Defying the gloomy weather forecast, a rebellious sun peeped out from behind the grey clouds on Saturday morning, as 60 hardy souls gathered at the steps of St Peter's Church in West Street for what no doubt will be the first annual Boyne Valley Camino in aid of the Tredagh Lodge Daycare Centre.
Seasoned ramblers with their worn boots and walking poles joined eager newcomers in their fresh runners and tracksuits to trek the 25kms through beautiful Boyne Valley countryside to raise as much money for the local Alzhemier's group as possible.
The round trip would take them from West Street out to Mellifont Abbey and back, via Townley Hall, and the plan was to be back in Scholar's hotel for well-earned soup and sandwiches by 4pm. Accompanied along the way by veterans of the circuit from the Boyne Valley Walking Group - and creators of the popular route - Aine Walsh, Dusty Flanagan and Terry Collins, and many volunteers from the Alzheimers group including Ann Shortt and Gerry Leyden who had organised the day, after a brief talk, the group set off just before 10am.
Many walkers had their own personal reasons for supporting the cause, which will hopefully see the state-of-the-art daycare centre start construction before the end of the year. Terry Collins from the walking group lost his mum Frankie in April, and as she had Alzheimers, was looked after on many occasions by the group.
'They were all so good to her, and they really do need this new centre, so we were delighted when they contacted us about joining up for the walk,' said Terry. 'It has been so successful, we hope that it might become a regular event, with most people here saying they would do it again next year.'
As the group made their way around the Camino route - appropriately on St James' Day - the weather turned from sunny to muggy, with the odd light showering a welcome respite from a very humid day.
The lunch-stop at Mellifont just two hours after departure was a welcome break from a jolly jaunt with old and new friends.
'It has been an amazing turnout and we can't believe that on our own fundrasing page alone we have raised over 8,000 and that doesn't include people's individual collecctions,' said Ann Shortt.'We are so grateful the rain stayed away, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and thanks to the Red Cross who followed us the whole way just in case!'
Fortification in the way of delicious homemade buns was supplied on the return journey by Tullyallen resident Ann Carolan and group arrived back to their starting point just before 4pm, in time for welcome soup and sandwiches at Scholar's Townhouse Hotel.