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30 August 2016

'Walk of Love'

A grieving mum has reached the half way point of her epic 'Walk of Love' around the coast of Great Britain, to raise money in memory of her five-year-old daughter.

Natalia Spencer, 41, from Cheltenham, is walking 6,000 miles around the coast after her daughter Elizabeth passed away at Bristol Children's Hospital last year.

Elizabeth was taken ill in November with a relatively common virus which triggered an autoimmune condition known as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). This rare condition caused her body to go into septic shock, shutting down her major organs and cutting off the blood supply to her limbs. Despite doctors' best efforts, after 18 days on life support Elizabeth passed away on 10 December 2015.

Elizabeth loved the beach and she and Natalia often went on trips to the seaside. After she passed away Natalia realised she felt much closer to her daughter at the coast, and the idea for her challenge began to form.

Natalia's 'Walk of Love' started on 14 February at Durdle Door in Dorset, the last beach she and Elizabeth visited together. Exactly six months later, on Sunday 14 August she will walk from Barcaldine to Lurignish, northwest Scotland. She has covered 3,000 miles around Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, the entire coast of Wales, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Incredibly, before she even reaches the halfway point in her route, Natalia has already raised more than £60,000 for The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children's Hospital Charity.  She hopes to raise £100,000 in total. The money will go to the hospital's Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, to thank them for everything they did to save Elizabeth, and to support other critically-ill children.

Natalia walks as far as 20 miles each day, only taking Saturdays to rest. She posts daily updates on the 'Elizabeth's Footprint' Facebook page, and invites others to walk with her at any stage. She has been joined throughout her journey by a whole host of individuals, many of whom have also lost a child.

Natalia said, "The walk has been incredibly challenging but I am so proud to have reached the half way point. The last few days have been some of the toughest of my walk so far, as the coastline becomes more rugged and remote the further into the Highlands I go. That being said, Scotland has been my favourite place so far too. The wild and untouched nature is breathtakingly beautiful and every day I walk through awe-inspiring landscapes.

"Scottish people are also incredibly friendly, kind and generous. Every day I am surprised and overwhelmed by people's kindness and generosity. So many people have walked with me, offered me a cup of coffee or somewhere to stay. I have even had a new pair of walking boots bought for me by local supporters. Every day I see the very best in people.

"I have met so many inspiring people, especially other parents who have lost their precious children. I think about them often and feel a very special connection to each of them. Speaking to others and knowing they understand what I am going through is a huge comfort and means I am not on my own.

"Waking up every day to another day without Elizabeth is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But I know she would be so proud of what I have achieved. By completing this walk I will be able to bring something positive from her death.  Her memory will live on through the people I meet along the way and all those who are touched by her legacy."

Suzanne Maverick, fundraising manager, The Grand Appeal, said, "Natalia is a true inspiration and has already achieved so much just half way through her challenge. From the very beginning she has been determined to create something good from the tragedy of losing Elizabeth. Her fearless efforts will leave a lasting legacy, providing vital equipment for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit that will support other critically-ill children in the future.

"Her story has touched so many and made certain that her beautiful little girl won't be forgotten. This will surely only continue as she makes her way back to her starting point, and we will all be so proud to welcome her home.

To donate to Natalia's 'Walk of Love', visit or text ELIF55 and your donation amount to 70070.

You can follow Natalia's progress at and on Facebook by searching 'Elizabeth's Footprint'.

Bristol Children's Hospital treats 100,000 critically-ill children each year, from across the largest catchment area of any children's hospital in England. The Grand Appeal has to date raised more than £40 million to support children and babies at Bristol Children's Hospital, providing life-saving medical equipment, patient facilities and therapies and accommodation for families.  

For more information about The Grand Appeal, visit