A MAN taking on an epic challenge to raise awareness about the work of Samaritans will be arriving in the region later this month.

Darlington-born David Matthews is spending up to two years walking around the country to visit all 201 branches of the charity and then put in a shift on the call desk.

Later this month, the 58-year-old will be arriving at the Durham Samaritans branch in Sutton Street having walked from his previous shift in Middlesbrough two days earlier.

Following his shift as a listening volunteer, answering calls, emails and texts from the wide range of callers before departing the next day to walk to Sunderland where he will do his next shift.

Explaining the reason for taking on the 6,000mile Listening Walk, he said: “I’ve been inspired to undertake the walk about five or six years ago by a Samaritan who travelled around on his motorbike with huge panniers and high-vis clothing. He was going around to the different branches and all he was doing was raising awareness.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Matthews with a map outlining his challenge

"I thought that was a really good thing and so it got me thinking that I could do something like that. I then thought that I might do similar on a bike but not being a huge cyclist I then pondered how I might do it and which branches I might visit.

"So I began to look on Google Maps at the branches and realised that there was almost a natural route between the branches that would lead neatly onto the next one with no need to double back for instance.

"I then thought that I could start and finish in Doncaster and reckoned it would take about two years to go to every branch. For a few years I have thought maybe this year, maybe this year.

"Then this last year I thought, if I am ever going to do it, I need to do it soon as I’m not getting any younger and I have a bit more time now. There is also the issue of mental health problems and increasing suicides. I felt compelled to do it sooner rather than later.”

The businessman, whose home is actually on the Knoydart peninsula in Scotland, set off from Doncaster, where he volunteered for the charity for more than ten years, on April 14 last year where he was given a Civic send off by Doncaster's Civic Mayor.

One of the main challenges he will be facing is the number of ferry crossings he will need to do as he suffers from sea sickness.

He said: "I get sea-sick at the slightest rolling and already know that there will be ferries to the Shetlands, the Orkneys, from Stornoway, to Ireland and to the Channel Islands. In total there are seventeen ferry crossings and I am dreading them all."

The schedule for the walk can be found at


where details of how to donate can be found.