Meopham Walk Golden Anniversary

2017 is the 50th Anniversary of the walk!

The Christian Aid Sponsored Walk was introduced by the Church of St John the Baptist in Meopham in 1967 as a means of boosting funds from the house to house collections during Christian Aid Week.

The Walk was devised by the local footpath group to cover a twenty-mile circumference of Meopham taking in the delightful scenery of the North Downs on footpaths, bridleways and country lanes.

In its original form, it started and finished at the Meopham Primary School, with the co-operation of the Headmaster David Jennings. It was a challenge for the organiser to plan and mark out the route, each year and to co-opt helpers as marshals and sweepers. There were drink stations in the morning and afternoon, and the welcome lunch-time soup kitchen was at Miss Marc’s house, Poundgate, Harvel in the early years. There were as many as twenty five marshals required to station themselves along the route, sometimes at quite remote locations in the middle of fields and the lucky one at the Vigo Inn.

The marshals had to arrive early and walk to the previous marshal point hammering red wooden markers into sometimes very hard ground, and then return to their base before the first walker arrived. A deck chair, a good book and a flask was all that was required to enjoy a relaxing day in the countryside - or, a sheltering tree, waterproofs, wellingtons and umbrellas, to endure a miserable, wet day. The first walkers, or rather young lads running to be home before the start of the Cup Final, came through early on and the day then would stretch out until finally the slower walkers and the sweeper would arrive. Often, this would be as late as 7.00 p.m.

The organiser also had (and still has) to be a diplomat taking criticism from the council for “illegal bill-posting”, walkers who were lost - often because markers were pulled up, farmers whose crops were trampled and even the police did their best early on to discourage the walk from even taking place. The “gem” was a complaint that a marshal was unable to help a walker whose sandal had broken, because he had no supply of string!

Walkers in the early years came en-masse from all around and in 1974, 263 walkers raised £1196. There was a regular party from Catford School and from Gravesend School and the Gravesend churches. The scouts and guides from time to time have supported the walk.

The Walk has continued every year since 1967 and on only two occasions has it had to be abandoned due to severe weather. It is now a walk, which takes in the churches of the Deanery, thus simplifying the marshalling and involving, hopefully, more participants.

A chronological listing of some available information, with a listing of organisers follows;

1967/8 Peter Simons first organiser. Walk started and finished at Meopham Primary School, taking in Camer park - Sole Street - Cobham Mausoleum - Lower Bush, Cuxton – Upper Bush onto the North Downs Way – Holly Hill – Poundgate – Trottiscliffe Woods – Vigo Inn – Fairseat – Hodsoll Street – New Street – Woods Down – Melliker – Meopham Primary School.

1969/70/1/2 Ian Taylor – Chief Constable of Kent suggested that there were safer ways of raising money

1973 Brian Vinall - Walk started in Camer Park – 188 walkers, 158 completed 20 miles. £1000 raised. Brian used a yellow miniature motorbike to sweep the course.

1974 Brian Vinall – 263 walkers raised £1196.

1975 Brian Knight –Sweeney £1017.31 – abandoned due to bad weather

1976 Jan Scott - £954 raised

1977 Jan Scott – 216 walkers started, 181 finishers raised £1256. The last year that Catford School came.

1978 Les Bedford - The Deanery was invited to join in. 199 walkers made up of 139 under18 and 60 over18. . £1530 raised.

1979 Les Bedford – Start changed to Church car park. 150 walkers raised £1275 and the sweeper finished at 1910.

1980 Les Bedford – Route changed to go from Poundgate to Great Buckland onto Luddesdown Church and back through Happy Valley via Meopham Green to the Church. £1758.60 raised.

1981 Les Bedford – back to original route. 220 walkers.

1982 Les Bedford

1983 Les Bedford - £1789 raised.

1984 Nick Fenton – Smith. £2232 raised.

1985 John Tonks – start and finish changed to Meopham Secondary School.

1986 John Tonks

1987 David Wells – start and finish at the Church. Lunch soup station changed to Vigo Rugby Club.

1988/9/90 David Wells

1991 David Nicholls – walk abandoned at Vigo Rugby Club due to torrential rain.

1992 David Nicholls

1993/4 David Wells - £928/ £1191

1995 Peter Kettle – Walk changed to start and finish at Meopham Church and to take in the churches of the Deanery including Snodland. £1549

1996 Peter Kettle - £1394 – Longfield and Hartley active in the organising and support. Shorter 6-mile afternoon walk introduced.

