Bank boss from Worthing is going solo for 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage

Bank boss Simon Donlevy will be trekking nearly 500 miles on a solo pilgrimage during a six-month sabbatical from the city.

The Worthing father-of-two has always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, from St Jean in France to Santiago in Spain, crossing The Pyrenees.

Simon Donlevy with his niece Lucy, who was born with coloboma, and sister-in-law Cara Croke, a trustee of Look Sussex

Simon Donlevy with his niece Lucy, who was born with coloboma, and sister-in-law Cara Croke, a trustee of Look Sussex

He will be going the distance on his own, with his rucksack on his back.

Simon said: “It’s not your usual midlife crisis, I grant you. No fast car purchase going on here, quite the opposite in fact.

“The idea is it is a pilgrimage that you do on your own. I have always wanted to do this. It is a long way and a long time on my own but I am pretty confident I will make friends. The whole idea is you make new friends then let them go.”

Simon, 49, will be raising money for Look Sussex, a small charity, close to his heart, having helped his visually-impaired niece, Lucy.

The plan is to start the journey on May 3 and finish in Santiago on June 8, the day before his 29th wedding anniversary. Simon will speak to his wife Lisa every day and she will be flying out to meet him at the end.

Simon, head of compliance at Lloyds Bank, said: “I will be getting the early train, the one I usually get to work in London with all my mates, but they will get off at London Bridge and I will go on to St Pancras International for the Eurostar to France. Making the journey by train is all part of it.”

He has booked accommodation for the first two nights only and will take the rest as it comes.

He added: “It is completely up to me. There are lots of youth hostels. I have been before for three days, with a friend who has Parkinson’s. We ended up with 80 men in 40 bunk beds in a monastery. It’s very basic.

“I fell in love with it and determined I would go back.

“I am going to take time out from work, six months off, having been at Lloyds for 31 years. I will need to walk 15 miles a day, with no rest days.”

He will be carrying all his belongings in a backpack but does not plan to take much, including only one spare set of clothing.

His training has been hampered by plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the heel, but Simon said with the help of Mark Potter at Injury Treatment Centre in Worthing, he should be fine for the walk and he has at least been able to continue his long-distance cycling.

Brooksteed Alehouse, in South Farm Road, Worthing, is showing its support by raising money for Look Sussex through its Sunday cheeseboard during May. There will be a Spanish theme on May 12, when Lisa will provide tapas and Lucy will be there with others from Look Sussex to help raise awareness.

Lucy, 12, is a student at The Angmering School. She was born with coloboma, which her mum Cara Croke describes as cleft palate of the eye.

Cara said: “Because she doesn’t wear glasses, people don’t always realise she has sight problems.”

The family became involved with Look Sussex about four years ago and Cara is now a trustee. She said the Sussex-based charity provides activities and days out for children with a visual impairment and support for their families.

Cara added: “It has changed my life, and Lucy’s. It is a very small charity but it helps a lot of people.

“It totally includes the siblings, which is the main thing. It is quite hard on the siblings sometimes but this means they can do things together, and the adults get together too. It is a big support network.”

Simon hopes to raise £2,000. Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simon-donlevy to make a donation.