Nearly 500 take part in Bexhill Rotary Community Charity Walk
A DAWN downpour did not deter participants in the 2009 Bexhill Rotary Club Community Charity Walk on Sunday.
By the time the first of nearly 500 walkers began to assemble at the start-point at St Richard's Catholic College the skies had cleared, the sun was shining and roads and fields were drying fast.
Once again, hard-working Rotarians had way-marked and checked three walks chosen to suit all abilities.
They had arranged St John Ambulance first aid cover, set up check-points where refreshments were available and were manning road crossings.
Their aim was to provide supporters with the means to raise sponsorship for their own chosen charities through the simple medium of enjoying some healthy walking.
The event has grown in popularity and in fund-raising success over the years with the 2008 event netting a total of around 35,000 for walkers' chosen charities.
Despite that early rain, the stage was set for another sun-blessed day of enjoyment.
First off the start line were the 15-milers. Club president Rotarian Richard Harrison saw a record 75 walkers off on the longest of the three walks.
Soon the scene was repeated for the seven-milers and those opting for the two-mile seafront walk.
Pluckiest of the participants were the members of the Filsham Wheelers Basketball Club. The wheelchair-users were putting their skills to use in aid of club funds along the seafront route.
A ballerina's tutu might not be the obvious choice of walking apparel but amid the boots and the rucksacks Gemma McDonald, of Hastings, cut a fun figure.
"I just thought it would make a different effect and be a bit of fun!" said Gemma. She was hoping to raise more than 100 for Hastings and Rother Association for the Blind.
A group of Hastings Guides were planning to tackle the seven-mile walk across the Combe Haven Valley to Crowhurst and back. They had around 200 of sponsorship riding on their efforts.
Of 16 supporters of Homecall, the charity which is helping blind and partially-sighted people in Bexhill retain their independence by remaining in their own homes, 13 were tackling the seven-mile course and three the 15-mile.
Critical Care matron Pauline Simes and 13 departmental colleagues from the Conquest Hospital were walking to raise money for another of the highly-specialised beds needed for the unit.
Each bed costs an eye-watering 18,060 but offers a major advance in the care offered.
Pauline said: "One is doing the seven-mile walk and 14 are doing the 15-mile.
"We hope to raise over 1,000."
Walkers found the going was excellent, with bright sunshine and a light breeze.
Despite the anti-social efforts of someone who was systematically turning the Rotarians' carefully-placed direction arrows in the hope of getting other walkers lost, the markers were soon corrected by those who followed.
While the seven-milers turned at the Crowhurst check-point, the 15-milers continued on through the delightful Forewood nature reserve and across the 1066 battlefield to Battle.
They were rewarded by the sight of dragonflies and damselflies in profusion in the wood plus a good number of the beautiful Common Spottted Orchid.
A skylark's trilling gladdened the hearts of homeward-bound walkers as they prepared to re-cross the marshland on the Crowhurst-Bexhill leg.
What better way could there be to raise money for good causes?
Thank you, Bexhill Rotary Club.