750 walkers from across Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and beyond joined in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice Care on Sunday 13 September and took on the Chilterns 2 Peaks Challenge.
Supporters enjoyed the beautiful September weather on the Ridgeway National Trail, with a choice of walking either an 8 or 12 mile circular route from Princes Risborough School to raise funds for our specialist care in the community.
Families, colleagues and friends gathered in small groups in a staggered-start event, to adhere to social distancing measures, to remember loved ones and to take in the panoramic views the Ridgeway has to offer.
Speaking at the start of the challenge, our Chief Executive Stewart Marks, who was himself undertaking the 8 mile walk, said: “It’s amazing to see that so many people have turned out to take part in the Chilterns 2 Peaks Challenge 2020. On behalf of everyone connected to Rennie Grove I would like to say a massive thank you to the participants and the people who have sponsored them. It is thanks to them that we can continue to care for our patients and their families.”
The impact of the COVID pandemic has meant many of the charity’s traditional fundraising activity has not been able to take place, and with their shops only now beginning to reopen, it faces a significant shortfall in income this year. Being able to welcome supporters to this sort of event will make a big difference to helping with funding for this year. The event could not have taken place without the support of local volunteers who made the day run smoothly, and local businesses such as the headline event sponsor, Origin Global.
Ben Brocklesby, Sales & Marketing Director at Origin, said: “It means a lot to us as a local business based in High Wycombe to be able to support a charity that provides such a vital service to the community that we’re a part of. We’re thrilled that Rennie Grove managed to accommodate this event in these challenging times, and we’re honoured to have been headline sponsor and to have helped in any way we can.”
Amongst the adults, children and dogs, one of Rennie Grove’s youngest supporters turned up to take part. 6 month old Harrison, carried by dad Jamie and mum Erika, was in high spirits as he joined them in celebrating the life of his grandmother, who was cared for by Rennie Grove nurses in 2018. Erika said: “Mum lived locally to here, and we would often walk our dogs together in the area so it’s surreal being back but we wanted to show our gratitude to the team at Rennie Grove and the amazing work they do.
“Harrison was born three days before lockdown, and it’s comforting to know that this event has been so well organised, I feel really safe brining him along.” Baby Harri carried a photo of his late grandmother, Anne Lynch, on his harness. “I hope he inherits his grandma’s sense of generosity and love of nature, and taking part in this event is the first step in teaching him all about his amazing ‘Grandma in the Sky’.”
Ladies from the Sabatini School of Dance in High Wycombe, led by Anne-Marie Sabatini and her daughter Olivia, were among the first to set off. “We’ve been fundraising for charities for 30 years,” Anne-Marie says, “but it’s our first time doing this event. A few of us have been walking together every Sunday during and after lockdown to keep ourselves active.”
Walking with the group were sisters Emily and Natalie Bird from Hazelmere. Emily said: “We’re walking in memory of our dad Peter today who was cared for by the Rennie Grove nursing team. We’re doing the 12 mile route, and we’ve been walking 12 miles most Sundays recently to keep ourselves motivated.” Emily and Natalie’s rucksacks had a photo of their dad in a frame, with a note that read ‘For the Rennie Grove nurses who cared for my dad’ with a love heart.
Steve from High Wycombe tackled the full 12 miles with his rescue dog, Ace. His mum Grace is receiving care from Rennie Grove at the moment. Steve said “When I saw the event on Facebook it looked like a great way to get involved and show some support.”
Friends Victoria and Alice from Tring stopped for a selfie at the top of the first peak, Whiteleaf Cross, and were wanting to test themselves and see if they could manage the 12 mile route. Victoria said: “We’ve come without the kids today which is actually a nice opportunity for us to spend some time together. Both of us have been fundraising since we signed up two weeks ago and we’re really pleased to have raised £300 so far, especially given that we set a target of £200!”
Sonia, who volunteers for Rennie Grove walked with Tom from Bourne End. Volunteering in the HR team, Sonia understood the importance of fundraising events like the Chilterns 2 Peaks Challenge, particularly after the blow to finances brought on by the pandemic. At the top of the second and final peak, Coombe Hill, Sonia said “It’s been excellent, it’s just so well organised and the marshals have been really helpful with directing people and keeping people socially distanced. It’s perfectly safe out in this wide open space and everyone else we’ve seen walking has been sensible and enjoying themselves. I sincerely hope Rennie Grove raises the money it urgently needs.”
Roz Burch, previously head teacher at Widemere End Combined School, has been raising money for Rennie Grove since last year when the school presented a cheque to Rennie Grove.. Roz and her group of teachers were walking together in memory of their colleague and friend Belinda, who passed away in 2018. Belinda was able to stay at home and be with her daughters because of the Rennie Grove nurses. Roz said: “The care and support they provided her was absolutely fantastic. It’s been a tough week for the teachers going back in to school so it’s lovely to be out for a walk together in the warm sunshine, have a few laughs and remember Belinda who was full of life and love, so she’d find it hilarious that we’re walking all this way for her!”
Sitting beneath the monument at Coombe Hill, many people took the opportunity to sit and soak in the views as the midday sun shone down, before setting off again to complete their challenge and pick up this year’s unique 2 Peaks Challenge medals for 2020.
Back at Princes Risborough School, walkers picked up medals and a snack whilst reflecting on their day in the great outdoors.
Howard and Suzanne from Aston Clinton walked the 12 mile route. Howard said: “We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. We walked today mainly to support Rennie Grove, it’s great to take part and we bought the t-shirts which we love but we made a donation because ultimately we wanted to give something back at a time when charities like Rennie Grove need it the most. We did the 3 Peaks Challenge five years ago, so coming back to this event has been overdue and it’s wonderful to have done it again.” When asked about how they found the event under the social distancing guidelines, Suzanne said: “It’s been well spaced out and not having to go as far as Ivinghoe has meant it’s been safe and we’re back at the car where we started which makes life a lot easier after a long walk! We were really impressed to see more than enough marshals out helping everything run smoothly, that’s reassuring in these times.”
Committed Rennie Grove eventer and fundraiser Gill Hudnot from St Albans walked with her friend Theresa from Hemel Hempstead. Gill said: “I ran the London Marathon for Rennie Grove in 2019 in memory of my dad and so I’m back to support Rennie Grove by walking instead of running this time.” Talking about the 12 miles she’d just completed, Gill said: “It’s such beautiful scenery out there, such a hugely enjoyable walk. People were ensuring they were further away from each other so all the walkers we saw were being responsible for themselves and others. We didn’t expect there to be so many marshals but we were pleased to see them, it goes to show how much organising went into the event to make it happen.”
Reflecting on the day, Tracey Hancock, our Director of Fundraising, said, “Seeing people coming together being sensible but enjoying themselves, while raising funds for Rennie Grove Hospice Care, has been very humbling. Through signing up, purchasing t-shirts, setting up JustGiving pages and making donations, everyone today will have helped to raise thousands of pounds which will enable us to continue to provide our specialist nursing services for adults and children in Bucks and Herts who have life-limiting illness, and be there to support their families too. It’s been unseasonably warm weather which has been perfect and I have been so impressed in the practical approach to social distancing that everyone has taken. I hope everyone has enjoyed the walk.
“I would like to give a special mention to our headline sponsor, Origin, whose support has meant we can put the event on, and to all the volunteers who have helped in so many ways, often undertaking activities behind the scenes that most of us are unaware of, that means we can run a safe and enjoyable event.”
Photos from the day are available to view on Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s Facebook page here.