Nearly 1,000 people hiked the Chiltern Hills in the late summer sunshine on Sunday (12 September) in our thirteenth annual Chilterns 3 Peaks Challenge, raising money to fund vital care and support for local families facing life-limiting illness.
The walkers tackled stretches of the beautiful Ridgeway choosing one of three route options. The 20-mile route proved the most popular with around 450 people walking this distance, which takes in the stunning views from the top of Whiteleaf Cross, Coombe Hill, and Ivinghoe Beacon. Others opted for the shorter, yet still challenging, 8 and 12 mile routes, each with the hilltop views but less ground to cover in between.
Participants arrived at Princes Risborough School for staggered starts to space walkers out along the routes, with those tackling the longest 20 mile challenge arriving first.
Among them were brother and sister Sheila Coles and Nigel Anderson from Princes Risborough. The siblings are no strangers to the event, having taken it on in memory of their parents on multiple occasions.
Sheila said: “We’re walking because it’s an amazing charity that was so helpful and supportive to our mum and dad, 20 years ago and then eight years ago. On both occasions our parents were able to be at home, which was what they wanted. Rennie Grove helped fulfil that wish.”
“We’ve walked the 3 Peaks Challenge for the last 10 years; we try not to miss it. It’s just such a good charity, they deserve our support. Because it’s a local charity, and I know some of the nurses, that makes it even more special for us.”
Many turned up raring to ramble with friends, family and colleagues. But none were a match in sheer numbers for Divyesh and his 17-strong group. Divyesh walked with a combination of family and friends, from various locations and a range of ages, and has walked the event for the past seven years in aid of our services.
Divyesh said: “We do have some connection with hospice care; a neighbour of ours was cared for by Rennie Grove, my mother was cared for by another hospice and my uncle, who passed away a few years ago, was given hospice care - so we understand the value of the movement and the importance of it. The care that Rennie Grove provides, helping fill a gap in the care system and health service is vital. Hospice care relies on community good will and events like these.”
Gill Hudnott and Louise Waters from St Albans, Joe Williams from Harpenden, and Theresa Johnson from Hemel Hempstead arrived at the school ready to take on the 12 mile challenge, which saw them walk a circular route back to their starting point, after taking in two of the peaks. Gill walked in memory of her dad, who was cared for by our nurses. They walked the charity’s Chilterns 2 Peaks Challenge last year and liked it so much that they came back for another year.
Gill said: “My dad lived in Hemel Hempstead. Rennie Grove nurses looked after him with the hospice at home service and after that most fundraising I’ve done has been for Rennie Grove. The nurses are brilliant, they’re supporting your whole family, not just the person who’s unwell.”
Walking in memory of loved ones has been ingrained in the event since its inception 13 years ago. 2021 is no exception, with friends and family coming together to remember someone and raise vital funds for us. Team Randi, of High Wycombe, walked last year as nothing more than a get together, but returned with significantly added purpose this year.
Lynne lost her husband Ray last year, only 4 months apart from Mark losing his wife, Andi. “Both Lynne and Andi were cared for by Rennie Grove,” said Mark. “We’re walking 12 miles again, just as we did last year, but this time it’s for them. We’re really going to miss them, but we know they’re with us.”
The members of Team Randi have been working hard pre-event to fundraise. Mark said: “We’ve gone beyond our fundraising target, which means we’ve raised a great amount of money, but it also means our lads Harley and Matt are having to keep their side of the agreement by wearing their Super Mario costumes!”
All three routes faced their first climb quickly after departing, with Whiteleaf Cross looming only a few miles from the school.
Up at the top of peak number one, friends Rachel and Nicola from Aylesbury paused to reflect as they gazed out over the scenic countryside. “My daughter was cared for by the children’s team at Rennie Grove” explained Nicola. “We’ve managed to raise £900 so far which we’re thrilled with, we wouldn’t normally walk as far as 12 miles but thankfully the weather’s perfect so that should make it easier!”
As 8 mile walkers followed their circular route back to the start, the 12 and 20 milers powered on to the second vantage point at Coombe Hill, which proved to be the perfect spot to stop for snacks and sightseeing.
Among those taking a break there were the eight-strong team, The Cricketers, who came together from towns and villages all along the Ridgeway. “The work that Rennie Grove does is amazing, and on a day like today, what better excuse to get out and support a local charity with friends.”
While the day grew cloudier, the end-of-summer warmth lingered, helping to keep spirits high, as the 20-milers trekked on to Ivinghoe Beacon, the final summit. A friendly reception of volunteers awaited at the top, as well as ice creams and medals.
The inventively named Red Hot Chilli Steppers arrived hot-footed at the Beacon, having completed the hardest challenge of the day. The Steppers comprised mums from Aston Clinton who had never taken on a walk of this length before. Libby said: “The event was really good, it surprised me how emotional I felt towards the end, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. This is the first long distance walk we’ve done, but everybody that we’ve passed on the route and all the marshals have been so friendly and so encouraging.”
Lara Bateman, from Tring, was one participant brave enough to take on the challenge solo. “I really enjoyed it,” said Lara; “Doing the full 20 miles has given me a huge sense of achievement. I haven’t walked that far in my entire life, so it was brilliant. Even though I walked it on my own I met loads of amazing people, chatted a lot, listened to my audiobook and had a great time. And I’m raising lots of money for Rennie Grove so it’s all for a great cause.”
Back at Princes Risborough School, 8 and 12 mile walkers were arriving to cheers and to collect medals.
Gill and David Winder from Penn came to the finish point to greet their son Richard and daughter Rachel who took on the 12 mile walk to give something back to Rennie Grove. Gill, who has cancer, is currently receiving support from the hospice at home nurses who are providing care, advice and reassurance for the whole family.
Gill said “The Rennie Grove nurses have been so good at putting me and my husband and family at the total centre of the journey that we’re on. Being able to call them at any time of day or night is so reassuring.” Gill told Rachel and Richard about the walk and they signed up to tackle the 12 mile route. So far, they have raised over £1,300 to help provide support for any family in a similar situation.
Amy Chambers, Head of Fundraising Development, said: “After a scaled-down event in 2020, we were so pleased to be able to bring back all three route options this year. We’re in awe of our amazing walkers and so grateful for their support. Despite the restrictions last year, they raised an amazing £60,000 towards our specialist care in patients’ homes. This year, thanks to our walkers’ hard work and our generous sponsors Origin Doors and Windows and The Business Clubhouse, as well as Arriva Buses (whose staff generously volunteered to transport our 20-mile walkers back to their cars parked at Princes Risborough School), the event has already raised £79,000 and this looks set to increase. It's fantastic that we have topped last year's success, so that our nurses can continue to care for those that need us at end of life.
“We’d also like to say a big thank you to all our volunteers and marshals who greeted our walkers with friendly smiles and directed them safely on their way. Without their help, this hugely popular event would not be able to take place and vital funds would not be raised. We are very grateful to everyone involved in making the day such a success.”
Our next challenge events in the autumn/winter calendar are the HERTS 10K and Half, a virtual event on Sunday 10 October, and the festive Rudolph Run in St Albans on Sunday 5 December. Find out more here.