IT WAS literally a "feet" of endurance when Helen Bassill completed a 450-mile pilgrimage across the north of Spain from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.
Her pilgrim's progress was punctuated by severe bouts of pain from her feet which were injured before she even left home on the charity walk.
Helen, aged 58, of Villiers Crescent, St Albans, had been training hard to achieve a peak of physical fitness for the trip.
But she said: "I was told I had overdone it. My podiatrist said I had damaged one foot so badly that he ordered me to postpone the trip for a month."
This presented her with problems as she had to get six weeks off work for the trip but fortunately Hemel Hempstead Hospital, where she works as a biomedical scientist, agreed.
Despite the pain and having to complete 50 miles on public transport she raised more than £3,200 for the charity LIFE.
Helen, who for more than 15 years was the Life Education Officer for Herts, decided to raise the money to enable more schools to hear the pro-LIFE message.
She said: "Walking for five weeks was very hard on my feet and it was extremely hot with temperatures in the high 30s. The Spanish people were so kind and gave me tremendous help and encouragement."
Fortunately for Helen, who was travelling completely alone, she palled up with another woman also on the pilgrimage. Her Dutch companion helped tend her feet as they got in worse shape along the road.
The hospitality of the Spanish people was a constant source of amazement to Helen. "Hoteliers knocked money off the bill, a pharmacist went out of her way to take me to a doctor over there and a restaurateur brought me salt and vinegar to rub into my feet to harden them up. They couldn't do enough to help - partly because of the pilgrim thing but mainly just because they could see I was struggling."
She stayed in touch by e-mail throughout her trip with her family - daughter Vicky, aged 28, and son Darren, aged 30 - and friends.
Helen says the main thing she learned from her trip was to slow down and let things happen in their own good time.
She said: "I am so glad I went and feel much better for it.
Source: http://tinyurl.com/br646 (http://www.hertsad.co.uk)