A POSTWOMAN from Darlington has started a bid to walk 10 million steps in a year to raise money for a mental health charity.

Nicknaming it her "postie's plod", Nikki Gaynor is determined to raise as much as she can for County Durham charity If You Care Share Foundation.

She has been raising funds for the charity for several years, following the death of close friend and popular Hurworth teacher Michael McMonigle.

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She said: "A lot of people are suffering.

"The more people I speak to since becoming a postie, the more I realise how much of a difference just stopping to have a word can have on their mental health.

"I always try to smile and be positive and happy and that can have an impact on someone's life."

The Northern Echo:

No matter the weather, Nikki is known for always wearing shorts and is a passionate advocate for talking about mental health.

"People always stop to ask about the shorts," she added. "When I say its to raise awareness about mental health they get it."

Since becoming a postwoman in July she has been doing rounds in Richmond, in North Yorkshire, and has tried to offer cheerful messages to people in the community – from adding a smiley face and a note to missed parcel cards to offering a daily chat to isolated members of the community.

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She said: "I love it and I get a lot of positive feedback.

"There are some people I speak to I know I'm probably the only person they'll speak to that day.

"The job is more than shoving letters through a door but I can make a difference with a hello and a wave."

Routinely walking in excess of 15,000 steps a day on her rounds, she will have to walk an average of more than 27,000 a day to reach her target.

The Royal Mail is backing her challenge and got her fundraising off to a start with £100.

To donate, visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/awatson847.