Nearly 1,100 walkers hit the Somerset hills on Sunday to take on the Mendip Challenge to raise money for Weston Hospicecare in the charity’s 30th anniversary year.

The bumper turnout of 1,094 – an increase of more than 200 on last year and the highest number of entries in more than a decade – saw participants complete sponsored 30, 20 or 10-mile routes along the West Mendip Way.

Most defied wet conditions to walk the hilly terrain, while some hardy souls chose to run the course, with the first finishers completing the whole 30 miles in under five hours.

Many people had personal motivations for supporting the charity, and walked in memory of loved ones who had been supported by the hospice team.

However, all walkers united behind the cause in a spirit of solidarity and goodwill to enjoy their day despite wet conditions and the tough challenge ahead.

It is too early to say how much was raised by this year’s Mendip Challenge – sponsored once again by long-term hospice supporters Howards Motor Group – but organisers are hopeful it could beat last year’s total of £66,000.

Money raised will be used to help fund the hospice’s work caring for people across the community with life-limiting illnesses.

Event manager Simon Angear said: “We were bowled over by the support for the Mendip Challenge this year, both in terms of numbers and by the enthusiasm and good cheer with which people threw themselves into the challenge despite the tough weather conditions.

“All of the participants – and the huge number of tireless volunteers who helped keep them going – did us proud. It means the world to the team at Weston Hospicecare to see so many people enjoying the event in support of the work we do, so huge thanks to everyone who was a part of it.”

The 30-mile Mendip Challenge began at Wells, and followed a scenic route through Cheddar, Winscombe and Uphill to return to event headquarters at Weston Cricket Club.

Participants were serenaded home by local musicians Simon Perigud and Seb Longhorn, before relaxing with a bar and a barbecue run by cricket club volunteers.

En route, they were energised and hydrated by more than 2,000 litres of water, 4,200 packets of crisps and 8,192 chocolate bars donated by supermarket Lidl.

The event was backed by several large groups who signed up together, including 1st King Alfred Scouts and the Priory Learning Trust, which has adopted the hospice as its charity of the year and recruited more than 100 participants from across its six schools.

The trust’s executive principal Neville Coles was among them, and successfully completed the full 30-mile route.

He said afterwards: “This was a superb walk and event, and we are delighted to partner with the brilliant charity and cause Weston Hospicecare.”

He also revealed that the trust is likely to support the Mendip Challenge again next year – the date of which can be revealed as 7 June 2020. In the meantime, hospice supporters can find out about other upcoming events – including It’s A Hospice Knockout, the Robin Hood Challenge, the Moonlight Beach Walk and a Sahara Desert trek – by clicking here.

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