Medieval Warrior Undertakes ‘1066 Battle Walk’ for Men’s Mental Health
An Englishman marched 250 miles from York to Hastings wearing heavy medieval armor to raise cash for a mental health charity.
Lewis Kirkbride, of Pittington, County Durham, England, marched from the north eastern city of York to the southern town of Hastings, with the specific aim of helping to raise cash and awareness about the importance of suicide prevention. He hiked this historic route wearing 56 pounds of medieval armor and this brave warrior hopes his grueling 20-day long challenge will encourage men to talk about their mental health, after having fought his own battle with “anxiety and depression,” according to a report in Chronicle Live .
Lewis Kirkbride 1066 Battle Walk. (Lewis Kirkbride / Just Giving Page )
Enemies Everywhere Harold Turned
The 37-year-old medieval fan said mental health problems “invade your life and attack from all sides” and this is why his route followed the path of the legendary English King Harold II Godwinson (c.1022-14 October 1066 AD), of England. Respected as a strong and fair ruler, and a skilled war general, Harold only held the English crown for nine months in 1066 AD.
His reign was extremely troubled, as no sooner was he crowned in January 1066 AD than three major opponents challenged his sovereignty. William the Conqueror in France threatened to attack the south coast, while King Harald III Hardraade of Norway targeted the northeast coast, and after being exiled by Harold, his brother Tostig Godwinson supported the Norwegian king’s invasion of England.
Norwegian king Harald Hardrada (Harald III.) in Kirkwall Cathedral. (Colin Smith / CC BY SA 2.0 )
According to Britannica, in May 1066 AD, Harold commanded his peasant army southwards from London to defend the English coast from an expected invasion by William, but his army first had to repel his brother Tostig’s raids on the southern and eastern coasts. Then, in September, Harald of Norway and Tostig invaded in the north of England and defeated an army at Gate Fulford before marching northward, but Harold met the Viking invaders at Stamford Bridge near York - where he was famously victorious on September 25 1066 AD, killing both the barbarian king and his brother Tostig.
Detail of "The Battle of Stamford Bridge", Peter Nicholai Arbo, 1870. ( Public Domain )
Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide
In states of deep paranoia and anxiousness, having killed his rogue brother, Harold had “nowhere to turn and nobody to confide in,” and all his pain, confusion, and multifaceted suffering is being directly reflected in the efforts of hiker Lewis Kirkbride, who says, just like the enemies of the English king so too can “mental health problems invade your life and attack from all sides.”
Like many today who suffer mental health challenges, King Harold was not only anxious about the present but he must have been crippled with fears about the future because earlier in September he had been forced to disband his southern army after running out of supplies and his troops were forced to return to their farms to attend to the harvest, otherwise, there would be nationwide famine in England that winter.
Now, it’s been said that just because you’re paranoid, this doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you, and true to this, on the evening of September 27–28 in 1066 AD William and his army sailed across the English Channel from Normandy and landed at Pevesney, and set up his military camp at Hastings.
- A Red Dawn Rises - The Battle of Hastings, 1066
- The Norman Invasion: An Epic 11th Century Battle for the English Throne
- Burning, Pillaging, and Carving up the Lands: Viking Raids into England - Part II
Ruins at Pevensey Castle. The Normans used the fort for their overnight camp before the Battle of Hastings and soon after built the castle (seen here) in a corner of the fort. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Deeply Depressed, But March On, Day By Day
Harold must have been deeply-depressed, not only having seen so many of his friends and family slain in the battle with the Danes, but he had just slaughtered his brother Tostig. Nevertheless, a BBC History article informs that the brave king soldiered on and marched his army southward. With barely any sleep over 20 days they reached London on October 6, completely exhausted, where they rested for a few days before setting off for Hastings.
Completely broken, both physically and mentally, according to the Bayeux Tapestry , on the morning of October 14 Harold was killed by an arrow that had lodged in his eye, and William’s accession to the English throne as King William I ended the Anglo-Saxon period of English history. You can read all about this paradigm-changing battle in this Ancient Origins article.
Bayeux Tapestry - The death of King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings. ( Public Domain )
Slaying the Demons of Depression, The Old Way
Knowing the layers of mental challenges endured by King Harold, the words of charity walker Lewis Kirkbride hold much more gravitas, for example, “We do our best to fight, but putting on a brave face every day takes a lot of energy – a bit like heavy armor weighing down on our shoulders every step of the way.” Lewis hopes his challenge will open up the conversation around mental health and encourage men who are struggling to speak out.
Mr. Kirkbride said his training included “as much walking as possible around the hills and villages, starting from home - there's some steep bits, boggy bits, residential areas and woodlands; I need to get used to different terrain and conditions.” And in this last sentence, Mr. Kirkbride jigsaws into training methods of Harald’s 11th century English warriors - who when not fighting for their territory, were humble farmers and also travelled across hills, bogs, and woodlands, selling their wares at community markets.
Mr. Kirkbride’s fundraising is going to the men’s mental health support organization ManHealth, which offers training on health inequalities and mental health, which he says is important “at a time when suicide is the biggest killer in men under 50.” You can donate to Lewis’ medieval challenge here.
Lewis Kirkbride’s 1066 Battle Walk is raising funds for men’s mental health. (Credit: Lewis Kirkbride / 1066 Battle Walk )
Top Image: Lewis Kirkbride on his 1066 Battle Walk (York to Hastings) in aid of ManHealth. Source: Lewis Kirkbride / 1066 Battle Walk
By Ashley Cowie
Updated October 22, 2020.