Shropshire Star

The intrepid Shropshire teenager journeying from Land's End to John o' Groats on foot

Home is where the heart is, they say. And so when Tobias Branston steps back into Shropshire territory at some point in the coming days, he’d be forgiven for wanting to rest his weary head and celebrate a homecoming.

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Tobias Branston is on a mission

But, on this occasion, Shropshire won’t be home – more of a halfway house.

After all, the 19-year-old will have many more adventures ahead of him as he continues on an epic charity fundraiser.

Tobias, from Shifnal, has, as you read this, set off alone from Land’s End on a two-and-a-half month journey to John O’ Groats, raising funds for Severn Hospice and Heartburn Cancer UK after two close friends lost fathers to cancer.

The adventure will see the former St Andrews Primary School pupil, unaccompanied, take on a route of more than 1,000 miles on foot, walking up to 25 miles per day. Intrepid Tobias, who plans to join the Army after university, is sleeping out in a bivvy bag rather than staying in bed and breakfasts, hostels or hotels in order to maximise the amount he raises.

He will be able, he hopes, to call on a few friends for the occasional night’s sleep somewhere more comfortable but will then be dropped back to where he was, to ensure he completes the full route.

He will take in cities like Truro, Bath, Gloucester - and is currently near Worcester – before slipping through the stunning surroundings of Shropshire.

“Coming through Shropshire, nearly past home, will be nice,” he says, with a smile. “I’ll be back in some spots I know and places I recognise.

“That will be the first third of my journey completed so it will be an exciting marker.

“As I approach, I’ll constantly be thinking of getting one step closer to a nice comfortable bed for one night!”

But then, he will be off to Manchester, Sheffield and beyond, into Scotland – Edinburgh, Perth, Inverness and finally the east coast of Scotland.

“I am looking forward to the challenge. I have lots of friends who are travelling all over the world at the moment, sunning themselves on beaches in exotic locations.

“Some have said: ‘Why not walk through Europe or trek through jungles instead?’

“But I am excited to explore the UK. I am looking forward to being up on a hill, in the middle of nowhere, and seeing the Yorkshire Dales, the north Pennines and a real highlight will be the Cairngorms.”

Tobias is raising money for two charities – Severn Hospice and Heartburn Cancer UK

It promises to be the experience of a lifetime. A brave adventure to, on the whole, be doing alone but one that Tobias has plenty of motivation for.

“I’m currently in the midst of a year out between school and university,” said Tobias, who after completing A-levels at Rugby School will be studying classics at Exeter University later this year. I went travelling in Thailand recently which was amazing but given I have some months now before I go to university, I wanted to do something worthwhile.

“It’s quite rare to have time like this, totally free, so I started exploring different charitable options.

“The Severn Hospice is fantastic in the way it cares for people at the end of their life, providing an inspirational degree of wrap-around humanity, kindness and care not only for their patients but also for their families.

“And Heartburn Cancer UK raises awareness about the dangers of persistent heartburn, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and Barrett’s oesophagus which can lead to oesophageal cancer. Two of my oldest friends have lost fathers to cancer and so I decided to support these two worthwhile charities.

“They were both in the military and so it seemed appropriate to attempt a particularly demanding feat.”

Demanding is one way of describing it – it will be both physically and mentally challenging.

“I’ll be pushing myself out of my comfort zone, discovering more about myself and what I can and can’t do,” says Tobias.

“My dad – Barney – was in the Welsh Guards and they have been amazing,” he adds. “They have helped me out, with lots of kit and plenty of advice.

“They have told me everything from basic things – maintenance and hygiene – to physical and mental health advice.

“I’d taken the mindset I was going to crack on and push myself as much as possible early on. But they told me it is vitally important to take rest days, rest the body and make sure I am on top of any niggles. I will be almost entirely self-sufficient and I’m intrigued to do it alone.

“When I went travelling earlier this year, I was originally planning to do it alone but I ended up doing it with a good friend from school.

“That was lovely but now I am excited about being totally independent, going at my own pace.

“I have freedom with my bag and can just walk until I can’t walk anymore, pitch up somewhere with my sleeping bag and go to bed and start again the next day.”

“I think it will be good for me. The onus and responsibility will solely be on me so I will have to learn very, very quickly and be ruthlessly efficient.”

And, as well as making a huge difference in helping two important charities, the challenge will be all about creating his own memories.

It will, in years to come, be an accomplishment to look back on.

“My uncle Tom did a walk in aid of cancer a long time ago,” said Tobias. “When my grandfather, Robin, died, Tom went on a challenge from northern Spain to Gibraltar.

“He pulls out his photo album sometimes and shows me."

Sign post in front of the Mull of Galloway lighthouse in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, United Kingdom under a blue sky with white clouds

“He has even said he might walk some of the way with me in Scotland.

“It’s amazing to see how much his own epic adventure stuck with him and how significant it was in his life and how proud he was of what he achieved. It’s nice having that as a future comparison to see it meant so much to him. Hopefully, I’ll be able to look back in the similar way.”

You can follow Tobias’ journey on Instagram on @tobiaswalks and he can be sponsored at