1997/8/9/2000/1 Peter Kettle & team- £1247/ £1932/ £1935/ £2473/ £1644

2002 Peter Kettle & team - £4264 - Alan Foreman’s sponsor money doubled by his employer. Website introduced. 80 walkers.

2003 Peter Kettle & team - £3784 – Paul Thomas’s sponsor money doubled by his employer. 74 walkers. Digital photos taken and available for walkers.

2004 Peter Kettle & team - £5500 - a record sponsorship - Paul Thomas sponsorship again doubled by his employer. 120 walkers from a wider geographical area

2005 Peter Kettle & team - £4,400 helped once again by Paul Thomas' double sponsorship. 100 walkers aged from 2 to 82 walked a six, fourteen or twenty mile course in ideal weather.

2006 Peter Kettle & team - £5140 was raised under similar sponsorship arrangements as previous. 95 walkers took part in good walking weather with 20 completing the full course.

2007 Peter Kettle & team – 40th anniversary, focussed on Tanzania, saw 122 walkers raise over £7,500 in sunny weather. Lunch time barbecue, talk by Rev Richard Worssam and Holly Ellson. Former organisers present – Rev Brian Birchmore, Ian Taylor, David Nicholls and Les Bedford (who also completed the 20 miles). Presentation to Anne Nicholson, standing down after 40 years as CA secretary.

2008 Peter Kettle & team - 88 walkers (53 started in the morning and 37 in the afternoon) raised a record sum of £8116. 18 people walked the full 20 miles on the hottest day of the year to date and 16 churches were involved, either as stops on the way or by providing walkers.

2009 Peter Kettle & team - 105 walkers (56 started in the morning of whom 25 completed the full route and 49 joined in the afternoon walk of 6 miles). The Rev Peter Rich from St Aidan's started the event with a prayer and we were joined by walkers from St Aidan's, St George's and St Paul's URC churches in Gravesend. £7003 raised plus £637 from the Quiz Aid.

2010 The usual team- 109 walkers (51 started in the morning of whom 24 completed the full route and 58 joined in the afternoon). Many faces from previous years together with quite a number of new friends joined us on a good walking day. Approx. £7,700 raised including £2000 from Microsoft. This year we stopped off at Ash chapel for a coffee and a good read, which held us back slightly.

2011 Usual team. We had 75 walkers this year, 30 starting in the morning and 45 in the afternoon. 16 completed the full 21 miles. Yes, somehow we added an extra mile to the course this year. Will try to trim off a few corners from 2012. The quiz was exceptionally successful, as we again had to move to a larger venue: the newly refurbished St John's church in Meopham.

2012 We had 72 walkers (24 starting in the morning, 48 in the afternoon), of whom 11 heroes completed the full 20 miles. It was good to be joined by visitors from Christian Aid, especially Noustra from Haiti. Walk revenue of £5,434 went to Christian Aid’s Partnership Scheme project for people with disabilities in Lebanon and Bethlehem.

2013 Walk revenue hit an all-time record of £9,746. There were 97 walkers this year (46 in the morning for the long route, 51 in thafternoon), or 100 plus if we count dogs! We have had more positive feedback about this year’s partnership project with women’s education in Afghanistan than on any previous link.

2014 We had 35 morning starters and 30 in the afternoon. 28 of the 35 morning starters completed the full 15 miles. This year the walk was linked with a scheme to bring improved maternal and child healthcare in Narok county, one of the poorest regions of Kenya, and raised £7,403.

2015 - 70 walkers took part in the walks, up from 65 in 2014. 25 hardy people started the 14 mile morning walk and 45 took part in the 6 mile afternoon one. £7,332 raised went towards a project helping women in indigenous communities in El Salvador and Honduras. The project is focused on training traditional birth attendants and community health workers, bringing more mothers into hospitals and improving education through schools, video and radio broadcasts.

2016 - Total income was £6,710, with the first £5,000 going to a Christian Aid partnership programme focused on improving reproductive health for women and girls in Ethiopia. This was matched in a ratio of 5:1 by EU funding, to generate £30,000 for this scheme. We had 74 walkers participating, with four covering the full distance of 20 miles

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