Steel Bones Blog – June 2024 – Forbes Mutch

Hiking Adventure (1) 31 May 2024

Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

Hi, my name is Forbes Mutch and I’m sitting at the dining room table in our Hertfordshire home, looking out of the window and listening to the rain patter on the skylight above. It’s not the best weather for walking, but we are nearly ready for the off. There’s no turning back now.

Where are we going? Here’s the background. Walking long distance footpaths was one of the touchstones that brought my wife Jenny and I together. We used to go walking in Derbyshire, the New Forest, Greece, the American Appalachians and once walked coast-to-coast in Corsica.

Five years ago, I had a below-the-knee amputation due to Type 1 diabetic complications, and this has restricted my walking to less than 10 miles (16km) a day. Jenny is still keen on longer stretches and is walking the length of Offa’s Dyke, which runs between England and Wales, from Prestatyn in the north to Chepstow in the south. It’s 200 miles (320km) and not for the fainthearted but she is doing to raise money for Steel Bones.

I am acting as her backup, taking the car, carrying the bags and hopefully meeting Jenny on the trail at the end of each day. I’ll keep you posted with regular updates and let you know how we get on. Keep your fingers crossed for better weather.

If you would like to sponsor Jenny, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Talk to you later. Forbes Mutch.

Caption: Forbes and Jenny in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (you could write a song about that!)

You can read more about Forbes at this link:

Hiking Adventure (2) 1 June 2024: Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

We hit the road from Hertfordshire at midday and head up the motorway towards Prestatyn, where the Offa’s Dyke trail begins (or ends, depending which way you’re walking). We’ve packed the car with every conceivable item of walking gear – Jenny’s boots, rucksacks, walking poles and one of my spare prosthetics, the one I use in the bathroom shower. It’s only halfway up the M1 that I suddenly realise that I have forgotten my own walking boots! They are still under the kitchen table, scrubbed and clean and ready to go. Oh well, I think, they’ve done several thousand miles over the years and probably need replacing, so this is going to be a good time for a new pair.

In a sports shop in Prestatyn, I try on several pairs. It’s one of the few advantages of only having one leg that, when you’re buying new shoes, you only have to try on one from each pair, trusting that the other one will fit your carefully moulded prosthetic toes and you’re not going to feel if the shoe is too tight or too loose.

Before checking into our hotel, we visit St Winefride’s Shrine and Well, in Holywell. St Winefride lived in the area over 1,400 years ago. She was the daughter of a local prince and her uncle was the priest St Beuno. One day, a local chieftain attempted to seduce Winefride. She ran to her uncle’s church, but the chieftain caught up with her and, in the ensuing struggle, he cut off Winefride’s head. At the point that her head fell to the ground a spring of water welled up and the chieftain fled. St Beuno emerged from the church and, taking up Winefride’s severed head, he replaced it back on her body and prayed successfully for her to be restored to life. She got up and lived for another 22 years. Oh, wouldn’t some of us like to meet St Beuno now and have severed limbs restored? St Winefride’s shrine provides a pool of healing, like a mini–Northern Lourdes.

We end the day with a sunset walk along the broad beach at Prestatyn.

If you would like to sponsor Jenny, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Talk to you later. Forbes Mutch.

Sunday 2 June 2024  Hiking Adventure (3) Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

So, this is it, the start of Jenny’s mega trek. It’s a beautiful day; the sky is clear; the sun is bright, there’s a bit of a breeze but it’s perfect weather for walking.

We have breakfast in the hotel. I’m a Type I diabetic and have been careful about what I eat all my life, at least since I was diagnosed at the age of 10. And yet, whenever I say in a hotel, my mind pretends that I’m someone else and I often order a full English fried breakfast, with cereal instead of fruit, black pudding instead of a boiled egg, white toast instead of brown. This morning, I have eggs benedict (2) with a rich hollandaise sauce and high-carb muffins. Naughty but nice, as they say.

