An inspirational ex-serviceman was greeted with a hero’s welcome when he arrived in Skegness this afternoon on day 311 of his epic charity trek around the British coast.
Christian Nock, 39, had been looking forward to this leg of his fundraising tour - and the people of Skegness were determined not to disappoint.
“As soon as I came from Gibraltar Point I started being stopped by local people who wanted to say thanks and well done,” he said.
“I’ve been offered places to eat and been made to feel really welcome from everyone from kids to older people.
“Skegness is certainly up there with the best of my welcomes so far.”
The former soldier set off from Blackpool last August hoping to raise funds for Help For Heroes while highlighting the plight of homeless ex-servicemen.
Having come close to suicide while sleeping rough in Blackpool he is all too aware of the horrors facing soldiers when they return from duty.
“I had pretty much given up on the system, humanity and everything - I came close to killing myself,” he said.
“But the people that I’ve met along the way who have offered me food and a place for the night have restored my faith - I can’t get my head round it.”
He hoped to raise £10,000 but has already smashed that target barely half way through the trek.
Over the 3,500-plus miles he’s covered so far, he’s faced injury, illness and even been robbed while sleeping rough.
And his last few days approaching Skegness have been hampered by a painful hip strain and torrential downpours.
“I’m always blighted with one injury or another but this has been the longest recurring problem that I’ve had to put up with so far - for the past eight days my right hip has not been in a good place,” he said.
The former soldier is now looking forward to a restful couple of days in Skegness - a town he’s always wanted to visit since his childhood.
Although he always refuses a bed for the night, he’s taken up the Chatsworth Hotel’s offer of a balcony.
Duty manager Daimien Hughes has been following his progress for several weeks and hoped to help out.
“What he’s doing is truly inspiration and we thought it would be perfect to have him here to start the hotel’s 21st birthday celebrations,” he said.
Manager Brian Sewell, who shares a background in the forces, also thinks his charity trek is ‘absolutely brilliant’.
“He doesn’t want a lot of fuss but we though we could help by making it a little more comfortable than a night in the tent and at least he’ll have a bathroom on hand,” he said.
The Mayor of Skegness Coun Jim Carpenter was also on hand to offer Christian a warm welcome.
“Help For Heroes and the homeless are two very worthy causes and obviously Skegness welcomes him and everything he is doing,” he said.
“Our troops are fighting abroad putting their lives on the line and they deserve our support.”
Also among the guests welcoming Christian was 11-year-old Jessamie Rose who had made him a cake, having been following his progress with interest over recent weeks.
“It’s just amazing - in my words it’s exquisite,” she said.
“It’s just brilliant that he would do this - I can’t believe it.”
Christian was touched by Jessamie’s kind offer and the others who came out to greet him.
During his stay he’ll be meeting more supporters and visiting others who are working to support the armed forces.
Tomorrow he’ll be meeting Lesley Fitzakerley who has set up a Forces Shoebox Appeal, sending gifts and essentials to troops on the frontline.
But soon he’ll be back on the road, with many more miles left to cover.
“The secret to my success and what’s got me past the last 3,500 miles is that I only worry about what I’m doing today,” he said.
“When I buy a map, I usually cut it in two, so I only have to focus on one section at a time, because if I look at what’s a head it’s enough to make me want to cry.”
Over the past week he’s been helped a supporter, Buzz, whose been setting up his camp and preparing for his arrival, having been inspired by Christian’s efforts.
“I just wanted to help him out,” he said.
“I’ve been following since day 170 and thought this guy is doing it all on his own and there’s no one to support him so I wanted to make his life a bit easier.”
To donate to his cause visit here.