Charity walker Tracey Hannam, 55, from Bath, had pitched her tent near Whitburn Beach at around 7.30pm on Sunday, May 8, before heading off to look for sea glass.
As she searched, she spotted a group of five youths laughing but “didn’t think much of it” until she got back to her tent to notice that it had been slashed with a knife, some of her possessions were missing and her walking boots had been urinated on.
After what had happened to Tracey was posted on social media, the local community rallied around to help her fix her tent, which is nicknamed 'Aggie' and buy her some new belongings to help with the next leg of her journey.
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Tracey said: “I started my walk in June 2020 and I’ve never had any problems up until now however the support has been amazing, the kindness and generosity of the people of the North East has been incredible.
"When I saw the group of youths standing laughing, I didn’t really think much of it but it wasn’t until I got back to ‘Aggie’ that I noticed the knife marks, cigarette burns, some of my belongings missing and to top it off, they had urinated on my walking boots.
"I think that hearing about what has happened has disgusted a lot of people in the area and I’ve now had people further up the coast contact me to say I can pitch my tent in their garden.
"I was sat at Fausto Coffee and people were coming up to shake my hand as they had recognised me from all the attention that this has gained on social media – everyone has just been lovely.”
Northumbria Police have confirmed that they have launched an investigation into the incident and have appealed for any witnesses to come forward.
A spokesperson for the Force said: “We are investigating a report of theft and criminal damage near Whitburn Beach at about 7.30pm on Sunday (May 8).
“It was reported that a group stole items from a tent before damaging it and making off.
"This behaviour is totally unacceptable and anyone with information can contact police via the ‘Tell Us Something’ page of our website quoting log NP-20220508-0985.”Tracey started her mammoth fundraising walk in June 2020 and is now heading up to the Scottish Islands on the next leg of her journey as she continues her 12,000 mile walk, having already completed 4,200 miles so far.
With her raising money for the RNLI, she is intending to visit every RNLI station along the route and has set herself a fundraising target of £100,000.