MORE than 2,000 walkers rambled across 21 miles of stunning Gloucestershire countryside for the 25th Five Valleys Walk on Sunday.

Organisers are confident around £60,000 was raised in sponsorship for Stroud-based charity the Meningitis Trust - bringing the total raised through the event over the last quarter of a century to a whopping £1 million.

Participants, including SNJ news editor Tamash Lal, completed their choice of nine walks along the circular route, ranging from a gruelling 1.7 mile hill climb between Pitchcombe and Standish Wood, to a gentle canal-side stroll from Wycliffe to Dudbridge.

Among the highlights of the day was the presentation of a birthday cake to nine-year-old Troy Probert, from Westbury-on-Severn, who was supported by the Trust after contracting meningitis five times.

Trust chief executive Sue Davie and press officer Andy Hopkinson handed little Troy his cake at the checkpoint in Nailsworth, where he set off from to complete almost half the route.

Also present helping out in Nailsworth was eight-year-old Eliza Grime and her mum Pauline, who travelled down from their home in Shropshire to volunteer for the day.

The Trust paid for a special car seat for Eliza to enjoy a family day out on her birthday having just spent a month seriously ill in hospital after contracting meningitis and septicaemia in 2007.

"They have just done so much for us," said Pauline, whose eldest daughter Rebecca and her friend Megan Lewis also took part in the walk.

"Despite us going through some horrific times, they have been phenomenal - I don't know what we would done without them."

As well as working as Eliza's full-time carer, Pauline also volunteers as a Trust team leader - managing fellow volunteers, giving talks and fundraising in the Shropshire and Staffordshire areas.

Another highlight of the day came when Mrs Davie paid tribute to the generosity of John Evans, who is calling it a day after organising the free shuttle bus service to reunite walkers with their cars every year since the event began.

Event organiser Becky Jones said: "Thank heavens the rain stayed away and the crowds came out in force this year - it made for a lovely day for everyone taking part and a fantastic one for the Trust. "We rely on public support at events like this to raise the vital funds we need to continue to offer our lifesaving services for everyone affected by meningitis."