Going the extra mile

Bluebell Wood Walk Finish at Thornbridge Hall, Ashford in the Water.Walkers taking part in 'Toms Golden Mile Challenge' finishing off after a two day 35 mile walk through 20 Derbyshire Villages in aid of Bluebell Wood Childrens Hospice.Pictured is a Piper leading the walkers the last few yards to the finish along with Gillian Scotford pushing her son Thomas

Bluebell Wood Walk Finish at Thornbridge Hall, Ashford in the Water.Walkers taking part in 'Toms Golden Mile Challenge' finishing off after a two day 35 mile walk through 20 Derbyshire Villages in aid of Bluebell Wood Childrens Hospice.Pictured is a Piper leading the walkers the last few yards to the finish along with Gillian Scotford pushing her son Thomas

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THE women are on the march through the Peak District again - and this time organiser Gillian Scotford is stepping up a gear.

As usual, the former district nursing sister will be leading female family and friends on a 35 mile walk through 20 Derbyshire villages in aid of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

On the final day this year, Sunday, June 5, a cycle ride is being held to coincide with the walk - and Gillian is launching her book that reflects the glories of the countryside the walkers pass through and the value of hospices.

She organised the first walk, called Tom’s Golden Mile Challenge, four years ago with reference to her son, now 15, who is a regular visitor to Bluebell Wood at North Anston.

Gillian also has a son Sam, 12, who has had a stroke and has celebral palsy, and another, Max, 17, who is able-bodied.

Thomas was born with a serious heart defect, is severely brain damaged and requires 24-hour care, putting enormous pressure on the family.

She and husband Russell rely on Bluebell Wood, which needs £2.4m a year to keep going.

So far the walk and spin-offs have generated £36,000. Gillian and fellow walkers take three days to cover the 35 miles before being joined by others - male as well as female - on the last seven miles to a party at Thornbridge Hall near Ashford-in-the-Water. Last year 275 people teamed up with 18 women on the final stretch.

Fundraising for the hospice is being boosted this time by a cycle ride through the 20 villages organised by Charlie Last, of Dronfield, with cyclists and walkers aiming to meet up for a parade into Thornbridge led by a bagpipe player.

Gillian, aged 45, said: “The book felt like a natural extension of Tom’s Golden Mile Challenge and I’ve spent two years researching the restaurants, hotels and attractions in each village on the route,” she said.

“It’s a guide to walking, wining and dining through Derbyshire and it has beautiful hand-painted maps and photographs. The walk is one of the nicest things I have ever done and I wanted to share it with others. It has been a labour of love for me and I feel very excited about it.

“Bluebell Wood offers support to the whole family and our children couldn’t be happier. What the hospice means to me is light at the end of the tunnel, that feeling that they will catch me when I fall and when everything goes wrong they will help us make it better.”

The book has been produced by Gillian working with Si Homfrey - “The kindest man I have ever met!” - at Hammer Design in Hathersage. Estate agents Blundells have donated £500 towards the printing costs.

Walkers on the last seven miles will meet at Baslow Village Hall at 10.30am, going on to the Thornbridge party where Sheffield band Acoustic Angels will perform.

Businesswoman Emma Harrison, who owns Thornbridge, has written the introduction to the book, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the foreword.

Proceeds from the book, which costs £9.99, will be divided between Bluebell Wood and equipment for Gillian’s disabled sons. All the money from the walk and cycle ride go to the hospice.

Gillian will give a talk at the Maynard Arms, Grindleford, on April 27 at 7pm as part of the Peak District Walking Festival (tel 01538 483741).

Then she can look forward to the girls’ three day walk that stops off for a cream tea, a champagne reception and a disco on Stanage Edge.

“It’s the best thing I have ever done,” she said. “It has brought so much joy to so many people, and I want to spread it further.”

lwww.goldenmiles.co.uk or contact Bluebell Wood.