After breakfast, Jenny meets up with a couple of friends who have arranged to walk the first day with her and they leave the hotel together to find Offa’s Dyke behind Prestatyn. I set off in the car and drive to our next accommodation, a bed-and-breakfast about 15 miles south.

Jenny and I are tracking each other’s progress using a Find-My app on our phones. Midway through the afternoon, I don my new walking boots, leave the B&B and head off to meet Jenny and her friends as they come to the end of today’s trail. My new boots – or should I say ‘boot’ – are/is comfortable.

Despite losing my leg five years ago, I still love walking – I’m just a bit slower and find rough ground difficult. Also, my prosthetic has a hydraulic ankle, so it’s springy, which makes balancing on stiles or climbing over fences hard. Still, it’s great to be out in the fresh air and I end the day walking six miles (10km). Jenny and her friends cover 16 miles (25km).

Looking for a pub or restaurant in the evening, we discover that the whole of North Wales seems to close on a Sunday. For dinner, we have a ham and cheese sandwich and a bottle of wine from a local corner shop – not exactly the hikers’ traditional fare of beer and steak pie! Nevertheless, it’s been a good first day’s walking and has set us up for tomorrow.

If you would like to sponsor Jenny, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Talk to you later. Forbes Mutch


Monday 3 June 2024 Hiking Adventure (4)

Delicious crepes for breakfast at our B&B make up for last night’s meagre corner-shop sandwiches. And then we are off. I drive Jenny to where she left the trail yesterday and wish her luck as she disappears into the mist. Today promises to be a tough trek.

I sit in the car for an hour, writing this blog and listening to the windscreen wipers swish away the drizzle. I’m dry but, before you think I’ve got a cushy number on this holiday, driving on rural B roads in North Wales can be hazardous. The locals drive at the speed of light round twisty bends with no room to pass. Twice this morning I have to screech to a halt and reverse back up the road to a passing space to let, first a young lad in a Ford Fiesta and then a DPD delivery van get past. There’s also a fallen tree that requires a long diversion. This is the countryside.

Driving again after my amputation was one of the milestones of rehabilitation. We changed our car, bought an automatic, and converted it to left-foot control, so my NHS right foot sits dormant while my own (left) foot works the brake and accelerator. Easy.

I rendezvous with Jenny at a pre-determined point on the trail. Unfortunately, once I start walking, I discover two paths heading in the same direction, both seemingly marked Offa’s Dyke. I choose the high road, not knowing that Jenny is on the low road. We pass each other by about 100m. All I can say is that my views are higher and better!

Mileage today is 20 miles (33km) for Jenny; six miles (10km) for me. Hmm, maybe I am having it cushy! Sponsorship has passed £1,200.

Today is hard, but our accommodation tonight is above a pub and provides a deep bath for Jenny and a shower for me. I walk through the bar downstairs carrying my spare leg. No-one notices or makes a comment. Why should they?

If you would like to sponsor Jenny, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Talk to you later. Forbes Mutch.

Hiking Adventure (5) 4-5 June 2024 Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

Forwards we go! On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, I’m not surprised that we’ve just experienced our Longest Day, twice.

Yesterday, we leave Ruthin, an interesting town of quirky independent shops but not many restaurants that are open on a Monday night. Is Monday the same as Sunday in North Wales? Thank heavens for Weatherspoons.

The weather is overcast and cloudy. Occasionally, the clouds become undercast and descend to surround Jenny on some of the steep climbs. When the rain clears, the views are spectacular. We link up around lunchtime and walk for a few miles together, but I’m having a bad day.

Calcification of the arteries, the diabetic complication that caused the loss of my leg five years ago, has also affected my heart. I had a coronary stent inserted two years ago. Now, every time I get a pain in my chest, I wonder if I’m going to have a heart attack. The problem is that I walk with two poles because they help with propulsion and balance. But they also make my shoulders ache and then I think, is that my shoulders hurting or is it my chest? It becomes so complicated trying to keep track of all these underlying health issues, sometimes I brush it all aside and think ‘STOP! let’s just live and make the most of life’. Worry never made anything better.

