TWO intrepid walkers are still going strong after passing the halfway mark in their quest to cover 1,000 kilometres in a fundraising campaign.

Keiron Young and Richard Ellis, from Consett, are leading a series of 50 North-East walks that form The Big Smile campaign, organised by the Walk and Talk Trust, and backed by The Northern Echo.

And while other participants can choose which walks to tackle, Keiron and Richard are aiming to complete them all before finishing with a final circular trek in Durham City on August 27.

As well as highlighting the importance of physical and mental health, the campaign, which started at Raby Castle on June 21,  is aiming to raise funds to buy walking boots for children and disadvantaged adults.

Keiron said: “I wouldn’t say we’re in the home straight yet, because there’s still a long way to go, but it’s nice to know we’re more than halfway.”

The spectacular walks that have been part of The Big Smile recently have included England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike in The Lake District, and High Force, in Teesdale, with its magnificent views over the country’s most powerful waterfall.

This week, the campaign has returned to Northumberland and there are still plenty of beautiful walks in County Durham and North Yorkshshire to come.

“What’s been really satisfying is seeing how it works so well with multiple schools. Teachers have really engaged with it, parents are supporting their efforts, and everyone’s excited about funding the free boots.

“It’s also been great to see people talking while they’re on the walks and relieving their everyday stresses. That’s what it’s all about and we’re laying some great foundations for next year.”

There is no registration fee to take part in one of the walks, and the minimum fundraising target is £99.

Geoff Simpson, chief executive of The Walk and Talk Trust, said: “We’re into the final month now and Keiron and Richard need all the support they can get to see them over the line. It’s a huge incentive for them to know that the more money we can raise, the more free boots we can give out and inspire a new generation of walkers.”

The campaign is supported by The Northern Echo, Decathlon, Greggs, Eversheds Sutherland, County Durham Sport, SG Petch, Newcastle Building Society, and the It’s Great Out There Coalition.

Charity partnerships are also in place with The Great North Air Ambulance and the North East Autism Society.