Three women who met when they were 11 and are now in their sixties are to walk 100km in memory of a friend who died last year.

Janet Farrugia, Eve Smith and Carolyn Ponder all went to Horsham High School for Girls and have been friends ever since.

They are planning to walk from London to Brighton in May in memory of a fourth member of their "gang", Lesley Wood, who died of ovarian cancer in October.

Janet, Eve, Carolyn and Lesley were part of a group of eight school friends who kept in regular contact, enjoying each other’s company in their sixties as much as they did when they were children. 

The Argus: Lesley with her dog pebblesLesley with her dog pebbles (Image: St Barnabas)

In 2018, when Lesley, who lived in East Preston, near Worthing, received the devastating news that she had stage 4 ovarian cancer, her friends were there to support her.

“Eve had the brilliant idea that we each pick a day of the week and send Lesley a weekly postcard,” said Janet.

“Nowadays, most of us don’t tend to get much through the post apart from negative things like bills. This was something positive and showed Lesley that we were thinking of her.” 

After Lesley died, the friends decided they wanted to do something in tribute to her and to raise money for the hospice that supported her, St Barnabas House in Worthing.  

“Lesley went through so many challenges herself,” said Janet.

“In her last five years, she battled heroically and never really complained.”

The wider friendship group will be supporting the walkers and will be there to meet them with cake at the end of the route. 

For Janet, doing something positive for Lesley has helped with the grieving process: “It makes you feel that you're giving something back,” she said.

“St Barnabas was so good to her, and she said how comfortable she was, knowing that they would be the people supporting her at the end. The hospice helped her husband, Chris, and children, Sam and Stephie, to care for her at home and when the time came, the whole family couldn’t have felt better supported.” 

Lesley and Chris moved to East Preston in 2012. She worked as a speech and language therapist until the end of her life.

“She was a very positive person and extremely kind,” says Janet. “She never had a bad word to say about anybody and she was always smiling – she had beautiful blue eyes which were always twinkling. 

“She was very devoted to her family and one of the great highlights of Lesley’s life was when her daughter Stephie got married in 2022. Stephie gave birth to Lesley’s first grandchild, Sofia in January 2023 so Lesley got to spend a few months with her. That gave her a lot of pleasure."

Other members of the wider friendship group plan to do their own fundraising in Lesley’s memory later this year.

“It will be a team effort,” said Janet.  “Lesley was so altruistic, always thinking about other people. This is our opportunity to do something for her.”