INTREPID councillors and charity fundraisers have headed off for a trek to the summit of the UK's highest peak to help keep memories alive and raise funds for good causes.

Councillor Steve Waltho has headed up an annual peace-making pilgrimage to the top of Ben Nevis for the last seven years in honour of Dudley peace campaigner Bert Bissell MBE.

Amid the coronavirus crisis it was feared this year's planned trip would have to be cancelled but participants have decided to go ahead with their charity event in Fort William in Scotland which remembers Vicar Street Methodist Church bible class leader Bert who climbed Ben Nevis 107 times and left a peace cairn on its summit.

A 22-strong team headed off this morning (Thursday August 13) on the 7th annual pilgrimage led by Cllr Waltho - a keen charity adventurer and chairman of Dudley's Bert Bissell Memorial Society.

Cllr Waltho, a former Mayor of Dudley, said: "This will be a no frills visit; we came so close to cancelling this year's event."

This year's event, however, has a special significance as August 15 is the 75th anniversary of VJ Day 1945 when Bert and a group of Dudley lads decided to climb Ben Nevis and start the building of the peace cairn which is now recognised as the highest war memorial in Britain.

Cllr Waltho, who represents St Thomas's ward on Dudley Council, said the group decided to go ahead with the trip as their accommodation had already been booked before the pandemic took hold - and he added: "22 intrepid individuals were determined to not only utilise the event to raise money for charity but also to honour the 75th anniversary where we intend to place wreaths on Bert's grave and the summit cairn to remember those lost in war and also those lost in the Covid pandemic."

Previous pilgrimages to Fort William, which is twinned with Dudley as a result of Bert's legendary peace campaigning, have included commemorative services in the church where stained glass windows from Dudley are installed. This year the church service is cancelled but trekkers will still be raising money to give charities a boost amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Waltho, of Kingswinford, added: "This year joining us to raise money to support groups in the Covid crisis will be 1st Coseley Scouts chairman Nick Gallagher for his local scout group, fellow Councillor Simon Phipps for the Edwards Trust and society vice-chairman and taxi boss Shaz Saleem for the Saleem Foundation.

"Also joining the group will be the family of Jules Garrett-Payne for whom the pilgrimage will be an emotional one since money was raised for her treatment on the climb last year but she sadly passed away three months later."

The group aim to climb Ben Nevis on Friday August 14 and visit Bert's grave in Glen Nevis cemetery on VJ Day (Saturday August 15) before returning to Dudley on Sunday August 16.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so online at - search Simon's Bert Bissell Memorial Climb - Ben Nevis, Saleem Foundation and/or Nick Gallagher for the relevant donation pages.