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Hugh’ll Never Walk Alone

By the time you are in your 70s you just might be tempted to drop your fitness ambitions. But for Hugh, it’s been a chance to take on physical challenges and raise funds for Age UK Camden. 

From two big shopping bags Hugh unpacks porridge oats, blueberries and the ingredients for his famous vegetable soup. He’s also bought a packet of Mr Kipling’s French Fancies in case the Get Together Camden team have a sweet tooth. The heavy bags aren’t just for groceries, they’re also a way to get some weight training on his way back from the supermarket. “I eat healthily, and I love to go walking every day,” says Hugh, now 73, who has a selection of walking boots and shoes stored by the sofa in his sitting room. “I used to throw a lot of weights about, but walking is good for your health. When you walk you see everything and there’s less chance of having an accident.” 

After a stroke and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a very worried Hugh went to Age UK Camden for support. He was so impressed by the help he got – both from a home visit and regular meet ups with the Sporting Memories group – that he decided to do a fundraiser. 

“I wanted to walk to Scotland,” explains Hugh. He intended to walk a hefty 40 miles a day, but the plan was foiled by insurance issues. By the time Hugh realised this, he was deep into his training and had got in the habit of walking the back roads to St Albans, which is 20 miles from London. “I like going through the villages, I’m not walking along the M1!” Instead of giving up his ambitions for a long walk he decided to use the London to St Albans route he already knew to fundraise for Age UK Camden’s Hampstead Health & Positive Living Hub, Henderson Court. 

This year he’s been a regular at Great Camden Minds (a partnership with Camden carers and Age UK Camden) where he says he’s met “some lovely people”. 

This summer Hugh decided that he would undertake another fundraising walk to St Albans with his son. “Unfortunately we picked 29 June 2019 which was the hottest day of the year (with temperatures reaching 38C). My son was really worried about me on this walk,” he admits. But cool-headed Hugh had a strategy to beat the heat: “The previous night I’d put drinks into the freezer. We then walked with the cold drinks tied around our back and front to keep us cool!” The pair finished without disaster, bringing the two walk total raised for Age UK Camden to a whopping £2,234. 

Hugh puts his fitness down to the fact that he was a football-mad teenager before teenagers were even a ‘thing’. He still has a row of football shields won during his school days at Cadzow St Anne’s up in Scotland. At 15 he was apprenticed at a coal mine which was still using pit ponies. 

“When I was young, people seemed older,” says Hugh thoughtfully. “When I started my apprenticeship people in their late 40s were old – but they’d been in mines since they were 13 and it wasn’t a healthy job.” 

Even while working Hugh made sure he stayed fit and always had time to play football, only stopping 20 years ago. His weights routine is different now too because “I pulled my shoulder when playing golf,” he says explaining why he doesn’t use bar bells often. Despite this, nothing has stopped Hugh’s brilliant sporting party trick. He is strong enough to hold on to a lamp post and lift his whole body up parallel to the pavement. Passers-by get caught out thinking that they are seeing someone levitate, when in fact they are watching a demonstration of what you can do if you have a muscular core and walk a lot. 

No wonder Hugh is a bit of a local legend – as well known pounding the Camden pavements as he is on his regular journey to St Albans. 

If you want to look into ways to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, call Age UK Camden Community Connectors team on 0800 161 5716 to start on the road to a fitter you. 

If you’d like to fundraise, visit: 

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/camden/ get-involved/fundraise-for-us/ 

For information about our Dementia Wellbeing service, visit: 

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/camden/ our-services/dementia-support/ 

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