Walk for a peerless plodder 

•Tom Fremantle sets out on his walk from Swanbourne to Sydney, part of a global trek. Photo by John Dowson.

‘Covid was a giant pothole in the plan’

HIS surname is Fremantle (the Fremantles), his title is Lord Cottesloe and he left from Swanbourne which is named after the parish at the heart of his peerage, but for the next four or five months he’ll simply be “Tom the Pom” pushing a baby buggy across Australia to raise money for charity.

Tom Fremantle left Swanbourne Beach last Thursday morning for the last stage of a walk around the world which has taken him considerably longer than he expected.

Ukraine

“Covid was a giant pothole in the plan,” Mr Fremantle said.

“The world walk started in 2018, kicking off in San Diego near the Tijuana border and I walked across America, then from Ireland to Istanbul to cover the European stretch and then through the Middle East,” Mr Fremantle said.

Once the Covid threat eased he had planned to walk through Russia, but Vladimir Putin’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine put a hold on that.

“I did end up walking a tiny section of Ukraine but for obvious reasons a route traversing Russia is now a no go, both practically and on principal,” he said.

Crossing India and into Indonesia got him to Australia’s doorstep.

“In Australia, I am wanting to walk from Swanbourne to Sydney, which is about 4000 kilometres.”

It’s fair to say Mark Gibben’s 2009 record of walking from Perth to Sydney in just 86 days won’t be under threat: “I am an old mule, I just keep on tracking,” Mr Fremantle said.

He initially started raising funds for Alzheimer’s research in honour of his mother who’d succumbed to the disease, the Puzzle Cnetre which helps educate kids with autism, as well as for medical detection dogs.

A friend of his also started the charity Siobhan’s Trust which reacted to the Ukraine war by sending a pizza van to the Polish border and helping entertain the country’s fleeing refugees. It’s been so successful it now has half a dozen trucks and was even able to provide food to people affected by Turkiya’s devastating earthquake in March.

For his Australian leg, he’s raising money for Melbourne-based charity Backpack Bed for Homeless which provides emergency swags for people living on the street.

Mr Fremantle says there’s a bunch of world walkers out there, but describes himself as the “weak link” and said it didn’t take longinto his journey before he realised the enormity of what he’d set out to achieve.

“When I first got to the Mojave Desert, which is the first real challenge in the United States, you feel a lot of fear about the horizon, but then after a few days, it becomes quite comforting.

Cobras

“You feel alone, but you feel at one with the environment.”

Another memorable stretch was India, which was “crazy” with traffic, elephants, monkeys and cobras, but also a place of great surprises.

“I was in India and a chap was on his mobile phone on a scooter and didn’t see me or my baby buggy, and he knocked us both over,” Mr Fremantle said.

He thought his buggy was a goner, and by coincidence there was a scrap dealer right next to where he’d come a cropper.

“Then a guy arrives with a mallet and tapped away at the buggy and did this incredible job, like a Renaissance sculptor.”

Mr Fremantle said one of his motivations for doing the walk, other than impending middle age, was to spread trust “because as humans we are not connected”.

To donate to Backpack Bed for Homeless log onto https://fundraise.backpackbed.org/, or to keep up with Mr Fremantle’s walk and donate to his other charities go to https://tomsworldwalk.com/

by STEVE GRANT

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