Thu, 16 Jan 2020
THE organisers of the Highclere Christmas walk have decided to step down after 35 years of arranging the festive tradition.
John Angle and Clive Saunders have been organising the popular event since 1984, with Ian Briggs joining them five years later.
Since the first walk, when just family and friends completed a four-mile loop around the countryside, the hike has grown considerably.
Around 200 people don their boots each year, peaking at nearly 400 for the 25th anniversary walk in 2009, when they marched through the grounds of Highclere Castle.
Charity collections were incorporated into the event in 2003 and since then 3,000 walkers have donated more than £10,000 to local causes.
This includes £600 for Naomi House & Jacksplace raised by the 2019 walk.
Despite the organisers stepping down, the walk will continue this year as volunteers have come forward to take over.
Mr Briggs – who makes 30 litres of mulled wine on the morning of the walk ready for the half-way pit stop – reflected on more than three decades-worth of hikes.
“It started 35 years ago from the Axe and Compasses [now Brunsdens] in East End – just family and friends – and in 2000 we decided to make something more of it,” said the retired banker.
“In the early days we used to go to the pub and they’d put on a special luncheon for us, but it got too big for the pub.
“I remember one morning when it was tipping it down and we thought about cancelling, but we’d got the mince pies, I was ready to make the mulled wine and we still got around 120 people.
“We’ve walked in the snow and we’ve put up with the mud and the rain.”
The three organisers arranged their final Christmas walk on Friday, December 27.
Mr Briggs, 75, said the event’s success could be put down to people’s desire for fresh air after the Christmas period.
“Everybody is locked up for Christmas and Boxing Day and the day after Boxing Day they want to get out,” he said.
“I think that’s why we get so many people on it.
“For the last 20 years people have got used to it and turned up and I get people phoning me up asking if it’s on, so I think it’s in everybody’s mindset that that day is going to be a walk.
“The three of us are now mature chaps – two of us are over 75 – and we’ve decided to pass it on, but we’ll absolutely be at the next walk.”