I have been an avid Supporter of Ride+Stride for many years, having been the organiser for Somerset for nine years from 2009 to 2017 during which time we raised £134,000 for churches and chapels in Somerset.

For a number of years I was a member of the National Committee where I think my biggest achievement was to add “for Churches” to the Ride+Stride logo on the grounds that the national media really had no idea what the event was all about.

Over the years I have cycled the thirty plus mile “Ten Towers” route form Wedmore out to Brent Knoll and back, walked the Bath Route which takes in twelve churches and chapels from St John’s Hospital Chapel to Magdalene Chapel Holloway, and visited all of the churches and chapels in and around Wells.

However, with Covid 19, 2020 has been different to all previous years and for a long time it was unclear if Ride+Stride would even take place or if churches would be open or could be stewarded. Even being allowed to stray far beyond our own front doors was in doubt. So, having “rode and strode” for many years it suddenly occurred to me why not just undertake a virtual Ride+Stride and stay at home.

Having created a Virgin Money Giving sponsorship page I posted “My Story” as follows:

“I have now been a trustee of Somerset Churches Trust for ten years. During that time we have raised money not only to maintain and repair churches but more importantly to keep them at the heart of their communities. In many villages the church is the only community building and many still don’t have basic facilities such as a toilet or simple catering facilities. Now, more than ever we need to help rural communities to ensure that their church is fit for purpose in the 21st century. That’s why I’m raising money to help keep Somerset’s Churches alive for the community. Ride+ Stride on 12th September is our main annual fundraising activity. However, in view of the current Covid 19 situation, our programme of walks and cycle rides is unable to go ahead in the usual way. So instead of sponsorship I would be really grateful if you could make a donation to help us in our mission of keeping our wonderful churches at the heart of our communities. Many thanks.”

This was accompanied by photographs of me with my bike and at the Launch event which we held at the Bishops Palace Wells.

I am pleased to say that my friends and relatives were incredibly supportive. Their donations with Gift Aid enabled me to raise £638.

Next year, however, I may not have an excuse and may have to get out on my bike again!

Chris Hawkings