A New Mills doctor is preparing for the trip of a lifetime alongside three other adventurous chaps, as they’re set to take on a 2,500 mile banger car rally across Europe.

Dr Mark Blackburn will join forces with John Gilbert, Anthony Britland and Steve Robinson to take on the amazing Rusty Rex Rallies challenge, driving across nine countries in just four days.

The men are hoping to raise £5,000 for patient care and services at Blythe House Hospicecare, and will be driving a 20-year-old ‘banger’ Hulk Mondeo which they have funded themselves, at a maximum cost of £500.

The adventure will see Mark the Medic, John ‘Chief Engineer,’ Ant ‘where the ‘ell are we?’ Navigator, and Steve ‘Driver Number One,’ start in Ostend, Belgium on Thursday 20th June.

They’ll then cross through Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Slovenia, to reach their final destination, Venice in Italy.

Dr Blackburn said: ‘The whole team has benefitted at some time from palliative support for our loved ones as they near the end of their lives.

‘For Anthony, Steve and John, their thoughts are with their cousin and sister-in-law, Lisa who died in 2012, and John’s dad who died of cancer back in 2002.

‘From my perspective, patients at both practices that I work at – Sett Valley Medical Centre in New Mills, and Hayfield’s Old Bank Surgery – support Blythe House Hospicecare because a lot of them have experienced at least one part of what Blythe House offers at some point in their life. I want to give something back through sponsorship raised from this event.’

You can find out more about the exciting adventure, and donate, by visiting the team’s Just Giving page.

A man from Longnor is putting his feet up after running more than 120 miles across Scotland in four days, and raising £600 for Blythe House.

Jonathan Kempster ran from Cape Wrath to Helmsdale, to raise vital funds for Blythe House Hospicecare after his mum Betty suffered a stroke in November 2018. Healthcare assistants from the 24/7 Hospice at Home service have been providing night time care for Betty since December.

Jonathan said: ‘Blythe House’s Hospice at Home service has been a God send to my family. Before the help, we were staying with mum for seven nights a week and it really was exhausting, both physically and mentally. Now though, the team of healthcare assistants provide care through the night from 10pm to 7am on four nights of the week, so I am able to get some respite and I know that mum is so well taken care of.’

Jonathan provided a day-by-day diary of his amazing adventure:

The beginning – Cycling from the East Coast: The two days cycling from the east coast to Durness were amazing. Big skies, blue hues, gold finches, mountain moors and skylark. We soaked it all in as we cycled west. Arrived at Durness after battling into a strong headwind. We met with our friends, Simon and Louise, and headed for a relaxing drink in a nearby cafe.

The Run – Day One: On this day I ran the first leg of the route, approximately 15 miles. We left Durness in the morning and caught the ferry and bus up to Cape Wrath, a wild and desolate place but beautiful too. Jane, Simon and Louise went for a coffee but I didn’t want to miss the ferry back to the mainland so left promptly. I waved goodbye to them at the lighthouse and then headed out over the moorland track. It was wet and windy but fine under foot. I couldn’t resist an egg butty when I got back to Durness.

Day Two: The weather was horrendous on this day. Freddie and I left Jane in Durness at 9.30am and ran along the coastal road and out south west beside Loch Eriboll. The rain drummed on the hood of my coat and wind whipped at my shoes. I hardly saw anything apart from the wet ground beneath my feet as I ran on with my head down.

Eight miles in and I stopped at a café on the shores of Loch Eriboll to get warm and meet with Jane. We stayed briefly for a warm coffee and then stepped out into the heavy rain again. The café owner said the wind was 30mph and gusting to 40mph. In the afternoon, the wind would increase.

Sixteen miles in and Freddie and I turned off onto a rough track that climbed over a low col and ran down towards Loch Hope forest. I love the mountains but I did not enjoy this. I was wet, very wet and the constant drumming of the rain and roar of the wind on my coat hood made my ears ring.

A mile past the forest, at Cashel Dhu, the track fords the river Strathmore. The river is normally 18 to 24 inches deep and fordable. This day it was very deep and more than 60 feet wide. Freddie jumped in and went under. I helped him out but then knew I could not cross this, yet I also knew of no bridge south or north of where I stood. Two hundred yards back though I had seen an isolated cottage with a Land Rrover parked outside. Perhaps the owner might know of a way across. I approached the cottage willing the owner to be there. He (Richard) was and when he saw me invited me in, out of the rain. He offered me tea and cake – splendid!

