Sadly, at the beginning of the year Leighton Buzzard Ramblers lost one of its most popular and respected members, John Hartley, who died after a brave battle with cancer at the age of 79.
John and Linda moved to Leighton Buzzard in 2000 where they soon joined Leighton Buzzard Ramblers and led their first walk for the Group on New Year’s Day 2002. John joined the Committee in 2003 and became Secretary and Membership Secretary in 2004.
In 2006 John edited a booklet of ‘Favourite Walks’ to mark the Group’s 25th anniversary. Also in 2006 John organised the first of what is now an annual fixture in the Group’s calendar: the Spring Break short holiday, the first of which was held in Lynton on the Devon coast.
In November 2007, John joined the fledgling Bedfordshire Area Committee as Area Secretary. Former Area Chairman, Barry Ingram, says of John that he was “a very thorough, honest and straight-talking person for whom I had the utmost respect”.
John remained Area Secretary until November 2011, although more recently he was a member of the John Bunyan Trail Area Working Committee that ultimately resulted in the publication of the John Bunyan Trail Guide on our website in 2018.
In 2008 John organised a 21-mile midsummer challenge walk split into 3 separate walks totalling 21 miles, with anyone completing the full distance being awarded a certificate.
From 2014 to 2017 John organised the completion in 4 annual stages of the Glyndwr’s Way National Trail. However, the project which best exemplifies John’s extraordinary drive and commitment was organisation of a complete traverse of the 625-mile Monarch’s Way Trail by a small group of Leighton Buzzard Ramblers, to be undertaken over a number of years. The route follows the escape trail taken by King Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, starting in Worcester and finishing at Shoreham-by-Sea. The group started the Monarch’s Way in May 2011 and are due to complete their mission this May at Shoreham-by-Sea. The Group will be having its annual Spring Break in nearby Worthing in order to welcome the Monarch’s Way team home and celebrate the realisation of John’s grand project.
After his terminal cancer diagnosis, John was deeply upset that he would not be able to complete the Monarch’s Way at Shoreham with the others. He requested that his walking boots should be carried to the finishing post and Linda will be taking John’s ashes to Shoreham.
One Group member said: “John was a man who put ideas into actions. No greater proof of that could be found other than in his Monarch’s Way Project. Who else would set his sights on a scheme that would take a decade to complete and drive it forward with such total commitment”. The end of the Monarch’s Way will be a fitting
tribute to a decent, kind and honest man whose memory will live on in all of us.
As many of you will know, Rita sadly passed away at the end of March after a short illness bravely borne. She was a longstanding member of the Group, a regular walk leader along with husband Ken, and one of the original Monarch's Way team. Rita was a kind, gentle, warm, unassuming and absolutely charming lady who was justifiably popular and liked by all. We shall miss her greatly and remember her with true fondness.