A HIKER who is aiming to become the first woman to walk around the British and Irish coastlines has praised north Essex’s magical coastline.

Karen Penny’s epic journey has so far seen her walk 8,700 miles, spend the night in a bird hide, and go through ten pairs of walking shoes.

It’s all for a good cause, however, as she has left her family, friends and cat, Bilbo, behind her to devote almost four years of her life to raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Her family was devastated by the condition as her husband Mark’s parents Alma and Kingsley both died having been suffering with dementia.

But the determined 55-year-old’s efforts have now seen her raise £83,000 from kind-hearted donors who were inspired by her gruelling mission.

“I’m so delighted with the reception I’ve had,” she said. “People have been so kind.

“During Covid we have seen the awful impact in care homes, it’s been so hard to see people suffering especially as they became more isolated.”

Mrs Penny has been exploring Colchester and north Essex and said it has left a real mark on her.

Gazette: Karen, in MaldonKaren, in Maldon

She said: “Essex has been the most magical place. I’ve walked around Mersea Island, followed the Dengie and spent Tuesday at Fingringhoe.

“There is the most stunning scenery and location here. People are so friendly and they stop me and ask if I’m that lady who is walking.

“Many invite me in for a cup of tea and accompany me for a stretch of the journey, while some have found me a safe space to pop up my tent for the night.

“I had someone from Colchester offer me a space in their camper van, it’s so heartwarming and very humbling.

“Community spirit has shone through every single day. People offer me kind words and motivation, the friendliness keeps you going every day and there hasn’t been a morning where I haven’t been raring to go.

“Covid hasn’t stopped anybody’s offer of hospitality at all.

“When there have been indoor mixing bans people would find a space at the end of their garden to put me up for the night – I’ve stayed in a bird hide, a swimming pool hut and a barn. I’ve never really been alone."

Mrs Penny left her hometown of Gower in Wales in January 2019 and had walked continuously for 15 months before she realised the emerging pandemic would wreak havoc back in March last year, and so decided to return home.


Mrs Penny, who worked in the legal profession for 30 years, now hopes to wrap up her remaining 2,500 miles in 11 months.

But what will she do, after more than three years of walking?

“I’d love to write a couple of books from my travels. You meet the most amazing people on your journey, and the most eccentric too.

“I’ve met an extraordinary range of people I would never have met in my life otherwise. It's humbling."

You can support her efforts at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thepennyrollson and get in touch about joining her at The Penny Rolls On.