Richard confirmed there was no bridge close by but said he was about to leave and would take Freddie and I across the water in his Land Rover. The water was deep and bow waves swept over the bonnet of the vehicle. I thought we might stall but Richard was very skilled and we safely crossed. At the water’s edge Freddie and I got out. I did not want to, the Land Rover was warm and dry.

Outside, it was still raining and windy and I had another 15 miles to run. I climbed out, Freddie followed. I thanked Richard and started running. After 5 miles the rain stopped and the wind changed direction to my side. The sun broke through slightly. I was exhausted though. I had run 30 miles into strong head winds and rain and still had 10 miles to go. Gradually the remaining miles reduced and with only 5 miles to go Jane came out and met me with a flask of tea, some flapjack and biscuits for Freddie. Finally at 6.30 pm, I arrived at our nights’ accommodation. Ughh what a day!

Day Three: We left our accommodation in Altnaharra at approx. 9.45am and followed the minor road that runs beside Loch Naver. I was tired. Freddie wasn’t! My legs were heavy. Running felt an effort so I ran for a mile and fast walked for a mile for the first hour or so. Jane met me at agreed points. It was motivating to know someone was up ahead waiting.

Negotiating Naver Forest was difficult. Large areas had been felled and the way made uneven by rotten branches, tree stumps and bog. I tripped and fell on the uneven ground for two miles feeling as if I was in the ministry of funny walks. The weather on this day was kind though. No wind and dappled sunlight across the Flow Country. My eyes were drawn ever further into the depths of this remote landscape. Beauty with the beast of distance. Though tired, I felt enriched by this land. At peace, despite discomfort.

The last eight miles were hard for me. Each inch passed stubbornly, as if it would not let go to the previous one. Eventually at 3.15pm we arrived at our nights rest, Garvault House.

Day Four: I should have been running to John O Groats on this day but I was worried about the Achilles tendon in my right leg. Instead we headed 30 miles east to Helmsdale. I felt guilty about not doing the full distance but thought it wise to listen to my body. In principle the route is still a coast to coast, except the distance is 25 miles less. The rain was again heavy on this day. Mist swept over the moors and clouds darkened the sky.

The run was very picturesque though. Strath Kildonan and Strath Ullie are beautiful glens and I saw many deer and birds of prey as I ran down to the coast at Helmsdale. Jane came out to meet me on the final two miles and cycled in with me.

We celebrated the end of the run at a café with a large cup of coffee and a banoffee crepe. Our friend Louise met us at the harbour later, where I dipped my right foot in the sea to formally mark the end of a coast to coast run.

Jonathan said:

A big thank you to everyone who’s sponsored Blythe House; to Jane for all the ongoing support whilst doing the run; to Simon and Louise for all their support, including transporting my bike back from Durness and for meeting us in Helmsdale at the end of the run; to Richard Ogilvy for helping me across the Strathmoor river; to Eva and Adrian from Garvault House for their very kind donation. Finally to Freddie, for still wagging his tail even in the most horrendous of weather.

You can still donate following Jonathan’s epic adventure.

Nifty High Peak specialists with an eye for stamp or coin collections are being invited to spare some time to help support people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.

Blythe House Hospicecare is on the lookout for passionate local experts who might like to volunteer between four to eight hours per week to sort and price donated stamp and coin collections.

The hospice’s retail sector – including four charity shops across the High Peak, and two online eBay sites – brings in almost half of the funding needed to keep care and services free for local patients, carers and their families. The NHS provides just 21% of the hospice’s resources.

Laurence Carr (photographed above) has been voluntarily managing the hospice’s antiques and collectibles eBay account since 2008, raising more than £100,000 in that time.

He said: ‘We are on the lookout for someone, or several people, who can spare some time to help manage the stamp and coin collections that are donated to Blythe House, to help raise money for patient care.

‘The roles would involve several tasks including identifying high value stamps or coins that could be sold individually or as sets, as well as packaging up items into different groups that could be sold together, such as first day covers or presentation sets. We would also really like someone who’d be able to provide descriptions of the collections, so that other enthusiasts can easily understand what’s included.

‘At present, we have a large number of stamp albums, loose stamps, first day covers and presentation sets –so there’s a lot to get started with!’

For more information about the volunteer role, please contact communications@blythehouse.co.uk.

To find out more about volunteering in general at Blythe House Hospicecare across its retail sector, fundraising, in the local community or at the hospice, you can drop-in to speak to the team between 11am and 1pm on the second Monday of every month (upcoming dates: 8th July, 12th August.) Alternatively, you can call: 01298 815388 or email: volunteering@blythehouse.co.uk.

