The Reflective Detective: Walking for Retrak.

Hi there! Thanks for looking in…  things have moved on a bit since I last wrote.  I have finally completed all the taught elements of my PhD. with a little help from my Anxiety Monster (see ‘Anxiety and the PhD’ post for more) and now my research is in full swing…

Using my research I am working harder than ever to truly understand the role of emotions in the mental health of police officers coping with exposure to trauma.

My personal goal for my research is not just to further academic understanding and theory, but to actually make my learning relevant and accessible – to make sure that my work is useful in helping others in their coping and positive mental health.

One of my goals is for my research to help others whom I wouldn’t normally be able to reach.  That is why I applied to the Retrak Connecting HR Africa programme.

Connecting HR Africa is the brain child of Ian Pettigrew of Kingfisher Coaching – who is also a trustee of Retrak.

Retrak works to transform lives and provide positive futures for the world’s most vulnerable children who live, work and sleep on the streets.  Connecting HR Africa brings together like minded professionals from the UK who can share their industry specific experience and personal skills to have a lasting impact on young lives – and the local staff who work to support them.

I have been accepted to join a team of volunteers to travel to Kampala, Uganda this September.  Whilst there I will be working with the young children helping them back to a life where they feel safe, valued and loved – and hopefully return to their family home (a lot of children are trafficked).  I will also be working with the local staff who have the very tough, and sometimes harrowing job of working with young vulnerable children who have survived living on the streets.  Like all those supporting others to cope with the traumas of life, it takes a toll on personal mental health.   Particularly when you are working to help children. Sometimes just acknowledging this can be a step to better coping.  I am hoping to use my personal experience and research to help the Retrak staff find ways to support each other through the difficult times.

The arrangements for the trip are that I pay for my flights and evening meals etc. whilst in Uganda.  The charity provide the accommodation.  I also have to raise £2000 for Retrak.

Gosh, that is a lot of money.  And not a lot of time.  But hey, I can do hard work, and I rekon that is what it takes..

So, I have signed myself and my husband (poor chap) up to the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge.  The YTP challenge (as it is now known…) takes on the peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, in under 12 hours.  These peaks form part of the Pennine range, and encircle the head of the valley of the Rive Ribble, in the Yorshire Dales.

The route is 24 miles long and includes 5,200 ft of ascent.  *gulp* I have climbed Pen-y-ghent before – not so bad, probably took four to six hours (pleasant day out..).  But doing three peaks in under twelve hours… I think this might hurt just a tad.

I signed up with an official organisation – not just so that I have my time recorded, and get a medal (yes, I am partial to a medal…) but to make sure that someone is looking for me if I get lost/broken…

Yesterday I began my training (my husband came along in the capacity of ‘support vessel’ – his words, I’m a little concerned that he thinks I am swimming the channel).  I decided that it would be a good idea to walk The Wirral Way – there and back.  We have tried it before – but only made it there before our feet gave up and took the train ‘back’.

For some reason I thought it was 8 miles (there) 16 in total – and all flat.  An easy start to our training…


Begining Wirral Way

(Yep, you’re laughing now..)

In reality it is 12 miles out (what was I thinking??) therefore 24 in total.  Oops.  However, decision made; no going back – or not until we had got all the way out first.  I had thought that if we were really struggling we could always find a train/bus/taxi/ambulance home.

As it is, we are pretty stubborn, and 26 miles later (with a little help from a detour down to the sea at West Kirby) we staggered/crawled back to our car at Hooton train station car park.  Good grief! Well… I have chaffing in places that chaffing really shouldn’t be allowed, and my husband has blisters on the soles of his feet! (again, poor chap).  I can’t say what the monkey thought…

Walking Monkey

(doesn’t seem too bothered..)

This is my first training walk and today I am off to the gym for a pre booked yoga session; and a few crippled downward dogs…  (Note to self, work out mileage first…) You can see why I have booked with a company for the official challenge – no knowing where I will end up, or how..

That said – it is a lovely walk, I was lucky enough to grow up on The Wirral, and it is a beautiful part of the world.  I recommend the walk (only one way!).  It starts at Hooton Train Station and finishes at West Kirby where you can get great chips and ice cream (separately).  Along the way you can take in Neston and Parkgate – which are lovely little villages and you pass through the restored station of Hadlow Road – restored inside and out to the 1950s (loos if you need them).


Hadrow Point Box

(bikes not ours!)

Hadrow Train Station Inside

Hadrow Train Station

There is also Thurstaston Country Park, which has beautiful cliff side views to the sea – a great place to fly your kite.  Just remember to book your train ticket back to Hooton!


Ice Cream Wirral Way   Thurstaston Country Park, sea views, ice cream and kite flying.  10 miles in (still smiling)

Wirral Way views to Wales

The view to Wales across the The River Dee Estuary.

If you feel you can help and would like to support me in my endeavour to complete both the challenge of YTP and raising £2000 for Retrak, would you visit my Just Giving page and donate what you can.  With such a big amount – every penny helps.

Thank you. X (from me, and the Monkey)

SJ’s Just Giving Page

SJ and Bridge II

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