Mat Bayfield’s record-breaking charity walk at Glemham Hall for The Brain Tumour Charity
PUBLISHED: 06:44 30 January 2017 | UPDATED: 06:44 30 January 2017
Mat Bayfield didn’t know what to expect when he turned up at Glemham Hall at 8am this morning.
The 45-year-old musician, who lives with an inoperable tumour on his brain stem, has invited people to join him for a fundraising walk every day this month around the Suffolk countryside, in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity.
An initial small band of ramblers has grown into an army of walkers. The procession was a quarter-mile thick today, smashing the attendance record and delaying the start by 15 minutes.
“It has turned into a monster,” said Mr Bayfield, one half of folk duo The Broadside Boys.
“We have been blown away. People kept turning up, trying to park. It was incredible.”
There are two reasons behind the daily fundraiser, which has included an eight-mile trek of Alton Water, a two-mile night walk in Felixstowe followed by fish and chips, and a Saturday stroll round Dedham Vale.
Mr Bayfield, of Framlingham, wanted to lose weight and get fit for an upcoming national tour with Richard Digance. His girlfriend Kelly Pritchard also lost her sister to a brain tumour in 2010.
“It was my girlfriend’s idea,” Mr Bayfield said. “I wanted to lose a bit of weight and we wanted to give something back.”
They thought they might make around £1,000 from the 31 walks. But around £13-14,000 has been raised, including today’s estimated £2-3,000 fundraising total, with two walks remaining.
Around 540 people took part in the event today. It broke their previous attendance record of 117.
“It was an amazing and emotional day,” Mr Bayfield said.
“It was incredible. The momentum has been growing as the month has progressed and the fundraising figure has been going up.
“We aimed for £1,000 initially, but by the middle of the month it was £5,000. It has grabbed people’s attention.”
The charity walk has attracted people from “all walks of life”, Mr Bayfield said in an unintended pun.
He said: “People see it as a bit of belonging. Everybody feels a bit of ownership. We are all very much a close-knit little group, and have been adding to that all the time.
“We have had people doing this because they are lonely, people who have just lost their dog and have lost the opportunity to go out for walk, people suffering from depression, terminally-ill people, and other people who are just kind-hearted and wanted to a support a charity close to their heart.
“Several people have done lots of walks. This is going to be something which rolls beyond this month.
“I would like to thank everybody who has donated, come on walks or just sent messages of good luck which have kept us going during what has proved to be quite a difficult month at times.
“I have woken up with stiff legs and motivation has been low, but it’s been absolutely amazing.”
Mr Bayfield believes he has lost around half a stone during the month. He was diagnosed with brainstem glioma in 2012. He calls his disease “Brian, my unwanted lodger”. If the tumour doesn’t develop, doctors say he can live a relatively healthy life
He said: “Because of the treatment, I weighed 18 and-a-half stone at my heaviest. Over the last couple of years I have been losing weight regularly, but this last little bit has proven to be difficult to get rid off.
“But I have gone another notch into the belt.”
Mr Bayfield is again extending an open invitation to the penultimate walk at Iken Barns, Woodbridge tomorrow night. It starts at 7pm and includes a curry.
He is expecting an emotional day on Tuesday. It is the final walk of the month, taking place at the Woodbridge Riverside Theatre at 10.30am.
He is also expecting to receive his most recent MRI scan results for his brain tumour.
For more details about the charity walks, see here.