A wounded former soldier from Co Down has walked hundreds of miles across the UK to raise money for other veterans and the health service.

Robert Maxwell, 54, who served with the Royal Irish for 11 years, started his expedition at St Paul’s Cathedral in London before trekking across Great Britain via the Isle of Man to finish at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on Monday.

The Walk of Hope is fundraising for the charity Let’s Do Veterans Support Group as well as the health service.

Paula Gooder and Robert Maxwell
Paula Gooder, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, with Robert Maxwell (Robert Maxwell/PA)

Mr Maxwell founded Let’s Do Veterans which offers retreats, support and activities to veterans – but found that funds had been depleted, and with fundraising having become more difficult during the pandemic, decided they needed to raise their profile.

The charity runs the Kennedy’s lake fishing retreat in south Down for veterans with physical and mental disabilities,

“We thought no-one had ever started a walk like this from St Paul’s Cathedral, and then we decided to finish at St Anne’s Cathedral, another cathedral of significance,” he told the PA news agency.

“In doing the walk, it’s a matter of veterans seeing that and knowing there is hope beyond where we are and also reaching out to offer hope for health workers.

“Now we’re focusing on the fundraising side of the event to continue out work – you can’t take people to an event and feed them and put a roof over their heads without the money to do it. The general public are the saviours of lots of these things.”

The distinctive Spire of Hope at St Anne’s also inspired the name of the walk.

Robert Maxwell at Heysham ferry terminal
Robert Maxwell at Heysham ferry terminal (Robert Maxwell/PA)

“Hope is a word that is given comfort and also making people look outward, so that was the idea, to reach out beyond the situation we all find ourselves in,” he said.

“In the military you are always thinking of your buddy next to you or in front of you or behind you, never yourself, you’re always thinking of other, and outside of the army now I still apply that. I’m always trying to look after someone and reaching out.”

He described the walk as eventful, starting with a donation from a passing couple of Co Antrim and a clergy member buying them coffee and buns.

“Walking through London was an eye opener, I actually broke up a fight at a fast food restaurant, and I saw people sleeping rough, I saw the remains of syringes, but then you had wee simple things that lifted you, like a lady who paid for our soup and two RAF guys who came and met me outside Wolverhampton,” he said.

Mr Maxwell severely damaged his right leg, lost his right forearm and sustained head injuries in a motorbike accident in 2004 which ended his military career.

He previously swam from Cranfield beach, one armed, to Haulbowline Lighthouse and back as well as rowing a bicycle around the Isle of Man TT course in a force 6 gale.

Donations to the cause can be made via https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/letsdo