A retired council officer will be leaving his comfort zone to set out on a gruelling 1,279 mile trek from Land's End to John O'Groats in memory of his 'charming, kind-hearted' mother. Joanna Davis reports.

WHEN most people retire they put their feet up - but Tony Afanasiew has been doing the opposite.

He's been soaking them in methylated spirits - with the intention of hardening the skin and preventing blisters - in preparation for an epic walk from Land's End to John O'Groats later this year.

Tony, of Weymouth, has been taking preparations extremely seriously for the 1,279 mile walk as he has the most compelling of reasons for completing the charity quest.

Tony, 65, will be raising money for Parkinson's UK. Parkinson's was a condition which affected his late mother Jean. Jean died in 2013 aged 85.

The retired Dorset County Council officer said: "Jean was a wonderful mother. I think she would be pleased if she knew I was doing this.

"My mother had a wonderful sense of humour, a charming chuckle. She was such a kind-hearted person, with a lovely, infectious chuckle. Towards the end, she would even laugh at the way her words came out, all jumbled up.

"Parkinson's is a rotten way to go. They're within touching distance of getting a cure. Anything I can do to help the charity, I will."

Tony will be setting out on the walk on May 29 and will attempt to do the route in 75 days with 10 days of rest.

While hoping to resume training for the walk soon, at the moment Tony's suffering the frustration of an enforced lay-off due to Achilles tendinitis.

He said: "I'm finding it intensely frustrating - but I'm determined to follow the podiatrist's advice in order to be fit. After all, I've now booked 85 nights' worth of accommodation!"

Training is crucial for Tony - he wrote a book called The Hiking Obsession based upon his experience of walking the South West Coast Path from Land's End to Lyme Regis, a distance of 289 miles. Tony describes it as 'a retirement holiday'.

He said: "I'd already walked the Jurassic Coast to death so I thought I'd do Land's End to Lyme Regis. On The Lizard in Cornwall I met a chap who seemed to be struggling, so I offered my assistance.

“He said he didn’t need help. He told me he had Parkinson’s disease, but that he was determined to walk all 630 miles of the South West Coast Path while he still could. Between them, he and my mother have inspired me to do what I can. I want to raise £1 for every mile I walk up the length of the country.”

Tony first got the walking bug as a youngster growing up in Derbyshire.

He said: "The 'hiking obsession' just comes up and grabs you from behind! I first got into walking in about 1976 when I started doing the Pennine Way. I first started writing about walks by keeping a blog. When I was walking the Pennine Way in 2015 I was writing about walking on the walkers' forums which led to me writing The Hiking Obsession under the pen name Andrew Beard, with Beard my mother's maiden name."

From later this month until he sets out on the charity walk Tony will be preparing by doing a couple of walks a week, culminating in 27 mile walks. A good route for practising, Tony says, will be walking from Lulworth to Swanage - terrain with plenty of ups and downs!

"I experienced issues at the end of my last walk," he said. I found out from my podiatrist what to do to overcome any niggles. I've got some exercises I can do but I'm having to rest at the moment because of inflammation. I'm be soaking my feet in methylated spirits every night to harden the skin up and prevent blisters.

"I'm looking forward to early Spring and not having to do my walks in the mud and mire of winter."

Tony says he'll be wearing a special Parkinson's UK T-shirt when he's enjoying a pint in the evenings during the cross country walk. The father of five says his youngest children Alex and Calum and his wife Liz, née Worrall, will be coming to visit him during the walk on four occasions and will walk with him on the 96 mile long West Highland Way.

Tony would urge anyone who's retiring to think about getting into walking.

He said: "I would say to anyone, get out and do any distance you can. It's fantastic for your health. People in Dorset don't appreciate their wonderful county. I moved from Derbyshire and although the Peak District is wonderful the problem is it's full of people, a bit like Piccadilly Circus, in Dorset most people come for the beaches so when you're out walking it's very quiet."

Tony said he was 'made for retirement'.

"It's nice to meet other people with the walking. I was walking on Portland doing a training walk and I met a retired headmaster who was walking and in the area doing a course on photographing the night sky.

"You meet some really interesting people on the walks. You can tell who the serious walkers are because they have the biggest backpacks.There's always something to talk about with them."

*You can buy Tony's ebook The Hiking Obsession by his pen name Andrew Beard from Amazon. Tony can be sponsored by visiting https://justgiving.com/fundraising/tony-afanasiew