a hero’s welcome as she stopped off at Hardie Park for lunch and on Monday.

Courtney Ireland, 31, started her 616-mile walk from Batley in Yorkshire on 29 May as part of a community project organised by the Eden Project titled The Great Big Walk. The project involves her stopping at various locations with members of the Eden team to hear about local community work and she finishes at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London this Sunday.

Pupils from Stanford Primary School and St Joseph’s Primary joined the Friends of Hardie Park to give Courtney a special welcome as she visited the park.

She later sat down with the park volunteers for lunch and heard about the many community projects they have been involved in, and their plans for the park in the future.

Courtney, who works for Eden in London and is originally from Australia, said: “We’ve had a lot of great welcomes at the stops we’ve made, but none quite as special as that. To get two schools to come out and support us was amazing.

“Hearing about all that has been achieved here it’s clear that in Stanford-le-Hope there is a real community appetite to make things better and get work done. That’s not always true of everywhere and it’s incredible to see the amount of money the community have raised.

“Usually I work at a desk and by taking part in this walk it’s given me the opportunity to see a lot of places you would never think to visit. I think I’ll be having withdrawal symptoms when I have to return to my desk at the end of it all.”

A team of walkers for Eden set off on five different routes on 29 May taking in all parts of the country, all culminating in The Big Lunch this Sunday, which is an annual event encouraging people to get to know others in their community.

Mandie Groves, one of the Friends of Hardie Park, said the group had taken part in The Big Lunch before and heard about this walk in February.

She added: “We were really excited about the walk and told Eden that we would love to be one of their stops.

“We then never thought much about it because we thought it was unlikely they’d stop here, but because of our prior connection they decided to visit Hardie Park and it’s been lovely to meet Courtney and the whole Eden team.”