Gareth and Simone with Jess from Blythe House

A new author from Chapel-en-le-Frith has raised more than £140 for local patients with life-limiting illnesses, after launching her debut novel.

Simone Hubbard hosted three book launches for Under a Greek Spell at Rems Bar, selling merchandise from Blythe House Hospicecare at the events.

Simone’s husband, Martin died in 2013 after being diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. During his illness he used the counselling services at Blythe House.

Simone said: ‘I have always wanted to write a book and sought inspiration from a holiday I enjoyed with Martin in Cyprus. Whilst we were away, Martin had to stay at a clinic overnight as he wasn’t well. Being on my own, I noticed people a lot more and spent more time people watching; I was able to take initial ideas for the book from this.

‘The story revolves around mum, Pamela and her daughters, Stephanie and Helen. Stephanie tells a little white lie that her name is Shirley Valentine, and there are funny and memorable consequences! Writing the light romance narrative was a good distraction whilst Martin was so poorly.

‘I was delighted when Gareth Jones, the owner of Rems in Chapel, allowed me to host three book launches at the venue earlier this year. Gareth and Martin were very good friends, and Martin actually helped to design and build the bar area of Rems in 2011. The launches went really well, and guests purchased items from Blythe House raising a great amount of money for local care and services.

‘As with most special coincidences, Under a Greek Spell is set in Mykonos where Shirley Valentine was shot, and the film was released 30 years ago this year. Blythe House is also commemorating its 30th anniversary in 2019, and Martin and I would’ve been celebrating 30 years of marriage this month too.’

Find out more about Simone and Under a Greek Spell.

Learn more about how you might be able to support Blythe House Hospicecare at your own events or celebrations.

A man from Longnor is preparing to take on a mammoth challenge as he bids to run 140 miles across Scotland in just four days.

Jonathan Kempster is set to run from Cape Wrath to John O’Groats from Saturday 1st June, to raise vital funds for Blythe House Hospicecare after his mum Betty suffered a stroke in November 2018.

Healthcare assistants from the 24/7 Hospice at Home service have been providing nighttime care for Betty since December, when she was referred by the community matron.

Jonathan’s mum, Betty

Jonathan says: ‘My mum is 93 years-old and up until she was 92, she was fiercely independent; she was still driving, going shopping, looking after her home, sorting the bills and gardening. Unfortunately, the stroke left her bedbound, and she has been that way for around five months, until very recently when we were able to get her a specialist wheelchair meaning she can now get out of bed.

‘Mum has gone from being so independent, to so highly dependent on other people. I have such a huge respect and admiration for her; five months in bed would have made me go bonkers, and I probably would have become very depressed, but mum has taken it very well and she is so appreciative of all the help and care that she gets.

‘Blythe House’s Hospice at Home service has been a God send to my family and I. Before the help, we were staying with mum for seven nights a week and it really was exhausting, both physically and mentally. Now though, the team of healthcare assistants provide care through the night from 10pm to 7am on four nights of the week, so I am able to get some respite and I know that mum is so well taken care of.

‘I have done challenges in the past, including running from coast to coast on the “thin” part of Scotland, but never anything of this scale before. My partner Jane will be cycling the distance, carrying supplies including food and kit for the very long days. Freddie, our dog, will also be accompanying me as I navigate with a map and a compass across minor roads, rough tracks, footpaths and open moorland, including the wild and boggy Flow Country.

‘I wanted to do something to be able to contribute towards the amazing Hospice at Home service; the quality of care and all of the staff who’ve been involved in mum’s care are so great.’

Since the Hospice at Home service’s inception in 2016, Blythe House has provided over 30,000 hours of day and night care for patients with life-limiting illnesses, who wish to be supported in the comfort of their own home.

Find out more about Jonathan’s epic challenge and to sponsor him.

Header photo credit: Frank Golden.

Emily staffing the bake sale stall

Two sisters from Litton Mill have raised an outstanding £2,790 for local cancer patients after hosting a bake sale in memory of their mum who died in April.

Alice and Emily Lewis held the bumper baking event during the early May Bank Holiday Weekend on Litton Mill Green, alongside their friends from Bishop Pursglove CE Primary School in Tideswell, and members of the local community.

Sarah Lewis died last month, after being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2010. She attended Blythe House Hospicecare in Chapel-en-le-Frith during her illness.