I’m sitting in the bar of our hotel this afternoon, waiting for Jenny to arrive, when someone enters asking me if we allow dogs. I immediately realise that he thinks I work there but, rather than correct this unsuspecting stranger, I stare straight-faced and say: ‘Well, it depends what breed it is, because there are some breeds like poodles that we don’t like, and what is its name, because there are some dog names like Monty or Pooch that we don’t allow. Also, is your dog dry or wet because wet dogs in the bar are an absolute no-no’. The man leaves looking confused. The staff of the hotel are in absolute stitches.

The next day is much better. I manage to walk nine miles (14km) in fairly level, undulating country. For once we can see the outline of Offa’s dyke itself. It has eroded over the years but it’s still exciting to see remains of an earthwork made 1500 years ago.

Our B&B in Llangollen this evening sits right on the Dyke. The grounds of the house are in Wales; the field opposite is in England. Suddenly, I feel that we have crossed the border and are no longer in a foreign country.

More to follow. Forbes Mutch.

If you would like to sponsor Jenny, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Hiking Adventure 6-7 June 2024 Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

Two relatively, but much-needed, easy days, covering 12 miles (19km) yesterday and today. On her previous days, Jenny covered 20 miles (32km) and 25 miles (40km) and the distances started to make the soles of her feet itch. It’s part of my back-up duty as bag man to act as official foot scratcher as well.

We have settled into a routine now, setting off at around 8.00 o’clock each morning. I drop Jenny off at the start of the next leg and met her on the trail during the afternoon, walking together for 5-6 miles (9km). Yesterday I managed 9 miles (14km) as it was a flat route along the famous Montgomery or Monty Canal around Oswestry. The weather too has improved and that also makes walking easier.

Jenny has now been joined by a friend for three days, which takes the pressure off me meeting her every day. As a result, I take the opportunity today to visit Powis Castle, a National Trust mediaeval castle with extensive gardens. Too stingy to pay the entrance fee, I sit on a bench overlooking the castle and get out my sketchbook.

Drawing is something that I haven’t done for many years and I have forgotten how someone sketching or sitting at an easel can be a magnet for strangers who feel entitled to come over and inspect what you’re working on. I have several conversations today with passersby, who examine my sketch book and tell me their life stories as if I’ve raised a banner saying ‘yes, please come and bother me’. Of course, I’m polite and tell them why I’m here, mainly in the hope that they will sponsor Jenny. None do.

Now, here’s a pub quiz question. What do National Trust peacocks like to eat in addition to bird seed? Answer: pencil rubbers. A peacock comes up to my bench, pecks around for a bit and then runs off with my sketching rubber. I run around in circles for a few seconds, shrieking at the peacock as loudly as the peacock is shrieking at me. In the end, I barter back my rubber by offering the bird a handful of peanuts instead. My ploy works, much to the amusement of visitors to the castle who are streaming past.

Tonight, we are in Montgomery, looking forward to a slap-up decent  pub dinner with friends. I wouldn’t mind if peacock is on the menu.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored Jenny so far. We are just £100 short of our initial target of £1,500, which is amazing. If you’d like to sponsor her across the line, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Talk soon. Forbes Mutch

Tonight, we are in Montgomery, looking forward to a slap-up decent  pub dinner with friends. I wouldn’t mind if peacock is on the menu.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored Jenny so far. We are just £100 short of our initial target of £1,500, which is amazing. If you’d like to sponsor her across the line, please take a look at her JustGiving page. Thanks.

Talk soon. Forbes Mutch

Hiking Adventure June 2024 Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

Days 8 and 9 – Halfway but still up hill

Two important milestones have been reached – Jenny has passed the halfway point of Offa’s Dyke and, at the same time, has reached her fundraising target of £1,500. This is an amazing achievement and we are all very proud of her. Of course, she couldn’t have got this far without a trusted partner!

