A LIFE-long Nottingham Forest fan from Llanwddyn is taking on a huge challenge in memory of his stillborn child.

Andrew Johnson set off from his home-village on Monday, and is hoping to walk the 165-mile route to Nottingham in time for what would have been his son’s 10th birthday on September 21.

His eldest child, Fletcher, was born sleeping in 2009 at 39 weeks. The 50-year-old said he and his wife Colleen still struggle to process what happened.

“Fletcher’s death was completely unexpected as he was perfectly healthy,” he said.

“Me and my wife Colleen were sitting in the living room counting his kicks and then, three hours later, he was gone, and we were told Colleen would have to give birth to our son sleeping.

“It has been, and continues to be, really difficult to process what has happened. Fletcher’s death has left a massive hole in our family – it’s hard to put it into words.

“But we know he is with us and we always make sure he’s in our plans and remembered by his family.”

The Forest season ticket holder has supported the Midlands-based side since 1975, and hoped Fletcher would have shared his passion for the team too.

With Andrew having turned 50 earlier this year, and with 2019 being the year Fletcher would have turned 10, he felt it would be a fitting time to do something in his memory.

He added: “I’ve always wanted to do something in memory of Fletcher, and it seemed fitting to mark the two milestone birthdays.

“Fletcher would have loved Llanwddyn and I really hope he’d have shared my passion for Forest too, so it made sense for the two places to be the start and end points.”

At the end of the trip, Andrew will be in attendance for the Forest game against Barnsley at the City Ground, adding: “It will be a nice way to end the personal pilgrimage and for me to say to Fletcher, ‘son, we made it’.”

Andrew – who runs the Dafarn Newydd Stores, Takeaway and Fuel Station – plans to average 14 miles a day and has been preparing for the journey for the past year by walking 15 miles while carrying a rucksack and wearing four days’ worth of clothes.

The money raised by the walk will be donated to Abigail’s Footsteps, which raises awareness of stillbirth in the UK, and Llanwddyn Community Centre.

He said: “I have set a target of raising £3,652 as this will be how many days, I’d have spent without Fletcher by the time his birthday arrives.

“It all links up nicely – Abigail’s Footsteps was set up in memory of Abigail Ward, who also would’ve been celebrating her 10th birthday this year, and then there’s our local community centre, which Fletcher would’ve attended for nursery up until the age of five.”

The shop-owner has been overwhelmed with the support he has received leading up to the event.

Nottingham-based family business UK Meds has donated £1,200 to pay for Andrew’s food and accommodation along the 165-mile route.

“I’m blown away by the support we’ve received,” he said.

“UK Meds paying for my accommodation and food has really taken the pressure off financially. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Founder of UK Meds, Joe Soiza, is also a lifelong Forest fan. He will be walking the last leg of the journey with Andrew as he arrives in Nottingham.

He said: “When Andrew contacted us and told us Fletcher’s story, we knew we wanted to get involved and support him on his journey from Wales to Nottingham.

“It’s hard to imagine what the Johnson family have been through, but the walk is such a thoughtful way for Andrew to commemorate his son and spend time reliving his memory.

“I hope our donation takes the pressure off the challenge financially, and I look forward to meeting Andrew when he arrives in Nottingham.”

To sponsor Andrew Johnson and donate to Abigail's Footsteps, please visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FletcherMemorialWalk2019