Alice checks on cakes in the oven

Emily, 11, said: ‘Blythe House provided my mum with support and care throughout her cancer and will continue to support me and my family as we try to come to terms with our loss.’

Alice, 8, added: ‘The whole village helped us to bake cakes for the sale, we had around 30 different types of cake in total. We had to bake extra cakes for the Sunday as we nearly ran out! Our friends from school helped us get people on the Monsal Trail to visit the stall including walkers and bike riders.’

Becka White, Fundraising and Communications Assistant at Blythe House Hospicecare, said: ‘We were amazed to find out how much money Alice and Emily raised to help other local people like their mum. The girls came to have a look around the hospice building, to see for themselves the places that Sarah might have visited during her time at Blythe House, including our lounge, dining room and the garden. We are so very grateful to them for their incredible fundraising efforts.’

Donate to Emily and Alice’s fundraising efforts.

Expert husband and wife dancers Michael and Jackie Hough marked 50 years since their first dance class in Chapel-en-le-Frith with a special anniversary celebration.

The golden afternoon tea dance saw over 130 past and present dance students come together at the town’s Methodist Church on Saturday 11th May.

The event raised a fantastic £1,705 for Blythe House Hospicecare, which will go towards providing care and services for local patients with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.

Michael said: ‘We are delighted to support such a fantastic hospice in its 30th year, whilst we are marking our 50th year dancing!’

To find out more about our services, volunteering here or fundraising for Blythe House, give us a call on 01298 815388 or e-mail: info@blythehouse.co.uk.

Photo: Jackie and Michael Hough handing over the cheque to Becka White, Fundraising and Communications Assistant, surrounded by dance students past and present!

Pupils at Buxton Community School hatched a masterplan to raise more than £630 for Blythe House Hospicecare.

Year 8 students were given £10 per tutor group and asked to generate as much profit as possible for Blythe House, as part of their inter-form Easter Enterprise challenge.

Young people from across the six tutor groups came up with as many plausible ideas as possible before narrowing them down to one key money-making scheme. Each form presented their pitches to fellow students and staff through posters, active promotion and daily endorsement, resulting in two weeks of friendly competition, bake sales, raffle tickets, chocolate hampers and five soaked students!

Jessica Lomas, Teacher of Geography and Director of Progress Year 8, said: ‘When the Easter Enterprise challenge was extended to students as part of their inter-form challenge for the half term, they were optimistic and creative.

‘Miss Haigh’s and Miss Ingham’s tutor groups, with whole-hearted support from parents, managed to pull off two bake sales; staff and students alike were in their element. Miss Barker’s form created a luxurious chocolate hamper; Mr Wentworth’s form stuck solidly to the Easter theme with an Easter raffle. The final week of term was rounded off nicely with Mrs Scholes’ “soak a student,” which was kindly and very enthusiastically attended by many staff and students.

‘Mr Warhurst’s tutor group reigned victorious with its array of cake and sweet stalls, and a car wash for good measure, which raised an astounding £200.’

Ruth Brown and Becka White from Blythe House Hospicecare went along to a school assembly on Thursday 9th May to thank students for their amazing support and to explain more about how the money raised will go towards supporting local patients with cancer and life-limiting illnesses, as well as their families and carers. They also received a cheque for £632 from some students in Mr Warhurst’s winning form.

Find out more about how you could get involved in fundraising for Blythe House Hospicecare.

Photo (L-R): Becka White, Fundraising and Communications Assistant at Blythe House; students, Lily Marsden, Pheobe Craufurd-Stuart, Marissa Jackson; Ruth Brown, Blythe House’s Hospice at Home Manager; Jason Warhurst, IT and Computer Science teacher.

Throughout June, Cooper Sons Hartley & Williams, Buxton will be providing a Will writing service in return for their fee being donated to Blythe House Hospicecare.

Ann’s grandson, Oliver, was just five-years-old when he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Following 10 months of intensive chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, treatment for a collapsed lung and total body radiotherapy, Oliver sadly died leaving behind his two-year-old little brother, Finley.

Ann says: ‘Finley struggled, especially in groups of children, and that’s where Blythe House Hospice came in. When Fin started school, he had counselling through Blythe House; it was absolutely amazing. He has very fond memories of Blythe, because it helped him.’

Finley and Oliver

Ann continues: ‘I was then diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, its incurable, but it’s treatable. I didn’t feel the sheer utter terror I felt when Oliver was diagnosed, with me it was just let’s get on, let’s deal with this. If a little five-year-old boy can go through it, you bet his 62 year old grandma can!

