"Scattered most of Sophie’s ashes into the wind amongst some beautiful scenery. Away our beautiful girl flew," wrote George Airey. 

The former teacher from Kendal has less than 150 miles to go of a 500 miles walk in memory of her much-loved daughter.

Georgina Airey, known as George, is walking the Camino de Santiago, The Way of St James, to pay tribute to her daughter Sophie who took her own life days before Christmas in 2018. 

Mrs Airey, who was Head of History, Head of sixth form and also pastoral Deputy Head at Kirkbie Kendal School for 30 years wanted to do the pilgrimage to find "some spiritual peace" following the death of her 29-year-old daughter. 

Re-named as "Sophie's Walk", Mrs Airey started at St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees on Saturday (May 18) and should hopefully reach Santiago de Compostela by the end of June. 

The Westmorland Gazette: George AireyGeorge Airey

Sophie was an oncology nurse at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. 

"Sophie was beautiful inside and out," said Mrs Airey. "The room would always light up when she walked in." 

The former teacher said she would be taking Sophie "every step of the way" while also raising money for PAPYRUS, a national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. 

The Westmorland Gazette will be posting updates of Mrs Airey's journey. 

Mrs Airey said her mission in life had since changed following her daughter's death. 

"She would want me to crack on with life, which is what I'm trying to do," she said. 

"We are firm believers that if we can prevent other families from going through this pain, then it won't be in vain. We are determined to bring something positive out our family's terrible loss and so we are supporting PAPYRUS." 

The Westmorland Gazette: Sophie Airey Sophie Airey

To donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Georgina-Airey

Below are extracts from Mrs Airey's travel diary....

SATURDAY 19th May

"Rain, cold, wind, and a touch of snow.

After much faffing and doubt on my part we decided to walk the high route despite the weather. Only one photo from today as there was no visibility. If yesterday was boot camp, today was endurance.

I had intended to rest some of Sophie’s ashes at the highest point, but it was too cold and wet for me and I didn’t want to leave her there, even though she was a toughie in that respect.

Writing this in Hotel Ronscesvalles’ bar where Sophie would sit here with a pint!!

More in two days from Pamplona (hopefully) with some sunshine (hopefully)".

The Westmorland Gazette: George Airey (middle)George Airey (middle)

TUESDAY 21st May

To Pamplona

"Our walk today involved ups and downs along the River Arga where I scattered some of Sophie’s ashes in the sunshine. She is with us!

Pamplona is pleasant and noisy. Celebrations were happening as the team have been promoted. To what league, who knows?

Great evening in good company despite Poe food!"

WEDNESDAY 22nd May

"After an emotional goodbye to my amazing brother Billy, who has looked after me since St Jean, we left Pamplona and climbed up to Alto del Perdon. The Westmorland Gazette:

A most beautiful walk in sunshine. People who have watched “The Way” would recognise the sculptures. (See photo above). I scattered some of Sophie’s ashes and she flew away into the wind. Once over the hills we were into serious arable agricultural land. No more horses like before Pamplona, just fields of wheat, barley and oats, all beautifully surrounded by poppies.

Refuge tonight, 5 euros each!"

FRIDAY 24th May

"J’ai Perdue mon amie!

So the day started in the Estella Albergue in a panic as Marian had up sticks and gone! Having one phone between us, there was no contact so I had to simply wander off alone. We met in a cafe after 4km each having wasted time searching for the other!

Today was beautiful. The scenery was stunning; the weather was cooler and dry; and Sophie was with me all day. When I was on chemo, she boosted me round Buttermere. Today she egged me on for over 17 miles. (I must start talking in kilometres!)

Stayed in a hillside village called Sansol, where the albergue kindly had a foot pool!"

SATURDAY 25th May

"Chico!

A favourite thing for us about the Camino is the characters we meet. Chico is the highlight and today we had our last conversation with her as she travels back to Japan tomorrow. Chico leaves the albergues at 6.30 each morning and never rests until evening. She walks slowly with her strange collection of bags. She makes us think of Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise, but we can’t remember the outcome!!!! Chico is a truly delightful character who we shall never forget.

The Westmorland Gazette: George, Marian and ChicoGeorge, Marian and Chico

Other than our encounter, a dull day BUT we are now in Rioja land (oh hecky pecky!!), and we have reached Logrono, over the hundred mile mark. Whoop!! Less than 400 to Santiago!"

SUNDAY 26th May

“Dull!

A long walk today (18 miles) and largely unmemorable. Arrived in Nájera, lacking in interest. Paid 12 euros for a poor refuge. But worse than anything was the evening meal! Green beans that seemed to have been cooked for weeks! Enough said.”

