Barefoot walker to put her toes to test on 140-mile challenge

Date: Tuesday 16th May 2017
Jessica Dillon
Jessica Dillon

A KIRKBY Stephen woman has been turning heads in Leeds as she walked around the city centre with no shoes on.

Little do they know that Jessica Dillon, aged 23, is in training for a 140-mile barefoot walk and has been toughening up her “tootsies” while at university.

Despite suffering a big blister, next month she plans to walk from Whitehaven to Sunderland on the coast-to-coast cycle route to raise funds to bring six Ghanaian youngsters from a poverty-stricken village to Eden in 2018. It is for a charity called the Ankoma Dream.

Jessica is friends with the organisers, Craig and Asha Richardson, of Shap. Jessica’s walk will involve six hours of walking every day and starts on Tuesday, 6th June, continuing until Sunday, 11th June.

Jessica told the Herald: “I wanted to do something different and raise as much money as I can. Many people in Ankoma have either no shoes, only one pair or nothing like walking boots. They also have to walk really long distances for things like water.”

It is the second time Jessica has raised money for the charity, having completed the Manchester Marathon last year. She then went out to Ankoma to volunteer and see the value of her fund-raising.

“I didn’t know to what extent poverty looked like until I went there,” Jessica explained. “It was a shock and while you do see awful things, you also see such happiness and they are so upbeat about everything.

“The trip will be both educational and inspirational for the kids and one that will broaden their future aspirations beyond extreme poverty.”

Of her shoeless strolls around Leeds, where she is studying for a Masters in race and resistance, Jessica said she had experienced a few funny looks.

But, overall, the response to her fund-raising had been very positive. The former head girl at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School still has family in the town, parents Paul and Diane and siblings Daniel, aged 30, and Lauren, who is 28.

She hopes to raise £1,000 from her efforts and people can give directly on-line by going to