In January sisters Charlotte Woodcock and Rachel McBryde, along with their mum Pam, began an epic challenge to take on 15 gruelling events in 2015 in an attempt to raise £15,000 for Pancreatic Cancer UK in memory of their father, former Castle Morpeth Chief Planning Officer Tony Woodcock.
Their first challenge was the Morpeth Road Race on New Year’s Day. Now they have completed the Woodcock Wander. Here RACHEL MCBRYDE describes the event.
“As the Sunday morning in late February dawned and I drew back the curtains my heart leapt a little. It wasn’t snowing. At least not at my house. What lay before us at Simonside, high in the hills of Northumberland near Rothbury, was another question, but we’d soon have the answer.
It was the day of the Woodcock Wander, and the support we were getting for it — and 15 in 15 since we launched on New Year’s Day — was way beyond all our expectations. As the day of the walk drew nearer more and more people began signing up and the fund-raising total stood at nearly £4,500.
The thing putting the fear of God into us, however, was that we knew the weather at Simonside, the beautiful but sometimes brutal fell which Dad loved so much, and where our band of merry men, women and children were to hike for six miles (or one in the case of wee ones), can be unpredictable. In fact, at this time of year Simonside is often inaccessible by car, cut off from the main road by high snowdrifts. If the snow came, the walk would be off.
So when the forecast predicted a 30 per cent chance two days before, the worry set in. Two sleepless nights followed, but as we travelled there by jeep that morning, it looked like all would be well.
As we pulled into the wooded car park, Team 15 in 15 was already out in force. Kevin and Linda Bray, along with Jimmy Tomlin and Mum, who would be leading the walks, were already there. Registration would take place out of Kevin and Linda’s camper van, making sure everyone who was going up the fell was accounted for, and that everyone got back down in one piece.
Charlotte arrived with the t-shirts she’d designed for the event, kindly sponsored by Total Business Group and organised by Andrew Lees, part of our core team. Our jeep would act as the cafe, with tea and coffee supplied by our friend James Jobling at Ringtons. Meanwhile, The Great British Bake Off had nothing on us, with bakers across the county cooking up a storm – the results filling the boots of two more cars, and the tummies of our walkers at the end of their trek.
As 10.30am rolled round the car park filled with eager hikers, including two lovely ladies, Julie and Joanne who had heard us on BBC Radio Newcastle back in January and decided to get involved.
It was cold, but people were prepared, and everyone arrived with smiles on their faces, raring to go. Our walkers ranged from just a few weeks old (we had baby twins in backpacks), to toddlers, tots, well seasoned walkers and have-a-go-heroes.
We set off. The mini walk was fun — testing for two-year-olds, but not much more. Up on the high ground at the top of the fell it turned out to be another story.
By 11.30am, just as the Wee Wander was over, the weather suddenly turned. The wind picked up and icy drops of snow began to fall from the sky. Full of cake, the children and their families made an exit just in the nick of time, but on high the walkers were beginning to be battered by the biting wind and swirling snow.
At 12.20pm the first walkers came back into camp, looking a little on the cold side. In dribs and drabs more began to appear through the trees and Angus and I, along with Mum and Sally, got to work doling out hot drinks and plenty of sweet treats.
The walkers looked freezing, but no one complained. In fact, many commented on how challenging it had been, but left with a sense of achievement that they had completed Challenge 2.
What struck us most about the day was the sense of fun and adventure. No one winged, no one panicked. Everyone smiled and laughed. At heart, I think people felt good to be alive that day. That they could stand on the top of the fell, in the middle of nowhere, in the driving snow and whipping wind, and think ‘I am doing this thing, it’s good to be here’.
Dad would have loved every single minute of this challenge. I thought he might let the sun shine for us, but he was being a little bit cheeky (which was him all over!).
He was sending us a little reminder that life isn’t always easy or comfortable, in fact sometimes it is challenging. But it is there for the taking if you’re brave enough, adventurous enough, and if you can laugh with friends in the face of a storm. Sunshine would have been too simple.”
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