A RETIRED couple, who were inspired to take up walking after their daughter gave them a pedometer as a gift, have just completed an incredible 1,424 mile hike to Italy.Mike Higgins, 61, and wife Janet, 65, took 148 days to walk from their home in rural Shropshire to an apartment they owned in Lake Garda, Ponte Caffaro in Italy. Along the way the couple walked through four countries and clambered up to a height of 20,319ft when they crossed the Swiss Alps.Retired council worker Mike and Janet, a retired secondary school teacher, made the epic trek after joking about it four years ago when daughter Becky bought them a pedometer.Mike said: ‘We have had an apartment in Italy for a while and after seeing how many miles we were walking in a month around the local area I said we could probably get to Italy in five or six months.‘We laughed at the time but after a while Janet said we could do it if we wanted.‘The idea started four years ago but it grew some legs two years ago when we thought we ought to do it. We had no experience but thought it would be fun. It sounds bizarre because it was not a spontaneous idea but a slow evolution. We are not particularly conventional so they were not surprised we wanted to do it. We started off in Shropshire and went down Offa’s Dyke before heading to Dover. We then crossed into north east France and down into Switzerland before crossing the mountains into Italy. We didn’t take the flat route. It was an incredible life because all we had to do was walk, our life was incredibly simple.’‘We stayed where we could but had no long-term plan. We had a starting point at home and an end point, but only planned a few days ahead on the trip. What was lovely was that we were walking through the seasons and so we could see the trees getting their leaves and then, as we moved into France and moved down, we could see all the crops were ripening as we moved. We were really taken aback that everything was so early. We live in a rural area and we would see hay harvested in the autumn. In France they were harvesting in May.’ ‘Each part of it was wonderful, there was something every day to enjoy, just a fabulous experience. When something like this finishes almost immediately ordinary life takes hold and if you are not careful it can become like a dream and you wonder if you have really done it.’         –MO