Rain can't dampen spirits of Highclere Christmas walkers
Dozens of villagers full of Christmas pudding donned their walking boots for the 37th annual Highclere Christmas hike around the village paths.
The four-mile festive trundle was the first to be arranged by new organisers Nicola Meadows and Alistair Mitchell after John Angle, Clive Saunders and Ian Briggs stepped down after the 2019 walk after more than three decades in charge.
Despite the wet and windy weather, around 80 people and their four-legged friends turned out on December 27 to burn off some extra calories – and raised £380 for Naomi House and Jacksplace.
That takes the total amount raised for local causes to around £11,000 since charity collections were incorporated into the 2003 walk.
Mrs Meadows – daughter of the previous organiser John Angle – said it had been the wettest walk they’d had but hadn’t let the rain dampen their spirits.
She said: “It went really well, it was very successful.
“Everyone was in good spirits and had the right footwear and dressed appropriately.
“We’ve definitely had wetter walks underfoot, but we’ve never walked in the rain like that.
“We had a half-way point at East End farm where we provided hot mulled wine for everyone, and some mince pies donated by the East Woodhay Society, so that was a nice stop to dry off and warm up.”
Mrs Meadows, 38, said she’d decided to step up as an organiser as the walk had been part of her life for so many years.
She continued: “For both Ali and I, on and off, our parents were part of the original group who started the walk 38 years ago.
“It’s been a part of our lives for that time, so my dad asked if we’d be willing to take it over.
“Ali has been doing it for over 30 years so it made sense to hand the torch over to us.
“We’ve laughed and said, ‘will we be doing it for another 37 years?’
“I’m not sure, but our plan is to certainly do it for the foreseeable future.”
Although pleased with the overall turnout, Mrs Meadows said she now hoped to get the number of participants back up to the usual level prior to the pandemic, when hundreds would turn out for the walk.
She said: “I think there were a few reasons there were fewer people.
“Covid was a massive factor – we had a few people turn up just before the walk started with donations and left again.
“They said they’d usually do the walk but said they didn’t feel they wanted to put themselves in that environment, so people are wary, and I think like anything it’s been a year off.
“We’re in a good place to get it back on its feet and hopefully over the next few years we’ll be back up to 200-300 people as we’ve seen previously.”