An MBE recipient who helped pioneer a thriving annual fundraising event has died aged 85.

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Frances Parkinson was president and former chairman of the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT), and co-founder of the annual Historic Churches Sponsored Bike Ride.

Mrs Parkinson was on the board of trustees when the Suffolk bike ride began, and chaired the national bike ride group when the success of the local event led to interest from other counties.

Established with Judith Foord and Julia Henniker, the first ride took place in September 1982 and raised £58,110. In the last 30 years the fundraising total has reached almost £4million.

Trustee Diana Hunt said: “Each bike ride day, Frances and her fellow churchwardens welcomed visitors to their church at Hoo, near Woodbridge in Suffolk.

“They manned the church for eight hours each bike ride day for the next 26 years until failing health forced Frances to take a less active part.

“Frances believed in partnership and the personal touch. She led the trust with enthusiasm and set herself a very high standard which she expected those about her to emulate.

“Her contribution has been huge and anyone who loves and appreciates the magnificent churches of Suffolk will be sad at her passing but eternally grateful for her tireless commitment to the trust.”

Today, a total of 32 counties hold a Historic Churches Trust Sponsored Bike Ride on the same day each year – an achievement for which Mrs Parkinson was awarded the MBE.

In 2012, more than £155,000 was raised by cyclists and walkers on the Suffolk Historic Churches Bike Ride.

The 2013 Bike Ride will be on Saturday, September 14. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT).

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