MONDAY 27th May

“After a sleepless night in the dorm due to an Austrian snorer who nearly raised the roof; we had another lacklustre Walk, especially when we walked through a hilltop village that had been designed as an exclusive golf resort but had truly failed.

It was lifeless, largely up for sale; and the golf club even accepted pilgrims in for a drink!! How desperate can they be? A soulless place.”

TUESDAY 28th May

“I call today “Pumbaa”!

 Marian never snores, until last night that is!! She will be known as Pumbaa for the day! A pleasant walk through Rioja vines and then back to arable land.

 Feet starting to suffer, and so walked out to supper in socks and sandals. I hear Sophie mocking me “Oh God, look what George is wearing now!”. I assure you, Soph, there is worse to come yet on this trip!”

WEDNESDAY 29th May

“Long and emotional walk today. Beautiful, but my mind was with Soph and her friends, one of whom texted me this morning feeling the same way.

Saw livestock again, first in days!”

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THURSDAY 30th May

“A day of two halves.

Up with the lark we had a beautiful morning’s walk. Then the urban slog into Burgos! Enough said.

Burgos is beautiful, we are not doing it justice! We have sore feet!”

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FRIDAY 31st May

"A whole new ball game!

We left Burgos at 7.30 and by 10am we were in the quiet countryside lanes heading towards the ‘Matera’. Clear blue sky and very warm. We lost many familiar faces who stopped at Burgos.

A favourite couple that we met will remain nameless! We never exchanged names. We spoke briefly each day in any tongue that occurred! The lady walked for several days at a similar pace; her husband cycled and popped up every couple of hours. On our last night together in Ages I gave her a Sophie card and told her my beautiful baby ‘Es muerta’.

We all cried together. We don’t speak the same language but we share the same language and feelings. That is the Camino. I shall never forget my Spanish friend who also taught me to say ‘hasta luego’ rather than adios!

Long slow uphill to a pretty village called Hornillos. Soph was egging me up the hill today. Her presence influenced Marian to have two large beers today. That would be Soph!"

SATURDAY 1st June

"Doubts

Today was a tough day, mentally more than physically. It was very hot which added to the pain. There was also a 5 mile hike before a very poor breakfast.

Late morning the doubts began to set in. I doubted my ability and stickability. I doubted my desire to continue compared to my longing to be at home.

My back has started to ache badly each day, and today was one of those days where I am inconsolable in missing Sophie. I have those days and they will always happen. By evening, even the thought of being nearly halfway didn’t help. I just dread the thought of doing the same distance again.

During the afternoon Marian suggested we stop and rest at the next opportunity. Around the next corner we spotted the ruins of an abbey and heard the tune Hallelujah playing on a guitar. Sure enough we arrived at a makeshift bar and the world was temporarily a little better."

SUNDAY 2nd June

"Come on George!

Bizarrely and incidentally I received a few fab messages last night and this morning! Much needed, so thank you.

Today was not difficult but a long day (27 km), but thankfully a little cooler."

MONDAY 3rd June

"From turmoil to tranquility!

Today’s journey was short and not arduous; not particularly interesting, but for me, tranquil. The turmoil and doubt have gone.

Decisions get made along the way, some life changing, others just practical. I shall make Sophie’s favourite Christmas cake again, but we Aireys will donate it to the men and women of the Queensferry Coastguard Search and Rescue to say a very small thank you for their tireless search for our beautiful Sophie last December. Fi and I both pledged to not send Christmas cards and pledge money too.

Day 17 now done, and 17 to go, but not quite halfway yet!"

TUESDAY 4th June

"Straight line!!!

Felt like a Roman soldier! This morning was very long, very straight and a little boring as the scenery did not change for 17km. I had to do a little of my new hobby (studying farming) to keep

myself entertained! Passed a field that had very wonky drilling or sowing or both!
I pondered about the four delightful Irish sisters (and one husband) we met last night. We chatted about Sophie and my story. They told me about an organisation in Eire called Pieta House who organise walks called “darkness into light”. I thought beautiful and wonder if they are similar to Papyrus’ “walks of hope”.

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It’s cool today. Sun and cloud and walking into a westerly breeze. Good walking weather. We met Mr Chocolate again! He’s a delightful Japanese man that seems to pop up in those flagging moments with a chocky!!

Sophie darling, since it is so cool this afternoon, I am wearing socks and sandals again. I am so sorry to let you down!"

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WEDNESDAY 5th June

"Out of sorts with a happy ending!

