We were joking, obviously, when we asked national treasure Bill Bailey if he’d take part in one of the Stand Up To Cancer fundraising ideas and shave off his flowing locks. The hair is obviously integral to the man. But he is taking on a six-day 100-mile walk along the Icknield Way and the Ridgeway… into the prevailing winds. Why? In his words, it’s “mainly to keep my hair out of my mouth and because I look much cooler walking into the wind.” Conjures an image, doesn’t it? Bailey striding through the countryside, magnificent hair fluttering majestically behind him.
We spoke to Bailey about the challenge ahead as well as fundraising tips if you fancy getting involved with the Stand Up To Cancer campaign, which funds clinical research to get new cancer treatments helping people quick-smart.
An ungenerous person might say that walking feels a bit gentle. You’ve done something similar before, so is it gentle or did it take a toll on the body?
That’s right, a couple years ago I walked the Ridgeway. It does take a bit of a toll. There’s all sorts of things that you don’t expect. When you’re walking your arms are swinging, your hands swell up, and it’s odd and it’s uncomfortable. Your hips can get strained. Your legs and feet take a bit of a pounding.
But where this is a real challenge is that it’s consecutive days of walking long distances. You really know about it by day two or three.
You may say it’s gentle compared to running, but a distance walk can be pretty tough.
When the going gets tough do you have a way of motivating yourself to keep going? Any go-to songs that you whistle?
Sometimes. I find ’80s metal quite handy. AC/DC particularly. The rhythm and the beat seem to coincide with my stride.
Are there any essential bits of kit that you couldn’t do without?
A Thermos of tea. You have to have it. I realised how many great qualities tea has on those long walks. There’s all the electrolytes as well as just the refreshing, revivifying nature of it. There’s no amount of health drinks or energy bars that’ll do the same. It’s the best.
How do you prepare the tea?
Just white. Strong white tea. And a good sized Thermos as well. 1.2 litres.
Is there a particular route you’d encourage people to walk once?
This path that I’m walking, the Ridgeway, is one of the great national trails in Britain. It’s the oldest in Europe – 5,000 years old. So there’s a lot of history to it and there’s a lot of wildlife along the trail. And it’s not too hilly.
Some of the trails in the Lakes are fantastic. The Haystacks on Buttermere is a great walk and at the top you get to the Innominate Tarn, this great little lake. It was Alfred Wainwright’s, who wrote all those wonderful guides to walking in the area, favourite spot in the Lakes.
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Stand Up To Cancer includes some suggestions to raise money, including The Hair-Raiser. Can you put a price on you shaving off your hair?
Well that’s tricky, isn’t it. It could be, er, yeah…. It’s almost, it’s er…. There’s no price you could put on that really. That’s my power, my spiritual power.
Is there anything you’ve learned fundraising that could help people raise more money?
We are in a very visual age. Posting photographs, I think, is key to this sort of undertaking and social media is very handy for that. You can take a smartphone, take pictures and immediately upload them to social media. It’s helpful because you can then show people how you’re getting on and I think that’s very important to engage people.
To support Bill’s 100-mile Ridgeway walk text BILL5 to 70404 to donate £5, BILL10 to 70404 to donate £10, or visit standuptocancer.org.uk