Thousands in fundraiser for Alzheimer's at Leeds' Memory Walk

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Families strode out in their thousands in memory of loves ones affected by dementia for Leeds' emotional Memory Walk.

The annual fundraiser, organised by the Alzheimer's Society charity, saw hordes of dedicated walkers gather at Temple Newsam House on Saturday.

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More than 4,000 people took part in Memory Walks - either 6km or 2km in length - to raise vital funds for the charity to support people with the condition, which affects an estimated 850,000 in the UK.

The event this weekend was launched by Yorkshire-born actor John Middleton, who played Emmerdale's Ashley Thomas for 20 years.

Speaking to swarms of walkers ahead of the event this weekend Mr Middleton, whose character Ashley suffered from dementia on the show, said: "I really got to understand a lot more about dementia when I played Ashley.

"It was a long commitment to play him. When I finished that role, I walked away from the role but not from dementia."

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He said he would continue to campaign for dementia and that he recognised it was an international problem.

A Zumba-style session was held, against a backdrop of colourful music, to help walkers warm up before they set off on their journey around the grounds at Temple Newsam.

Ken Oxley, from the Alzheimer's Society, said this year's event had a "special feel" to it.

"I have not seen anything like this," he said.

"I have been too a few memory walks now and this is the biggest one I've been to.

"There is something in the air, it's just phenomenal here. The amount of people who have come, there is just an incredible feeling of unity and we all want to support people with dementia."

Fleur Granger, 37, was among those taking part in memory of loved ones, after her grandma and granddad both battled dementia.

She was walking with her husband Kirk, and their three children, alongside sister Emma Sutcliffe.

Mrs Granger, from Menston, said: "We helped look after and watched our loved ones suffer with this horrible condition and we have seen them deteriorate before our eyes, without being able to do anything about it.

"It has been an emotional day, my grannie had dementia for 11 years and my granddad had it for five years.

"Just seeing a person lose their memory, and be disorentied all the time, it is awful.

"We need to raise money and awareness to find a cure and do something about this horrible disease."

Meanwhile, mum-of-two Ann Burton was walking in memory of her mother Doreen Eccles, who died in 2009 after being diagnosed with dementia.

Mrs Burton, 59, from Royston, near Wakefield, said: "My mum passed away with dementia and it affected all of the family really badly.

"I have a colleague too at work whose mum has just been diagnosed with dementia aged 63.

"The atmosphere here today is really good. There was a big train of people walking on the hill."

Organisers from the charity hope to raise tens of thousands of pounds, towards research and support for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease, from this weekend's Memory Walk.

According to research by the Alzheimer’s Society, one million people will be living with dementia by 2021, and this could soar to two million by 2051.

For more information, or support, visit www.alzheimers.org.uk.