The Ride and Stride returned to England to raise funds for religious heritage

The Ride and Stride returned to England to raise funds for religious heritage

Ride+Stride 2022 (c) National Churches Trust

41 years ago, in 1991, in the flat east of England the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust had an idea. Why not ask lovers of church buildings to get on their bikes, visit churches and ask their friends and supporters to sponsor them with a sum of money for every church they visited?

That was the start of the Suffolk Historic Churches Bike Ride. Participants signed-up with their local church and split their sponsorship between that church and the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, or just gave all the money to the trust if they did not worship at a church.

The event was a great success and proved to be a vital way of raising money for the upkeep of places of worship of all denominations.

A few years later, word about the event had spread throughout England and the Suffolk Churches Bike Ride had become Ride+Stride.

Today, Ride and Stride, is a sponsored walk or bike ride where over 13,000 people walk or cycle between 10,000 churches, exploring and enjoying the countryside from Cornwall to Cumbria. In an average year, the event raises over £1.2 million in a single day, making it the single most important fundraising event by the public to support historic churches.

The money  raised helps to preserve some of England’s 30,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses many of which are at risk of falling into serious disrepair due to a shortage of money.

The event is supported by The National Churches Trust, in partnership with County Churches Trusts nationwide and opens the doors to some of the most rare and unusual churches.

Nigel Mills (r) and Revd Lis Sparrow (left) outside St John’s church, Bridgewater, Somerset.

Ride + Stride is open to all ages. The  oldest person believed to have take part was a 95 year old lady from Sevenoaks in Kent who walked between eight churches; the youngest participant was still in his push chair. 

The event is not just for walkers and bike riders though. Farmers use tractors to get to churches, in some parts of England horse riders make their way from one church to the next and where there are canals or rivers, people have been known to canoe or take their boat to go from town to town.

Although the main point of Ride+Stride is to visit wonderful historic churches, this being England, most churches serve tea and cake to the participants and for the lucky few there are also sandwiches and even a small glass of low alcohol beer!

Despite the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, thousands of people took part in the event which took place two days later on  Saturday 10 September. Riders and Striders visiting churches took the opportunity for quiet refection and prayers of gratitude for her life and service.

Ride+Stride is supported by the National Churches Trust and this year a team of seven staff from the Trust took part.

Sarah Crossland, Engagement Manager for the National Churches Trust who visited six churches in Yorkshire said: “At this time of national sadness, it seemed right to visit churches as part of Ride+Stride. It gave me a chance for quiet reflection and to celebrate the commitment given to the Christian faith and churches by Her Majesty,  Queen Elizabeth II. The sun shone, and there was a warm welcome in all the churches we visited in Yorkshire, together with tea and delicious homemade cake in many.”

By Edward Tulasiewicz

Head of Communications and Public Affairs, National Churches Trust (NCT)

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