It’s a psychological myth that reaching the halfway point means the walking will get easier – you know, thinking it’s ‘all downhill from here’! The reality is that, in the mountains of the Welsh-English border, the walking has become trickier. The climbs yesterday on an 18-mile (29km) stretch were the hardest yet and, although today is relatively shorter at 16-miles (25km), it’s still tough going.

As Jenny has been walking with a friend, and our daughter joined her yesterday, I have been able to take it easy, apart from providing a necessary taxi service for the walkers at the beginning and end of each day. Yesterday, in my downtime, I climbed up to a ruined Norman castle on the outskirts of the county town of Montgomery. It was a steep trek but, as often happens, I was rewarded at the top with some amazing views of the surrounding countryside. There was one downside to this escapade, however: my prosthetic developed a squeak. It now talks to me as I walk. I’m sure it’s saying: what are you doing to me? Give me a rest, won’t you?

There is a community museum in Montgomery, displaying artifacts from daily life over the years, including furniture, kitchen utensils, old photographs and, of particular interest, what looked like a Victorian false leg – at least I think it was – made of metal struts and leather thongs and a heavy wooden foot. It looked severely uncomfortable to wear. Thank heavens for progress.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped Jenny reach her fundraising target! £1,500 is amazing, but her JustGiving page remains open, so if you’d like to contribute, please take a look. Thanks.

Talk soon. Forbes Mutch

Hiking Adventure June 2024 Jenny Mutch (Mant) walks 200 miles in aid of Steel Bones

Days 10 and 11 – Books are it

Have you ever been to Hay-on-Wye? It should really be re-named Books-on-Wye. With over 20 specialist second-hand bookshops in a community of less than 2,000, it is known officially as the National Book Town of Wales. Since the mid-1980s, it has been the home of an annual literary festival, which attracts authors and speakers from around the world and over 80,000 visitors every May. Former US President Bill Clinton called it ‘the Woodstock of the mind’. We have just missed it when we arrive here this year, although the flags are still hanging across the streets.


The flags were also out in the town of Kington, where we stayed last night. I thought they might be in honour of Jenny’s arrival (ha ha) but it turns out that they are for the town’s annual wheelbarrow race which took place the previous evening. It’s a shame we are 24 hours late. I’m sure Jenny would appreciate a ride in a wheelbarrow at the moment.

She has found the trail tough going these past two days. The miles are accumulating and every morning she wakes up with a groan, saying: I’m so tired, I ache all over. The Deep Heat administration has spread from her ankles and calves to her lower back, and shoulders. Today it includes her neck muscles, and she leaves our hotel smelling like a football players’ treatment room. But she’s cheerful and thankful that the end is in sight.

I spend today looking around the ruins of Llanthony Priory, going for a 5-mile (8km) circular walk in the area before retiring to the warmth of a stone coffee shop in the basement of the Priory Hotel. There I enjoy a bowl of chestnut and mushroom soup. Plus a hunk of home-baked bread. And a Welsh cake. And some fruit cake. Well, what’s the point of being away from home if you don’t experience the local cuisine?

Two days to go. You can still sponsor Jenny on her JustGiving page if you like.

Forbes Mutch

Hiking Adventure June 2024 Day 12 – A Close Shave

Do you find, when you go on holiday, and you’re in the fresh air and sunshine, that your hair grows faster? It must be the natural vitamins of the outside. Anyway, as we approach the end of this adventure, and we are now back in what I would loosely describe as ‘civilisation’ (no offence to the charming but isolated rural communities of mid-Wales) I decide to find a barber’s shop to sort out my unruly head of hair.

From Hay-on-Wye, we head down to Monmouth. It’s another 20-mile (32km) day for Jenny, who is walking with two friends as they tackle the last peaks of the Black Mountains. Meanwhile, I recline in the town’s only Turkish barbers. Abdul listens to my instructions: take it off the ears, tidy it up at the back, shorten it at the front but don’t take too much off the top. Make it look like Robert Redford’s hair. Abdul looks bemused but begins.

