WITH a sharp intake of breath and a steely look in their eyes, brave fundraisers strode barefoot across a trail of smouldering ash.

Oxford Rugby Club welcomed 60 walkers on Saturday night, for a sponsored firewalk organised by three Oxfordshire charities.

Sobell House Hospice and Maggie’s Oxford Centre, both based at the Churchill Hospital in Headington, staged the event alongside bereavement support charity SeeSaw.

Jane Elliot, who works in fundraising at the latter, said: "There is a synergy between the three charities as we work in the same sort of area. We are all friends and it just felt right to do it together.”

Participants paraded into the rugby field in North Hinksey as a bagpipe player and cheering spectators kept spirits high.

Glowing embers from a bonfire were shovelled onto the grass to create the fiery strip.

Participants lined up to tackle the challenge after hours of training, managing to soldier through with a smile as ash singed the soles of their feet.

Though the exact amount has not yet been tallied,the event is expected to raise thousands for the charities.

East Oxford resident Caroline James walked for Maggie's, which supports people with cancer.

The 30-year-old was diagnosed in May with rare mucosal melanoma, and said Maggie's had been 'stabilising' force amid unpredictable treatment.

She said: "I didn't feel like I had mentally come to terms with the cancer; I'm fit and well. I'm so grateful for their emotional support."

The first-time fire walker added: "It was nerve-wracking but it's more about the power of the mind rather than the sole of the foot; it felt tingly. It was a really positive atmosphere."

Fellow walker Simone Mienie raised more than £1,000 for SeeSaw, which helped her family through the death of her husband David in 2012.

He died aged 46 after being diagnosed with lymphoma, when their four children were aged eight, nine, 17 and 21.

Ms Mienie said: "SeeSaw spoke to the children to talked them through what to expect. Obviously for my youngest, at that age it was a really confusing and difficult time."

The Banbury resident, who also took part in the charity's last firewalk in 2014, said: "There was no pain. This time it was more about having been through hell and being ready for change - it was symbolic."

Among those walking for Sobell House was Nikki Dunstan, of Ducklington in West Oxfordshire.

Her aunt Patsy Clarke received care at Sobell five years ago, and she said it helped to give her 'peace' before she passed away.

Mum-of-one Miss Dunstan said: "They were just great - every single person there goes the extra mile."

Wakers' spirits were pumped up by performances including from Armallegan, a Border Morris side who twirled with flaming torches and clattered sticks together.