A group of nine intrepid riders met at St James’ Church, Quedegely, on Saturday 10 September, ready to cycle 28 miles visiting churches as part of the annual Ride + Stride fundraising event for Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust (GHCT).
Ride + Stride is the single largest source of income for many Historic Churches Trusts enabling them to make grants to places of Christian worship. The funds raised are split between the nominated Trust and the participants’ chosen church or chapel. In light of the announcement of the death of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, it was decided that while celebratory events would be cancelled, quiet community activities could still proceed. The Ride + Stride day then became a more reflective experience, as participants could take a moment of silence in some of the churches they visited.
Paul Bridges gives an account of the day for the St James’ Church team.
Paul says, “There was an expectation that the event might be cancelled in view of the death of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, but it wasn’t and despite setting off in a sombre mood we pedalled to register at the first church, St Nicholas at Hardwicke. We then rode in procession towards St Peter’s at Upper Framilode. Next was St Mary the Virgin at Fretherne, but thwarted by a muddy path and styles we couldn’t follow the river and were forced to take the road to St Mary’s where we enjoyed the beauty and depth of history in ‘Gloucester’s Mini Cathedral’.”
The cycling team consisted of the organiser, Paul Bridges, Churchwarden Paul Price, Treasurer Ian Pearce, and his wife, Lou, Father Michael Garland, Steve Morris, Di Ramsey and her husband, E Bike Andy, and Richard (Spider) Westwood. Volunteers from the worshipping community also staffed the church throughout the day providing refreshments, kindly donated by the local Tesco, to others visiting St James riding for the GHCT.
Paul continues, “From Fretherne, we made our way to Arlingham to call at another St Mary the Virgin, where we saw some magnificent aged stained-glass windows. Onward to Frampton-on-Severn and another St Mary the Virgin where we met other riders and disturbed the flower arranger. Although not included in our schedule, we then diverted to the Congregational Church of 1776 which was unfortunately closed.
“After a welcome lunch stop, we moved on to Whitminster where we entered St Andrew’s through a solid, substantial church door to register our ride. Once again, a beautiful stained-glass window greeted us – a common sight in most of the churches in our parishes. We then went over the canal to reach St James the Great at Saul, but the church was closed. Time was marching on and the next stop was St Laurence at Longney. We passed the Independent Chapel at Longney and moved homeward to St John the Baptist at Elmore.
“To complete our ride, I felt we all deserved a treat, so we stopped for gelato at the Wholly Cow. It was a good day and a long ride for some, covering ten churches in total, but it was especially pleasing to see members of the team, who ride infrequently, had made the effort and hopefully enjoyed their day.”
Lu Pearce, PCC Secretary at St James’, said, “It was a wonderful experience for me to complete this year’s Ride + Stride. I have not used my bike since having brain surgery 3.5 years ago. This has left me with a profound left-sided hearing loss and poor balance. However, I was so grateful for the support and encouragement from Paul Bridges, without whom I would never have taken part.
“Highlights for me were raising money for and learning more about our beautiful church buildings, meeting fellow Christians en route and sharing a special day with my church family, and witnessing the beauty of our glorious countryside in perfect weather. It also gave my body some much-needed exercise, achieving something I never thought possible.”
The Rev Michael Garland said, “What a joy to be part of Ride + Stride this year, an activity that’s good for both body and soul. It’s really important to value our churches as markers of faith and hope in the community. We hope that the money raised will enable these churches to remain open for prayer and worship, not only on Sundays but on weekdays too. Thanks for all your support – and special thanks to Paul Bridges for planning the route and keeping us safe.”
The team has so far raised £700, split between Historic Churches Trust and the local church, Saint James.
Are you inspired to sign up for next year’s event? Find out more about the Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust by visiting their website.