A MAN with a passion for Anglo-Saxon history is recreating the ill-fated 300-mile 20-day march of King Harold from York to Battle in Hastings weighed down with authentic four-and-a-half stone armour.

Lewis Kirkbride is due to leave on Friday and is already more than half way towards his £10,660 cash target raised for the mental health support organisation ManHealth.

1066 Battle Walk combines Lewis’s passion for the period, he’s a keen re-enactment hobbiest who has performed and mentored at festivals such as Bishop Auckland’s Kynren, with the months of training he’s undertaken to reach the level of fitness required for a cause he has a very personal stake in.

He said: “I’m thrilled that we’ve already raised so much money before I’ve set off on my 1066 Battle Walk and I’m delighted that we’re raising awareness and cash for such a worthwhile cause as ManHealth.

“With male suicide the highest its been for 20 years and County Durham experiencing the some of the worst male suicide statistics in the UK, the recent lock down and social distancing restrictions couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“King Harold facing foes on all sides and being weighed down in armour is a good metaphor for what people with depression and mental ill health are going through everyday.”

Lewis will begin his monumental progress from Stamford Bridge, outside York, to Hastings in Sussex mapping the ill-fated route of King Harold and his army as they march to fight William of Normandy.

Lewis, 37, from Durham, added: “It’s worrying to think about how many people are feeling isolated and cut off at the moment.

“The walk combines my interests with some really important issues, and has given me something to focus on, though I sometimes wonder what I’ve got myself into here.”

The father of two young boys is happily married with a successful career in a public support and advice role.

He added: “Depression can strike anyone at anytime; I had a tough few years and couldn’t open up to family or friends. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, but things were complicated and taking the first step was a struggle. This is where ManHealth would have made a huge difference to me, had I known at the time.

“When I met Paul Bannister founder of ManHealth in 2018 and heard about the free peer support groups I thought then if this was something I’d known about it would definitely have helped me.”

Since its launch in 2018, ManHealth has opened 13 peer support groups across the region and has launched a webchat and connect service.

Lewis said: “I’ve always been interested in the Medieval period including the Anglo-Saxon era and was able to throw myself into this knowing my friends and family are behind me. I’ve been training hard and people are starting to recognise me out and about. It’s a real boost when people I pass give a friendly shout or beep.”

For more information on how you to help and support the cause, email Lewis.Kirkbride@hotmail.co.uk or info@manhealth.org.uk