Looking back at 15 years of the CRY Heart of London Bridges Walk

The CRY Heart of London Bridges Walk originally began in 2007, a year after former opera star Kathryn Harries became a CRY Patron and had the idea for a walking event.

Walkers at the 2007 Heart of London Bridges Walk.

A year later in 2007, Kathryn and 400 CRY supporters from all over the UK completed an 8km walk from Westminster to Tower Bridge. They crossed eight bridges on their route, signifying the eight apparently fit and healthy young people that die every week from undiagnosed heart conditions, the estimated figure at the time. CRY research has since shown that the weekly figure is 12, with the routes for this event expanding as a result.

“I’d read about fit, young people dying without warning because of an undiagnosed heart condition – and as a mother of two, I couldn’t begin to imagine the terrible grief of those youngsters’ families,” Kathryn said at the time. “It didn’t occur to me that I could do anything to help – until I heard about CRY, the fantastically energetic charity whose aim is to make screening for heart conditions available for all young people. Our children are our future and I want to do anything I can to help stop yet more parents and siblings have to go through this shocking bereavement.”

Since the first walk in 2007, the Heart of London Bridges Walk has continued to grow as it’s become our flagship event.

In 2008, Kathryn returned to lead CRY’s walkers again and over 600 supporters took part. The walk route changed as well, starting at Victoria Embankment Gardens and ending at Hay’s Galleria near London Bridge.

CRY Patron Phil Packer was our guest speaker in 2009 and led our walkers, with CRY Patron Ben Brown joining as well. The walking route was expanded this year to include 12 famous London landmarks to represent the 12 young sudden cardiac deaths that occur each week in the UK.

Kathryn Harries with some of CRY’s walkers in 2009.

The event continued to develop over the next few years, and in 2013 over 1,000 people registered for the first time, with more than 1,200 walkers taking part.

We set a new record shortly after in 2015. 1,926 walkers took part, and due to the continued success and growing numbers we outgrew Victoria Embankment Gardens and took the event to a new venue the following year.

CRY’s walkers in 2015.

For the 10th anniversary of the Heart of London Bridges Walk in 2016 the event moved to Potters Fields Park, with the stunning backdrop of Tower Bridge at the start of the walk. “When I arrived and walked out into the opening with the backdrop of Tower Bridge it was an amazing feeling,” CRY Chief Executive Dr Steven Cox said. “A feeling which was amplified when I watched the crowds of supporters slowly gathering and building in numbers before setting off… We are immensely grateful to everyone who signed up for this special 10th annual Bridges Walk and I felt incredibly proud to be part of CRY. This year, the event came hot on the heels of our 20th anniversary, which has given staff, volunteers, families and supporters an opportunity to look back over our many milestones and achievements since CRY’s launch in 1995, as well as paying tribute to the many young people and their families who have been affected by young sudden cardiac death.”

We hosted the event at Potters Fields Park for one more year in 2018, but we had to find a new venue again the following year in order to accommodate the continually increasing number of supporters we were thrilled to see attending.

So, in 2019, the Heart of London Bridges Walk moved to Southwark Park. 1,574 walkers gathered to take part and follow our new route, which went past a host of iconic sights such as The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe Theatre, and the Tower of London. After the walk, we also introduced the first CRY Family Picnic, which created a lovely communal atmosphere. Food was on offer, there were various games to take part in, and three choirs filled the venue with music.

A group of CRY supporters completing their walk in 2020.

As the COVID-19 pandemic meant that we were unable to go ahead with our typical event at Southwark Park in 2020, we held the first ever Virtual Heart of London Bridges Walk. Over 300 people pre-registered to take part with many more participating on the day to complete their own walks around the UK. Before walkers set off, speeches from CRY Chief Executive Dr Steven Cox, CRY Founder Alison Cox, CRY’s Consultant Pathologist Professor Mary Sheppard, and CRY’s Consultant Cardiologist Professor Sanjay Sharma were broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube. A 2-minute silence was held after the speeches, while the homepage of the CRY website was transformed into a digital message wall, giving supporters the chance to upload messages and photos with their thoughts and feelings for the day.

Now, as we continue to work through the pandemic and do all we can to keep everyone involved with this event, we have made the difficult decision to make the 2021 Heart of London Bridges Walk a virtual event as well. There is still a great deal of uncertainty at the moment with planning events, and we feel it is only right to give our supporters, volunteers, and suppliers as much notice as possible about how the event will run. We also want to avoid the risk of spending money that has been so kindly raised by our supporters on services that we are unable to use come June.

However, just as it was in 2020, we are sure that this year’s event will be another special day. The 2021 Heart of London Bridges Walk will mark the 15th anniversary of the event, and we are delighted to announce that registration is now open! You can walk the 5.5-mile route in your local area, take part in the family picnic, and the CRY homepage will once again be turned into a message wall for everyone taking part to send in photos and messages. You can click here to learn more, and register to take part here.