Wanderlust - and a good pair of knees - have taken Swallownest great-grandfather Mike Nixon thousands of miles o’er hill and dale.
Later this month, he sets forth again, to walk The Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness… just weeks after his 82nd birthday. And as usual, he will walk entirely alone.
Few men his age would walk a mile in his shoes, let alone 77 in the Scottish Highlands.
But Mike loves the freedom and solitude of his treks in the great outdoors, equipped with just a rucksack and a tent.
In the process he has raised huge sums for charity and his latest trek, which takes in 22 miles around Loch Ness and stretches of the Caledonian Canal, will be in aid of Rotherham Hospice.
He hopes this adventure will raise a tidy sum, as it will be his final swansong.
“I know I’m very fortunate to be so fit at 82,” said the great-grandfather. “My hips and knees are still good, but I’ve started to get a bit of back ache. I have to accept age is catching up with me so I will be hanging up my boots after this one.”
The father of five developed a love of walking during his 36-year career with the RAF. While stationed in Cyprus and and Germany he organised numerous 24-hour charity treks.
He continued his hobby while working as a British Rail house manager in Doncaster, then upped the pace after retirement.
He reckons he has clocked up some 3,000 miles on 12 charity treks (his longest was 983 miles from Land’s End to John O’ Groats in eight weeks at the age of 67!).
Add to that the 1,400 miles he has put in for pre-trek training training and he has walked five times the length of Great Britain, a thousand miles further than the distance from Rotherham to the Equator - and roughly the distance from Rotherham to Mumbai, India
Since turning 67 he’s done over 2,000 of this total (almost as far as walking from Rotherham to the North Pole).
Wife Tricia has only ever accompanied him once. “We did the Dales Way, 90 miles from Leeds to Windermere over a week in the early 90s and that was enough for her,” he says. “Since then it’s been just me and Bertie the bee, the lucky mascot, which hangs from my rucksack and has done a couple of thousand miles with me.”
He’s not complaining, though. “I like the peace of being alone in beautiful countryside, And the freedom - I can make my own decisions on where I go and when I stop to rest. I must be quite a solitary soul!” he says.
Mike travels with little more than a change of clothes, a radio, MP3 player and video camera. He buys food en route and plans overnight stops only a few days in advance. When his schedule goes awry, back home in Swallownest, Tricia’s internet skills are on hand to source last-minute B&Bs and youth hostels (he always asks for the lower bunk!)
There are times when he has no option but to pitch his tent in the middle of nowhere, but you get the feeling Mike enjoys that no end.
“I love to be in the remotest of destinations,” he says. “The best trip was to the Outer Hebrides. I began in Barra, the southernmost isle, and worked my way up to Stoneway in Lewis to meet my plane, which landed right on the beach.”
Mike sets off on his last charity trek on May 23 and finishes on June 3. He hopes people will sponsor his final adventure via his Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Nixon1
“I have heard such positive stories about the care people receive at the hospice and wanted to help it,” he said. “At some time in my life I might need its services. You can plan the routes you take in life, but you never really know what’s around the corner.”