I can’t really believe it has been over 30 years since I took part in my very first Five Valleys Walk!
When I look back over those amazing times, when the formation of The Meningitis Trust was in full swing, I can honestly say the Five Valleys Walk has been a huge amount of fun and seems to have been part of our family’s yearly calendar event – forever!
The tasks before us back in the 80s were unbelievably challenging for a group of ordinary people, brought together by a common goal – to help eliminate meningitis, support those suffering and ultimately find a variety of vaccines to make our dreams become a reality.
We all worked tirelessly trying to raise funds and when someone suggested a long walk around our beautiful Five Valleys we realised we had hit on a winning formula for a great day out!
September and October are perfect months for enjoying crisp autumn sunshine and fresh air. To me, there is an overwhelming sense of joy taking part in this big family day out, whilst enjoying the physical challenge and raising much-needed funds for a brilliant charity with a big heart but a small bank balance.
Walkers can swap experiences, remember loved ones lost and show a sense of unity and support for each other - some of whom are coming to terms with life-changing challenges of their own.
For me, the beauty of meeting old friends year on year, either whilst walking or, of late, volunteering on a checkpoint cannot be underestimated. People are incredible when it comes to supporting our unique charity. It’s great to see whole families walking together – perhaps only for this special annual occasion. I have seen small babies in prams go on to walk as teenagers and adults. We must not forget the family dogs as well of course!
It is often a long and tiring day for both walkers and volunteers working on checkpoints or driving the Chariots of Salvation (Stagecoach buses)! It’s a day that builds so many memories, leaving us feeling exhausted but filling us with a fantastic sense of achievement.
After all we are all heroes without whom our charitable work, so desperately important against the fight and devastation of meningitis, could not continue.
Earlier this year I walked the Five Valleys route alone, in stages, for the 2.6 Challenge and managed to raise money for Meningitis Now. I took with me many memories of times gone by and the wonderful people I have met throughout the years.
I look forward to seeing you all next time when we can all enjoy our very special day out together.
Listen to our podcast of Jane's story.