Saturday 11 September 2021 is Ride + Stride, the day when walkers, cyclists, horse riders, runners and tricyclists get moving to visit as many churches as they can in one day to raise money for Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust (GHCT). The money raised by Ride and Stride is then shared between GHCT and local churches of all Christian denominations in Gloucestershire and North Bristol.
We caught up with Sarah Smith who is Benefice Administrator for the United Benefice of St Bartholomew, Cam and Coaley and has been getting out on her bike for the past few years and trying to visit a few more churches every year.
Sarah said, “We moved to the area 9 years ago and someone from our family has done the Ride + Stride every year since then. This year I’m doing it with my daughter Emily (18).
“Every year, we try to visit a few more churches and cycle a few more miles. We started off by trying to visit 30 churches. Last year I managed to do about 50 and cycle up to about 50 to 55 miles in the day. We have hybrid tyres on our bikes, so we potter – we’re not racing around. We’re so lucky in this area that we have quite a few villages close together, but it’s not always easy to find all the churches. In the Stroud area, there are lots that can be hidden away. When churches are high up on a hill, if you’re low on your bike you can’t see them! It’s really important to take a good map!
“Last year I did the cycle on my own and I think I did it a little quicker as the churches weren’t open for coffee and cake and I stopped less for chats.”
Sarah is hoping for more chats this year, as more churches are due to be open. She said, ” I hope some churches will be open this year with words of encouragement and a nice cup of tea and a biscuit or two, but if not, as Bob says there are cafes, pubs and garden centres for that well-deserved break for coffee and cake, some fuel to keep you going when your legs start getting tired, and you wish you’d been out more often than you have in the last month or two!”
Sarah and her family take an active role in the community in Coaley, with Sarah and Emily doing flowers in the church and also teas and coffees for worshippers. Sarah is a bellringer and her husband Norman was also on the PCC. The Smith family enjoy trying to keep fit – on a Friday they cycle over to Ebley in Stroud to visit Norman’s mum and soon they will be heading off to the Lake District to do some ‘serious hill walking’ which Sarah says will help with the cycling.
Supporting charities regularly is an important part of Sarah’s life. She said, “It’s brilliant that Ride + Stride is an annual event. It gets people out on that one day no matter what the weather is like.
“I’m so grateful for all the people who sponsor me year on year. People must dread seeing me with my sponsor form in my hand! Every year I’m asking the same people to sponsor me – even at pantomime rehearsals, I turn up with my sponsor form in hand. We also support the Children’s Society and have one of their pots. No one in my house dares to leave loose change lying around as it goes straight in the pot!”
“The money raised for GHCT helps maintain all our amazing churches in the county, and 50% of my funds raised will be returned to St Bartholomew’s”
GHCT has provided grants totalling over 2 million pounds in the 40 years since it began. The money raised by the Trust goes towards vital repairs and renovations that help to keep chapels, churches and meeting houses alive as active centres of community life and landmarks of the wonderful architectural heritage in the area.
For information on how to take part in this year’s Ride + Stride, visit the GHCT website: https://ghct.org.uk/ride-and-stride