Debbie, a very good friend of Ann’s, inspired her to get support from the Living Well Service at Blythe House: ‘She encouraged me for a good few weeks, and said “Ann you need to go to Blythe!” I wasn’t depressed… yeah, I might be frightened sometimes but I don’t suffer with low spirit, but it’s the best thing she could have done for me, I will always thank her for it. Straight away, calmness came into my life, and it does what it says on the tin, it’s a living well service, you couldn’t have a better phrase. At Blythe I have learnt coping strategies, how to deal with the lows and then how to raise up with the highs.’

The main things Ann gets out of coming to Blythe House are friendship, a lot of support and the ability to talk honestly in the group: ‘You can see everyone at Blythe working as individuals and also as a team. Everybody is so lovely, and I am hooked on reiki, it’s the best medicine. Carol, the practitioner is very special. She definitely has healing hands. Frieda, my key worker, has gone over and above for me since I started coming to Blythe House.

Ann says:

Having an up-to-date will is the only way you can protect your family and loved ones. By making a donation to Blythe House in lieu of legal fees you will have the rewarding knowledge that you are supporting and helping to protect, for the future, such an important and invaluable local charity. You will make a real difference to individuals and families like mine who can benefit from the wonderful compassionate care offered by the amazing team at Blythe House.

To book an appointment to make your Will, call Cooper Sons Hartley & Williams on 01298 77511 quoting Blythe House Hospicecare.

See the Wills Month poster for all the details – click here.

Meet the team – Ruth Brown, Hospice at Home Manager

Since the Hospice at Home service’s inception in 2016, we have supported more than 300 people to die at home with their families and friends by their side. Our professional and compassionate healthcare assistants have delivered over 30,000 hours of day and night care.

Ruth Brown, Hospice at Home Manager, explains more about its initial set-up and how important the service is, in our rural community where home-based end of life care is so very much needed.

I have held the position of Hospice at Home Manager for over three years. My previous nursing background was firstly as a community healthcare assistant, then as a qualified nurse, district nurse and finally Community Matron, all with the NHS and predominantly within the community setting.

It was important to me to conclude my career using as many of my skills and attributes as possible, with my passion for good end-of-life care. My niece saw the advert for my current post and rang me to say that she had found me my perfect job, she knows me so well. I was overjoyed when successful; I believe Janet’s (Dunphy, CEO) ears are still ringing from my screams when offered the job!

A Hospice at Home service had been a dream for Blythe House Hospice following the legacy left by Stan Blythe 30 years ago. Reverend Betty Packham, the founder of the hospice, saw the beds in people’s homes as a solution to delivering quality end-of-life care in our community. We have brought dying back into people’s homes and into the community where it belongs, and for many patients where there is an expected death, a reduced likelihood of being hospitalised and their death medicalised. We enable many patients to come home from hospital or other inpatient units, to die at home if that is their choice.

In my previous roles, end-of-life care was my specialism; I worked with motivated professionals where values were shared and together we provided outstanding care. I believed that I could re-create a similar culture and philosophy here at Blythe House Hospicecare, and Janet shared my enthusiasm and passion for good end-of-life care. We made an instant connection in parallel-thinking and goal setting, a great deal of ground work had been done before I began; it was down to me to develop a team, build a service with high standards of care delivery and to promote our service in as many settings as possible, to imbed timely referral to our new service from GP practices, district nursing teams, hospitals and hospices.

If I am honest, I wasn’t sure how quickly we might grow and those first couple of weeks we held our breath but referrals came in, slowly at first but then more rapidly. We have now accepted 410 referral s and have recorded 303 deaths with 92% achieving death in their preferred place. We currently have 30 patients receiving care.

I must pay tribute to my colleagues Sam Hanley [Hospice at Home Co-ordinator] and Kathy Ashby [Hospice at Home Assistant], and the wonderful team of healthcare assistants who deliver this high quality service. They are respected and supported; in recent conversations they repeatedly talk of their love for the service and their privileged position. They appreciate the training and supervision we deliver to ensure we are a specialist service with gold standard outcomes.

We continually evaluate the service and receive wonderful comments from our patient’s families and friends.

It has been an amazing three years and the success of the service could only have been a dream in the beginning. I am very proud of what we have achieved together and can’t wait for the next stage of the journey in the hope of reaching every patient in the last year of life across the High Peak, and beyond that, to share and imbed our model of care across the county of Derbyshire.