People across England will be walking, cycling, jogging and even horse riding their way between churches this Saturday to help raise funds for urgent repair works.
Ride+Stride takes place annually on the second Saturday of September. Around 8,000 churches are opening their doors to welcome the fundraisers this year.
Most of England's 35,000 church buildings are in good or fair condition but some are struggling and require additional help to meet the costs of maintaining their buildings.
In a survey by the National Churches Trust, which is organising the event, eight per cent of respondents said their church building was in a poor or very poor condition.
The average cost of the urgent repairs required by these churches was estimated at £80,000 per building.
Common repairs needed by churches include leaking roofs, crumbling stonework and deteriorating woodwork.
Over £29 million has been raised for church repairs since Ride+Stride started in 1983. The fundraising target for this year is £1.5 million.
The Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, said: "Ride+Stride is a wonderful way to discover the churches that lie at the heart of our nation’s heritage and landscape.
"Please encourage your friends and family to join you on this fun day out and help raise money for your local church and the County Trust that supports it. It doesn’t matter if you raise £2, £20 or £200. Every penny raised means you will help to save and protect our unique heritage.”
Author Bill Bryson said: “No feature of the English countryside is more important, or potentially more vulnerable, than its churches. That's why I am so delighted to support Ride + Stride."
Most of the participating churches will be open between 10.00am and 6.00pm. There will also be the opportunity to relax and recharge between journeys, with most churches offering snacks and drinks, from cakes and biscuits to home grown plums and orange squash.
for more details.
Here are some tips for fundraising journeys:
• Jane Austen enthusiasts can visit the three churches in Hampshire central to the author's life: Steventon, near Basingstoke (the Rectory was her home from birth until the age of 25, and where she wrote first drafts of Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, & Northanger Abbey); Chawton, where she lived with her mother and sister from 1808, and became a published author, and remained until weeks before her death in 1817; Winchester Cathedral, her burial place.
• In Essex, church visitors will be entertained by the ‘all singing, all cycling’ male voice quartet, Song Cycle, who will be singing in around 30 churches near Colchester, taking in the Kelvedon and Mersea Island area.
• Riders+Striders in Cumbria can visit the charming Newlands Church based in the hamlet of Littletown - Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy Winkle was dedicated to the vicar’s daughter.
• In Dorset, fundraisers can stop by East Holme Church where in the 19th century wall paintings, texts and Coats of Arms were painted by Lady Selina Bond whilst bringing up 11 children and running a large household.
Following Team GB’s Olympic cycling successes, it’s possible to try out some special Ride+Stride cycling routes which are in place for 8 September. They include:
• In London, an off street route through East London from Barking Abbey to Waltham Abbey
• Spectacular routes through Cumbria taking in Penrith and Kendal
• In Somerset a 30 mile Ten Towers Route starting at Wedmore St. Mary
• In Oxfordshire routes taking in villages around Didcot and Abingdon
• The Golden Valley in west Herefordshire, an area of gently rolling countryside
• In Leicestershire an organised walk, ride and run in the picturesque Hallaton