Ten-year old Sam Gee from Winterbourne Bassett walked the full 26-miles of this year's Sarsen Trail on Sunday 4th May.
The sponsored walk is the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's biggest annual fundraising event, now in its 20th year, and the route stretches between the two World Heritage Sites of Avebury and Stonehenge.
Sam crossed the finishing line at Stonehenge exactly eight hours after he left Avebury, becoming this year's youngest entrant on a day that saw nearly 1,400 walkers and also runners on the Neolithic Marathon take in the joys of the countryside while raising money to keep it beautiful and populated with wildlife.
Sam, who took part with his family, friends and dogs, even ran the last four miles, and when asked what was the best part about it all he replied, not surprisingly: "Finishing". He added: "It's going to be great to take my medal into school to show all my friends – and I'm definitely doing it again next year."
The route, particularly the first half, offers walkers spectacular vistas of far-stretching hills coloured in new greens and the citric yellows of oil-seed rape. A light sprinkling of barely unfurled cow parsley laces the edges of the tracks.
But if the Sarsen Trail is a visual feast, it is also a richly aural one. At first you are aware only of the peacefulness and then your ears get attuned to the beautiful trickling songs of the skylarks above the stiffly rustling new crops; the scratching of a lone grasshopper, the faint timeless peal of church bells drifting across the Downs, punctuated by the cries of sheep calling their lambs.
All money raised will be used to help protect this wonderful environment.
"We are delighted that yet again so many people took part and had a really good time. The atmosphere was fantastic despite some showers half way through the day," says Kirsten Kerr-Bonner, the event organizer.
Sarsen regular Deborah House from Wootton Bassett has done the walk every year for the past 20 years, missing only one when she was pregnant with son George. "We do it because it's fun, we enjoy the atmosphere of walking with lots of lovely people who all have a common aim." Now George, aged 14, does it with her.
Sophie Litherland, aged 12, from Marlborough, said: "I just love the sense of open space – you feel you can really breath deeply up here on the Pewsey Downs."
The event could not have happened without the efforts of 120 volunteers who helped in putting out signs, registering entrants, road marshalling, manning water stations, car parking and handing out medals.
Volunteer Christine Pither from Corsham was on hand at Cannings Cross to hand out water to thirsty participants. "I have walked it before and decided to help this time. It's great fun and people are so friendly and chatty when they stop for a drink," she says.
The Neolithic Marathon follows the same route as the Trail. A Half Marathon, from Charlton Clumps to Stonehenge, is also available for those who wish to run a shorter distance.
Marathon runners this year came from as far a field as Australia, South Africa, the US, Italy, Germany and Holland. The winner of the Full Marathon was Mr A James from Hungerford: 02:53:57, and the Half Marathon was Mr F Young from Andover: 01:24:04.
This was the second year the event was open to Cani-Cross runners (canine cross-country), in conjunction with Cani-X UK – an organisation that encourages owners to take their dogs out for a run on a lead or harness rather than a walk. Eighty dogs and their owners took part. The winner of the Cani Cross 13 miles distance was Mr F Martin from Liverpool: 01:25:26, and the Cani Cross 4 miles was R Knight: 23:01.
npower Renewables supported the event with £1,000 and 1,800 reusable water bottles. A company spokesman said: "npower renewables, one of the UK's leading renewable energy companies, is dedicated to supporting communities in order to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change. We were pleased to support the Sarsen Trail this year and aimed to raise awareness of npower renewables as a local employer in Wiltshire."
Sam Gee shows off his medal.
Walkers on Pewsey Downs – Sophie Litherland (right) with friend Lexie Bellamy.
Runners come through All Cannings.