"After a terrible night’s sleep (or lack of) I was out of sorts for much of the day! Today was a long walk, but arrived at a small B and B that smelt of good food! Indeed it was, hearty home cooked supper, and great company with a group of Camino savvy Scots!"

THURSDAY 6th June

"Non decision, indecision then decision!

"Lovely quiet morning’s walk as far as coffee and then a boring roadside walk to our destination for the day Mansilla. Checked into albergue, showered and settled down to an early afternoon beer.

And then Marian planted the seed.....

“We could have caught the bus to León and had an evening there”.

Upsticks after a small refund and off we went! As James Brierley (the Camino guide from heaven) says “If the idea of taking transport seems like heresy it might be useful to ask ourselves - why not?"

FRIDAY 7th June

"Strava magic!

Put Strava on to measure my walk around León. It was only when I got some Kudos having covered 16 miles in just over 3 hours that I realised that part of the journey was escaping the outskirts of Leon by bus again!! Got caught out by one savvy friend who spotted my wandering in the estacion de autobus!!

León now done. The old city is good, but the highlight was the cathedral ‘s cloisters."

SATURDAY 8th June

"Late start, return of Billy, Astorga

To Rabanal ( a highlight!)

A sleepy start from the 3 musketeers after being kept awake by party goers and motorbikes all night. Steady trudge up to El Ganso where we said farewell to Billy once more.

Reached Rabanal, a very pretty hill village where we stayed at the Gaucelmo Confraternity Albergue. A very peaceful evening."

MONDAY 10th June

"Sophie’s day

Walked to the highest point of the Camino, Alto Altar at 1515m. Scattered most of Sophie’s ashes into the wind amongst some beautiful scenery. Away our beautiful girl flew!

Big drop in height to Molinaseca and less than 150 miles to go!!" 

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TUESDAY 11th June

"Tired legs!

Very tired after ascent and big descent yesterday. Very boring walk today. Only saving grace was the final view back to Sophie’s hills!!"

WEDNESDAY 12th June

Sophie

"Sophie would be 29 and a half years old today. I am overly aware of dates and milestones. It is heading towards the 19th June and that is the six month anniversary of that beautiful person taking her own life. That day will always be etched into my brain, my heart and my being. My heart and my body continue to hurt emotionally and physically for our darling Sophie. As so many described her “she was so beautiful inside and out”.

"This morning’s walk was stunning. We walked up and down, once more through vineyards, but always with Sophie’s mountains in view (where I set her free the other day). Leaving Villafranca after coffee we headed towards the next valley and farewell to those mountains. Hasta luego"

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THURSDAY 13th June

Mass

"Today was the last big climb of 700 metres up to O’Cebreiro through some beautiful scenery and into Galicia! It was cold in this small village late this afternoon but the views ahead and behind were awesome.

Marian went to Mass. I had the choice of sitting with the view, or in a bar or church. Breaking personal tradition I went to church.

It was the most beautiful church service I have ever experienced. For me I say experienced and not attended. I had expected to observe really and not be a true part. I was totally engulfed by the warmth and inclusion. The Mass was led by the most humble (and incidentally beautifully handsome) priest who included all nationalities and beliefs. The music (Ave María and Panis Angelicus) was piped from his phone! Five pilgrims were chosen to read in different languages (one being Marian).

At the end of the service there was a pilgrim’s blessing. We were called towards the altar; asked to hold hands; say the Lord’s prayer in our own language; and then hugged and wished “Buen Camino” individually before being given an individually painted pebble for a safe journey.

It was a humbling experience, very beautiful, and I shed many tears"

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FRIDAY 14th June

Proper Numpties!!!

"Generally Marian and I walk a little apart in our own worlds. At a crucial moment this morning we were chatting. During this conversation we did consider why the path was heading so much lower than the road route. Eventually a car stopped and the driver explained that we were on the wrong route. Marian wondered why he hadn’t turned up earlier, I wondered why he didn’t offer us a lift back up the hill!

We made a climb a BIG climb!!

The walk was long and beautiful. Emotionally the walk was intense. I felt strongly that I was leaving Sophie in the mountains behind me to the south east. In my reflections on this walk I shall always consider the strength for life that darling Sophie gave me. Since she died I have lost that self belief and confidence in my ability. That lack of spirit was certainly evident in the early weeks of this journey, I doubted myself physically and emotionally. Sophie was my rock.

Marian said something beautiful today. “There must be many guiding angels on this Camino”.

My Sophie angel guides me."

SATURDAY 15th June

Sarria, Sara and Jan!

Now we are four!! Just over 100 km to go!

The Westmorland Gazette:

To donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Georgina-Airey