Friends of the Glens hiking troupe are strutting their way into the New Year with an ‘out and back’ open walk on New Year’s Day to the summit of Bessy Bell Mountain in aid of Organ Donation Northern Ireland.
The popular walk, which is open to the public, is now in its seventh year and always garners a considerable turnout with previous years seeing an average of 300 walkers taking to the hills.
This year takes a ‘sign on and go’ approach which – according to walk leader Sean Harper – makes things a lot easier for attendees and organisers alike.
Speaking to Tyrone I, Sean said: “With the sign on and go approach, walkers have a bit more flexibility. They can sign on earlier or later if they wish, head off when ready and don’t need to wait for the group.
“We will have marshals along the way to help guide people, but the whole route is waymarked and arrowed so it’s easy to find your way to the top”.
The route starts at the registration point at the Mellon Country Inn, Omagh which will be open from 10am until 11am.
Walkers will then traverse a 3.5 mile climb of moderate difficulty to the summit of Bessy Bell Mountain (1338ft). Whilst the route is regarded as being of moderate difficulty, it does have stable footing following a newly tarmacked first section which leads onto a gravel path along the A5 and on to the summit.
Friends of the Glens are suggesting a donation of £5 per adult which will go towards raising Organ Donation awareness, a cause close to heart of the hikers.
Sean explained: “Organ donation has directly effected quite a few of our members. We have had two members receive transplants, one heart transplant and one kidney, and my own father required a transplant several years ago.
“We also have a young girl who walks with us who donated a kidney so it’s vital to us that we, not only use this as a way to raise some money towards organ donation, but also to open a conversation and talk about the importance of organ donation and having plans put in place”.
Organisers hope that attendees will enjoy the fresh air, stunning scenery and the social aspect of the walk. Story-lovers, in particular, will be in their element as the area is steeped in history and folklore. Walkers are encouraged to read the information panels at the start and summit, to ask questions and keep their eyes peeled for significant landmarks like the Holy Well and Millennium Stone.
The waymarkers, information signs, Millennium Stone, paving and fencing are all a result of the close working relationship between Friends of the Glens, the Council and local community groups to help conserve, promote and restore the area.
Walkers can attend in whatever footwear they find comfortable and dogs are permitted provided they be kept on a lead.