When Ciaran first came to the Wild Goose, he was living in a van. Now he's found housing and has just completed a 296-mile walk to raise money from Crisis Centre Ministries. Read our interview with him here.
How do you know about the Wild Goose in Bristol?
When I first came to Bristol I was living in a van and had no money. One day I was talking to some Polish people who had a survival handbook and the WG was featured.
How was it that you were in Bristol living in a van?
I have suffered cyclical depression all my life and after suffering a relationship breakdown (I couldn’t see my newborn child for three years), I had to leave Sheffield and my dogs. I travelled around the UK in my van, ending up in Land’s End with only a little money. The nearest branch of the Leeds Building Society in the South West was in Bristol! After arriving and thinking I had £1,000 left in my account, I was shocked to find I only had £9!
Did you access any other help apart from the WG?
Yes, I met some people at the Compass Centre and discovered the recovery workshops that were available through St Mungo’s (and WG). After living in a van for a year, I realised I needed professional help for my mental health problems and enrolled on the ‘Step up’ programme, which led to me obtaining supported accommodation. Clients at the WG helped me connect to this support/help…initially it was the Polish guys.
You obviously have a heart for the WG to do this 296 mile walk?! What made you do the walk?
I was going to do it as part of my mental health recovery. This advises a ‘bucket list’ of things to do. I wanted to do it for WG and this was accepted!
How did you prepare for the walk? Did you just go off?
I started with just £3 in my pocket – knowing I would be able to draw some benefit money at the beginning of the week. I set off from Plymouth. My cousin helped pay for my B&B and gave me a little bit more money.
Can you tell me more about your journey?
I took the first ferry in the morning over to Mount Edgecombe and then wanted to go to a church service before I left Cornwall. I went to the Maker Church and enjoyed the service. I spoke to the priest afterwards and some of the congregation. I was sponsored by a few people, including a lady who gave me £5! A lot of people sponsored me en route.
What was the walk like?
On this side of the coast it was a bit drizzly. When rounding the headland there were very strong winds – the tail end of Storm Doris. To complicate things I hurt my knee on the first day.
Was it tiring?
I was basically unfit…I did the walk through hard determination. I didn’t get lonely – I was too busy concentrating on the path as I had a fear of going over the edge. The path was very slippery and boggy all along the coast. It was basically glorified animal tracks. After 24 days I ended the walk in Marshland, Devon. I could see Lundy Island out at sea. I had two rest days in Penzance (because of my knee), but I was walking between 8-11 hours per day. On some days this went down to 3.5 hours because of the weather. I met some very kind people on the walk. At one stage – just past St Ives – I tried to cross the river Hale (a quicker route across the estuary) but couldn’t quite make it, so I had to follow the path. On doing this I met some lovely people who donated £65, so my failure to cross the river was a positive!
So how did you feel at the end?
Very relieved! 24 days is a long time. I was ecstatic. Bad weather and getting across rivers was difficult as a lot of ferries weren’t running.
Tell me how the Wild Goose has helped you.
As well as meeting people and friends I was introduced to the Methodist Centre, which was important to me. It gave me an address (like the Goose does) so I was able to claim for benefits. With mental health issues, sometimes you cannot claim benefits. There are very specific requirements when claiming and you can also be ‘sanctioned’ for up to six months at a time. The WG has been a lifeline to me. Being able to get hot food means it stops ‘thieving’ through lack of food. On my walk I also told people about the women’s shelter and food bank.
What is your life like now?
Bristol has been good. I am happy with my housing and my mental health is better. I have the ‘tools’ now to help myself. I understand that if people make me anxious it is either ‘fight or flight’ and I tend to fight. I still sometimes get into trouble...a recent example being when some guys in the flat above mine were making a lot of noise throughout the night. I didn’t like to hear it. I was polite at first and not confrontational, however I was drinking too much and I was arrested. It can be linked to my anxiety and mental health. But I think this was a ‘blip’ and these episodes are more infrequent. I had an emotionally disturbed childhood and I now recognise this is my issue and not other people's!
What are your plans for the next few months? Are you in recovery now?
I want to go to the Canary Islands. My mum came down to see me last Christmas and as money is tight she helps me. She also paid for all my B&Bs on the walk. I would like to do the Camino trail and head from France across the north of Spain to Santiago de Compestella. I am saving to take my mum to Ireland first though!