An incredibly testing journey home finished this weekend (Saturday 29th April) when the Hike4Hopey charity walkers arrived at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

Hike4Hopey accompanied by fire engines along Strawberry Place, Newcastle

The group set out from Ipswich on Easter Monday (17th April) to walk 333 miles home in memory of Lee Hope, a Control Firefighter from Newcastle who died last year aged just 33 leaving a wife, Amy Richardson and a young daughter, Livia.

The walk, between Sir Bobby’s statue at Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town, and his statue at St James’ Park, lasted 12 days and pushed walkers to the limit of their endurance.

Of the nine who set out, just two were able to complete the whole challenge with the others reluctantly forced to retire. They were joined most days by supportive friends and family and the final leg – from Durham to Newcastle – saw around 60 extra walkers joining in.

Lady Elsie and Amy Richardson, laughing with daughter Livia, next to Sir Bobby’s statue at St James’ Park

Lee Hope’s brother, Scott, was one of the two who completed every punishing mile – the other was Chris Wall from Cramlington. Every day the walkers were covering an average of 28 miles and it has been an experience Scott says he will never forget.

Scott says: “When we thought about doing this walk for Lee, it was like we were just coming home from the match. He was a massive Newcastle fan so it just felt right.

“It’s proved to be a lot harder than we thought it would be, physically and emotionally.

Hike4Hopey at Sir Bobby’s statue at Portman Road, Ipswich before the challenge began

“We were on the road for the first anniversary of Lee’s diagnosis with cancer and we were walking the day after Newcastle were promoted, so there have been highs and lows. But everyone’s worked together and it’s been an incredibly positive experience.”

The day before Hike4Hopey began Newcastle United played Ipswich Town in a crucial Championship fixture – it was also Sir Bobby Robson Day in Ipswich. The walkers were at the match and Scott was a guest of honour on the Portman Road pitch at half-time.

Scott Hope with parents, Kim and Bob, and Lady Elsie

They were just as warmly welcomed home to St James’ Park, escorted along Strawberry Place by two fire engines and greeted by Tony Corcoran playing match-day tunes on his fiddle and an enthusiastic crowd of family, friends and well-wishers.

The walkers were also invited pitch-side at St James’ Park and were thrilled when the club played the Newcastle United anthem ‘Going Home’ (the theme from Local Hero) to welcome them out of the tunnel and into the stadium.

It was a very emotional return for the walkers and Lady Elsie, who was waiting to meet them next to the statue of her husband, was visibly moved.

Lady Elsie says: “This is an absolutely magnificent achievement. I’m very glad everyone’s home safe and sound and I hope they’re all filled with pride.

“The number of people involved on the final day shows how well-regarded Lee must have been.

“We’re very proud of everyone who walked on this challenge. And we’re grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped and supported them.”

Gateshead Fire Station one of the many who showed great support for Hike4Hopey

Like his brother, Scott works for the Fire and Rescue Service and is also a huge Newcastle United fan.

Scott, a Control Firefighter for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, adds: “The support we’ve had from the Fire and Rescue Service in particular has been incredible.

“Every night we’ve stayed at a different fire station and the feeling on arrival, being welcomed and looked after by colleagues we’ve not met before, has been something special. I’ll never forget it.”

Lee’s widow, Amy Richardson, was unable to complete the challenge but walked on the first day from Ipswich and much of the emotional final day – from Durham to Newcastle – with family and friends.

Lee Hope with daughter Livia

Amy and Lee’s two-year-old daughter Livia joined walkers at the Tyne Bridge wearing a special Hike4Hopey t-shirt with ‘Daddy 33’ on the back – Lee was 33 when died.

Bob Hope, Scott and Lee’s father, was also among the 60 walkers on the final day.

During Hike4Hopey, the walkers received messages of support from Alan Shearer (a Patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation), Rob Lee, Steve Harper, Michelle Heaton, FIFA, Newcastle United and Ipswich Town.

Hike4Hopey has already raised over £17,000 through the walk and other fundraising events including a cycle ride and family fun day. There were also bucket collections at 16 North East B&Q stores over the Easter weekend and a celebration dinner is planned for May.

To donate to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation through #Hike4Hopey, please visit: www.justgiving.com/Hike4Hopey