Local Hero – Phil Rutter

With Bridgnorth Walk Day fast approaching I thought it would be fitting to focus on the good people behind the organisation of this unique event which is now in its 45th year.

With this in mind, I spent a fascinating morning with Bridgnorth veteran Phil Rutter who has been involved with the walk since its inception, and who not only regaled me with tales about the walk, but gave me a remarkable insight into Bridgnorth over the last 80 years…

The Bridgnorth Walk was the brainchild of Guy Trotman and The Rev. Walter Gould, who, flushed with the British sporting success of 1966, thought this would be a good one-off event intended to raise funds for the building of St Leonard’s Church Hall on Racecourse Drive. With 250 walkers, a sum of £1800 was raised, and it was decided to make this an annual event – and what a legacy Rev. Gould has left the town! The walk signifies a great coming together of the community; the 22-mile round trip is simultaneously achievable yet challenging, which is probably one of the reasons why it has proved so popular and holds such a special place in the hearts of Bridgnorth folk.

On the financial front, the Bridgnorth Walk is one of the longest standing, independent and unique fundraising vehicles in the country. With a regular participation of 1200 senior and 300 junior walkers, it is responsible for raising thousands of pounds for good causes, with the 2010 Walk coming in at £115,000. In fact Phil and I had a go at estimating just how much over the course of its history – and we reckon it must be well over the million mark.

Phil helped out as a Marshal on the very first walk, did the walk himself on the 3rd year, took up the reigns as Treasurer for the 4th year and has remained on the committee ever since – a service of over 40 years! Phil was very keen to stress that there were and remain so, some very key players involved throughout the history of the walk, without whom the Bridgnorth Walk would have folded: Fred Mold, Charles Fothergill, Christopher Steward, Robert Davies, Cath Morris, Barbara Atkinson, June Cowell and particularly over the last decade, Derek Moorhouse and Peter Davidson, and he is delighted that there are now some enthusiastic newcomers to the committee, chiefly as there is now so much red tape associated with staging the event.

Phil has lots of tales to tell about various things that have happened over the course of the Walk’s history; the junior winner who never went to the top, the fancy dress costumes we see every year and the impressive track record of Sherpa Stevens who has completed every one of the 44 walks, not to mention Andy Rawlings with his impressive 13 year record of winning.

As Treasurer and committee member, Phil attributes the on-going success and popularity of the walk as such an effective fundraiser to the fact that people have the choice as to which charity they walk for, and that the many volunteers also have the chance to raise money for their cause. Over the years, so many people have given their time, effort and inspiration to the walk that I could probably do about 20 local hero slots – a heartfelt thank you to all who have helped along the journey.

Bridgnorth Save the Children Fund is looking for participants in the Bridgnorth Walk to consider walking in aid of the well known Charity. Spokesperson Elizabeth Patterson said: “Save the Children is needed to help children caught up in emergency situations – particularly the many orphaned children in Japan following the Earth Quake and Tsunami”. If you would like to walk for Save the Children please contact Elizabeth on 01746 765298.

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