81-year-old creator of 220-mile Hardy Way to walk it again – with the help of 1000-milers

The creator of the Hardy Way (a 220-mile trail through Thomas Hardy's Wessex linking sites featured in his books) is to walk it again at 81 – with assistance from #walk1000miles friends brought together by the Facebook group.

Margaret Marande from Fontmell Magna in Dorset will start walking on 18 April and says she'll "Keep going for as long as it takes" on the trail she conceived 20 years ago. She's tackling the challenge in memory of her husband Harry, who died of pancreatic cancer last year, and to raise money for three good causes.

She'll be assisted by a group #walk1000miles-class-of-2016 veterans nicknamed 'The Hardy Walkes' who've been walking her trail in sections for over a year, and who met Margaret on one of the stages in 2017. 

Remembers Becky Wells: "We met Margaret for breakfast in Shaftesbury and we knew then she was an amazing woman. She had just lost her partner to pancreatic cancer but happily told us all about how her route and accompanying book were devised, based on Thomas Hardy's works."

"It starts at his birthplace near Dorchester, winds its way 220 miles around the rolling Dorset hills, sleepy villages, the Jurassic coastline and beautiful countryside. It finishes in Stinsford where Hardy’s heart is buried. No two sections are the same – we have enjoyed every mile and in her unique guidebook Margaret has included references, poems and extracts from Hardy's works which form a literary commentary alongside each section of the walk."

 The Hardy Walkers – who met via #walk1000miles in 2016 – meet Hardy Way creator Margaret Marande on the trail.

The Hardy Walkers – who met via #walk1000miles in 2016 – meet Hardy Way creator Margaret Marande on the trail.

Margaret says: "I'm an 81 year-old woman with dodgy knees and feet susceptible to blisters.  Thirty years down the line it will be a huge challenge. But I want to raise as much as I possibly can for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, League of Friends of the Westminster Memorial Hospital and Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre."

#walk1000milers Becky Wells, Sally Oakley Qajar, Jill Cutler, Janet Coates and Linda Barron will be helping with lifts, baggage transfers and walking some of the trail with her.

"She is an amazing lady and when she told us she wanted to walk the whole Way to raise money for charity at the age of 81 we just had to offer our help" says Becky. 

"Having walked approximately 180 miles of the trail ourselves in 14 walks spread over 15 months, we know how demanding the route and logistics can be; to do it on consecutive days is a really tough challenge. But Margaret tells us watching our progress on The Hardy Way has spurred her on and the challenge has given her a focus and helped her over a difficult time."

Margaret spent a hideous and heartbreaking year watching her beloved partner finally succumb to the deadly advance of Pancreatic cancer. Now she is attempting this amazing challenge to raise funds for research crucially needed to combat this terrible disease. Every mile she walks will be hugely worthwhile if it can help achieve this objective. Best of luck, brave Margaret.

— Jilly Cooper CBE

It's a thrilling example of the power of walking, and #walk1000miles, to do good. Says Becky: "We met as walking companions through the #walk1000mile challenge in 2016, and have become firm friends. We have great times together and would never have got together without the Facebook group and Country Walking."

Good luck Margaret and well done the Hardy Walkers!

Find out more about Margaret's challenge on Facebook.

Support her fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer research here or Westminster Memorial Hospital here.