6th Jun 2022 @ 8:44 am

Iris Heath is walking Lanzarote’s coastline alone in memory of her late husband John and in aid of Parkinson’s disease. But she’s doing it from her home in Bristol… We found out more.

First published on June 1st in the Gazette Life magazine.

Iris and John Heath made Lanzarote their home for over 20 years before returning to the UK due to John’s declining health. Last year, Iris lost John to Covid following a long battle with Parkinson’s and dementia. To raise much needed funds for Parkinson’s UK, she decided to take on a mammoth physical challenge in his memory.

With the aid of a virtual walking challenge app, Iris (who will turn 87 next month) is walking the equivalent distance of the entire coastline of her much-loved Lanzarote, a distance of over 120 miles.

The island holds a special place in Iris’s heart and walking the equivalent distance around the entire coastline, in the area in which she now lives in Bristol, is a challenge that perfectly honours John’s memory and their lives together.

Iris, how are you finding the experience?

I was John’s carer for 24 hours a day – it was both physically and mentally challenging, but we had a strong and loving relationship, and I was happy to do what was needed for as long as I was able. Sadly and eventually, he needed more professional care that a care-home could offer, and then immediately Covid was upon us which took John’s life. Suddenly I had nothing to fill my days.

I am so glad to now have a purpose to my day. Something to get up for. I have enjoyed seeing the Spring springing whilst on my walks. Bluebells, cowslips, primroses – we miss all of this when we are rushing around by car.

What made you decide to walk the Lanzarote virtually?

At 86, I knew I could only realistically walk short distances each day, although I have surprised myself with how far I am now actually walking as I become stronger. I’m up to 3-4 miles each day now.

Do you feel better physically?

Yes, I am sleeping better and have lost a little weight – some days my joints are a little stiff so I take a rest day.

How different is walking in Bristol to Lanzarote?

Lanzarote is so beautiful, but has no seasons – something that most ex-pats miss I think. Every season has its own joy in Britain. Perhaps Spring most of all.

Are you relating the stages of the walk to the island in any way?

The app plots the virtual route which I follow each week – for example, the stage between Puerto Calero and Puerto del Carmen was a walk that John and I really loved, and that brought back many happy memories.

Then there were our many walks from Playa Honda to Arrecife, the coast at Costa Teguise and Famara… each one with treasured memories – so yes, all the memories are flooding back.

What has surprised you the most about the challenge?

The support and generosity of people who have donated via our Just Giving page – especially during these difficult financial times. I am so grateful to them all.

When do you hope to complete the challenge?

My birthday is mid-July so that is my goal – I started ‘walking’ on 8 April from Playa Blanca and I’m currently close to Órzola, so I am well on track!

I am sure we all wish Iris well with the remainder of her challenge – if you would like to show support for her efforts by donating, the link is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/iris-lanzarote-trek.

For regular updates, pictures and videos of Lanzarote be sure to like and follow our Facebook page “Gazette Life Lanzarote”.