Rain, blisters and laughs for women of the Peak

The walkers supporting Toms Golden Mile Challenge ready to set off to Thornbridge
The walkers supporting Toms Golden Mile Challenge ready to set off to Thornbridge

THERE was plenty of rain, plenty of blisters, plenty of laughs and a drop of champagne – and no holding back the women on their march through the Peak District.

The latest Golden Mile Challenge – a 35-mile walk through 20 Derbyshire villages – is expected to raise about £10,000 for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice in North Anston.

Leading the way was former district nursing sister Gillian Scotford and 20 female family and friends, who trudged through the rain last Friday and Saturday before being joined on Sunday for the last seven miles by a male and female contingent, taking the total number of walkers to 160.

Led by bagpiper Alex Ritchie, they covered the last stage from Chatsworth to Thornbridge Hall, near Ashford-in-the-Water, where Gillian’s sons, Tom and Sam, who go to the hospice, and Max, aged 18, who is able-bodied, were waiting.

Then it was time for a party at the hall.

It was the fifth annual walk – called Tom’s Golden Mile Challenge after Gillian and husband Russell’s son, now 16, who is severely brain damaged and requires 24-hour care. Sam, now 13, has had a stroke and has celebral palsy.

Gillian, of Highgate Drive, Dronfield, said the weekend was “perfect – such a special feeling of great company and a great atmosphere for a very special cause that inspires each and every one of us.

“It rained all day Friday and most of Saturday, and Sunday was gorgeous, but it was all just fantastic.”

As usual, the women were in high spirits as they strode up and down the hills. During a champagne picnic on Stanage Edge, they sang Westlife’s You Raise Me Up and surprised – and frightened? – a lone male walker who wandered across the group.

One of their number stood on rocks in a heavily swollen river near Hathersage to help the others to the other side.

“She got everybody across, put her arms in the air and went into the river!” said Gillian.

“We have got a video of it, which we are sending to Harry Hill and hope to raise an extra £200!”

The group of women included businesswoman Emma Harrison, and her daughter, Maxine, who handed over Thornbridge for the evening. Overnight accommodation was also provided free of charge, in barns at Little Longstone owned by Jim and Michelle Longsden.

Gillian has written a book describing the route and its attractions. Fifty people walked it independently on the Saturday, raising £4,000. Three people cycled the route.

At the end, the 20 women who did the full 35 miles were in “great spirits”, said Gillian, “although several had blisters and there were plenty of sore feet.

“But it was brilliant.”