Nearly 900 people trekked the Somerset hills in blazing sunshine on Sunday to help raise money for Weston Hospicecare.

The charity’s 29th annual Mendip Challenge fundraiser saw 873 people walk or run routes of 10, 20 or 30 miles along the West Mendip Way, which runs from Wells to Uphill and takes in some of the West Country’s most picturesque countryside.

Scorching temperatures made this year’s event an even tougher challenge than usual, but virtually all walkers – aged from three to 79 – successfully made it to the end of their chosen distance.

Participants have since heaped praise on an event they described as ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘incredible’.

Fundraising totals are not yet known, but with participant numbers more than 100 up on 2017, it is hoped that the money raised could exceed last year’s total of £56,056.

Proceeds will be used to support the hospice’s working caring for people from Weston-super-Mare and surrounding areas with life-limiting illnesses, and supporting their families.

Event organiser Kelsey Dehaney said: “This year’s Mendip Challenge was a huge success, and we were bowled over by the amount of people who signed up to take part.

“Completing the event really was an impressive feat this year, with temperatures hitting 26 degrees on parts of the course, and it means so much to everyone at Weston Hospicecare to see walkers making such an immense effort on our behalf.

“We’re enormously grateful to everyone who took part, and of course everyone who sponsored them too – every penny really is appreciated.

“Of course, an event of this size needs a huge amount of help to ensure everything runs smoothly and safely, so we’re indebted to all those who gave up their time and expertise to support us.

“That includes our event sponsor Howards Motor Group, and practical support on the day from the likes of Wessex 4×4 Response drivers, the medical team at MRU Services, and the radio team from Raynet.

“We also want to thank Westhaven School for hosting our after-party, Bakers Dolphin for getting participants safely to their starting points, and Lidl for donating the snacks and water which kept our walkers refreshed en route.

“Plus, we need to thank our army of volunteers who made it all possible, manning checkpoints, supporting walkers, running registration desks and more – they were all superstars, and all helped make the day such a runaway success.”

Some 565 women registered for the 2018 event compared to 371 men, with 232 people tackling the 30-mile route, 287 signing up for 20 mile, and 417 registering for 10 miles.

In total, 28 under-11s took part, 42 people aged 11-20, 177 aged 21-30, and 156 aged 31-40. The 41-50 age band proved most popular with 212 people registered, while 165 walkers were aged 51-60, 46 were aged 61-70, and eight people aged over 71 joined in.

Next year’s Mendip Challenge – in Weston Hospicecare’s 30th anniversary year – is set to take place on June 2, 2019.

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