Pilgrim’s Progress: Neal Berry to hike the Camino de Santiago for Wirral Hospice St John’s in memory of his mum Christine

Published on: 11/08/2023

The relics of the apostle, St James, are said to rest at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain and so the Camino de Santiago, Way of St James, has been a Catholic pilgrimage ever since the 9th Century. Today tourists flock from all over the world to the northern Spanish city to savour its unique, atmosphere and to take in the historical, divine for many, sights.

For others, whatever their faith background, it is the ultimate destination at the end of various ancient routes stretching for hundreds of miles, in their search for spiritual growth and many combine their quest to raise money for worthy causes.

Neal Berry (pictured left here) is a wholehearted man and as such he is…. all in!

He resolved to take on the mammoth task of walking the French route of the Camino de Santiago, 500 miles over 30 days, early in 2023 when his mum, Christine, was confirmed to have stage four cancer and when he had fervently hoped that she might still be with us when he’d completed it.

Now, however, Neal’s determination to complete the challenge has become a memorial tribute to his mum as Christine sadly passed away on the last day of June this year.

It’s been an understandably sorrowful time, mixed with many fond memories, for Neal’s family. Neal is one of four siblings and as well as all of Christine’s grandchildren and her wider family they are still all trying hard to come to terms with their sad loss.

Christine had told Neal that with everything she knew about Wirral Hospice St John’s it would have been her ideal safe haven to spend her final days. However, in the circumstances and with her condition having worsened a little more quickly than hoped, Christine died at home surrounded by her loving family.

She’d been a supporter of the hospice in a number of ways over many years, so Neal is now even more determined to build on that dedicated support to accomplish the incredibly challenging journey along the Camino de Santiago for his mother and to raise funds for the hospice.

Brought up in Wirral, Neal is an electrical engineer employed within the marine industry out in the Middle East, so navigated his work schedule to enable him to fulfil his challenge.

On an update on his Just Giving fundraising/sponsorship page Neal has recently written,

“Mum left this world surrounded by the people she cherished most, and her memory will forever inspire me. In the wake of her passing, my determination to complete the Camino de Santiago has only grown stronger. I feel compelled to carry on this journey in her honour, as a testament to her incredible spirit and to raise as much money as possible for the hospice that meant so much to her. Once again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Christine who, in her time, had spent many years caring for others and later supported children with learning difficulties and life challenges, was a caring, compassionate and loving person, and extremely close to her sisters and children.

During her final months she spent time at the Clatterbridge Centre in Liverpool and despite her frailty was able to visit the Empire Theatre during her final months with all the ladies from the family’s various generations to see a production of Dirty Dancing.

Neal tells the funny, now precious for the family,  story of a consultant arriving at her bedside and them all enthusing that Christine had been to the theatre. The consultant’s response of,

“I’ve not been told she needed theatre, what operation did she have?”,

 was met with some loud guffaws and answers of,

 No…not theatre….. THE theatre……… to see Dirty Dancing.”

 Now that’s a really lovely family memory and the consultant also took it in good heart.

Neal who keeps fit on board at sea, or when onshore, by walking 10k most days, in that searing heat of the Middle East, with an 8.5kg pack on his back as practice for his long walk knows that this is going to be an extra special trial.

His friends and family have already sponsored him to the tune of a very formidable £5,000 against his £10,000 target. Fantastic!

Much of the journey will be chronicled, sometimes live-stream recorded on his Go-Pro and a drone. We know that all of us at the hospice, all of Neal’s supporters, family and friends will be sending all their best wishes as they track his journey this September which he describes as a challenge of love, endurance and hope.

Above all he will do his mum, Christine, very proud. Very proud indeed! 


(If you would like to sponsor Neal for his extraordinary expedition along the Camino de Santiago in memory of his mum, Christine, his Just Giving sponsorship page is at  www.justgiving.com/page/neal-berry-1686558829280