I notice the price list hanging on the wall, with a range of hair and beard options that I haven’t considered. I ask what a ‘Special Treatment’ is. Abdul tells me, and I decide to go for the whole sha-bang. I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence but, since my amputation, the stubble on my chin grows faster and thicker than it used to. It’s also a fact of life that, as I get older, my hair gets thinner on top and starts growing out of my nostrils, ears and eyebrows instead. Abdul deals with it all and finishes by giving me a cut-throat wet shave, followed by a hot-towel face massage. It’s the best haircut I’ve ever had. I ask Abdul where he learnt his trade. He says: Monmouth.

Back to the walking. It’s a warm day, so I park the car, and walk down to the river and across some meadows towards the Offa’s Dyke tail in order to meet the main hikers. After a while, I find myself walking back into town. I’ve gone round in a big circle and have ended up where I started. So I get out my sketch book and draw Monmouth’s famous Monnow Bridge instead. I link up with Jenny and our friends at the end of the day, and also my sister Liz and husband Bob, who is going to be Jenny’s companion on the final day tomorrow. Dinner is a sort of celebratory Italian meal. One day to go.

…but you can still sponsor Jenny on her JustGiving page if you like.

Forbes Mutch

Hiking Adventure June 2024 Day 13 – Over the Line
The last day. Jenny joins my brother-in-law Bob and they set off on the last 19-mile (30km) stretch of the walk, leaving Monmouth and heading to the end at Chepstow. My sister Liz and I visit Tintern Abbey and shelter from the rain in a café there. Up on the hills, the weather is not so bad and Jenny and Bob make good progress.

Liz and I drive down to Chepstow in the late afternoon. I’m confused, as I always imagined that Chepstow was a quintessential town in England but it’s actually in Monmouthshire, Wales. Its Welsh name is Cas-Gwent and, although it is very close to the border, the predominant language you hear spoken in the shops, bars and market squares is Welsh.

The Abbey exploration has made my legs ache, but Liz and I locate the end of the Offa’s Dyke trail and wait there for Jenny and Bob to appear. I’m tracking Jenny on the My Find app and it’s quite exciting to monitor her as she edges closer to the end of her mammoth trek. Here she comes… closer… just behind that hedge… I can hear a gate opening… and there she is, coming down a bank on the other side of the road with Bob.
She’s made it!

Smiles, hugs, laughter. We hug each other again. What an achievement. Jenny’s FitBit tells us that she has walked nearly 1.3 million steps or 220 miles (354km) in 11 days – yes, an average of 20 miles a day – and climbed the accumulated equivalent of four Ben Nevis mountains.

But more than that, we have worked as a team; I have been inspired to walk over 50 miles myself, with my prosthetic leg behaving most of the way (maybe the occasional squeak here and there). We have linked up with old friends, made new friends, met interesting people, appreciated humour and laughter along the way and – and this is the big one – with the support of Steel Bones, with your support, we have raised nearly £2,000 for the charity.

As Jenny climbs stiffly onto the rock that marks the official finish of Offa’s Dyke, the weather joins in the celebrations with a squall of intense wind and rain that swirls around the clearing on a cliff top overlooking the Severn estuary. It’s as if someone has been holding the rain back all week but now feels it can be let go. Thanks for waiting!

And thanks everyone for joining us on the journey. There’s still a chance to sponsor Jenny using her JustGiving page if you like. Otherwise look out for next year’s adventure!
Forbes Mutch

JENNY HUGE HUGE CONGRATULATIONS FROM US ALL AT STEEL BONES what an incredible hikathon !! BIG THANK YOU FOR THE INCREDIBLE FUNDS RAISED BUT ALSO FORBES’ BRILLIANT WRITING – we have felt part of the adventure and it has brought us all so much joy to read and admire, be inspired by your huge achievements. Wishing you a lovely drive home and a fabulously long hot bath.