The veteran has raised £500,000 for the charity SSAFA (Ben Birchall/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Ben Birchall
A former British paratrooper has celebrated finishing his 19,000-mile walk of the UK coastline – raising £500,000 for charity and returning home with a partner, dog and baby son.
Chris Lewis, 43, was joined by hundreds of cheering supporters as he completed the final mile of his epic walk which began on Llangennith beach on the Gower Peninsula, near his home city of Swansea, South Wales, on August 1 2017.
He set off from the beach alone six years ago, with just £10 in his pocket and a few days of supplies, hoping to raise £100,000 for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.
On Saturday, Mr Lewis returned to the spot where it all began having raised five times that amount, with his adopted dog Jet, and fiancee Kate Barron, 36, who joined his walk almost three years ago.
The couple welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Magnus Lewis, in May last year. He walked across the finish line, through bunting made by wellwishers from across the world, with his parents.
Chris Lewis, with partner Kate Barron and their son Magnus and adopted dog Jet, as they complete the charity walk at Llangennith beach (Ben Birchall/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Ben Birchall
Ahead of completing their final mile, the family were told they had reached their increased target of £500,000 in donations and were handed a letter from the King offering his congratulations to them.
Speaking at the finish line, Mr Lewis said: “To say we’re chuffed is an understatement.
“This walk has restored my faith in humanity and hopefully other people’s too. I really am so proud and over the moon.”
Ms Barron, who left a teaching job in London to join Mr Lewis on the walk, spoke of how it had changed their lives immeasurably.
“I think this is something that is going to take a while to sink in,” she said.
“I’ve been walking for almost three years now and this has become a way of life for us.
“I think to wake up in a couple of days and not have that sense of mission to move forward every day on the coast is going to be so strange.
“I also feel so proud of us. We’ve worked so hard on this.”
Chris Lewis has been walking the UK coastline since August 2017 (Ben Birchall/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Ben Birchall
Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA, presented Mr Lewis with champagne as he crossed the finish line.
He described how the charity had helped Mr Lewis, who served until 2004 and was a single parent to his daughter Caitlin.
“Chris, what you have achieved is remarkable,” he told the veteran.
The adventure along the coast saw Mr Lewis spend the first coronavirus lockdown on an uninhabited Shetland island, Hildasay.
His bestselling book, Finding Hildasay, features a foreword by Ben Fogle who has supported Mr Lewis during his journey along with other famous faces including astronaut Tim Peake.
Mr Lewis served with 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment and struggled to cope after entering civilian life. He decided to walk the UK coastline after suffering with anxiety and depression.
The father-of-two was facing homelessness when he set off in August 2017, wearing an ill-fitting pair of borrowed boots with limited supplies.
Three years into the task, he met Ms Barron in Scotland and she joined his walk a few months later.
More than 147,000 people follow his Facebook page, Chris Walks the UK, while 26,000 people follow her page, Kate Walks the Coast.