Norfolk Churches Trust bike ride

There's still time to get in the saddle for an annual event which helps safeguard the future of some of Norfolk's most famous and beautiful landmarks. We look ahead to the Norfolk Churches Trust bike ride.

Imagine the Norfolk landscape without its magnificent medieval churches. It would be a very different view.

The county has an unrivalled collection of medieval churches - numbering more than 600. And preserving these ancient monuments is a massive - and costly - task.

Later this month you have the chance to help safeguard their future.

On September 12, thousands of people will get in the saddle to take part in the annual Norfolk Churches Trust bike ride, which is supported by the Eastern Daily Press. And there's still time to be one of them.

Entrants are sponsored for each church they visit, some of which aren't often open to the public, so not only is it a great day out with the opportunity to help maintain some of our most famous and beautiful landmarks thrown in, but it's also a chance to get acquainted, or reacquainted, with them and find out about their history.

This year's event is the 26th bike ride for the Norfolk Churches Trust. And it has become a national event, with almost every part of the country taking part on the same day. Norfolk did not quite lead the way - Suffolk was first in 1983, with Norfolk following a year later.

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Non-cyclists are also welcome to take part - walking or any form of non-motorised transport is allowed. Past riders have used horses and traps and also tricycles. There are no exact figures on how many people join in, but organisers estimate that it is 2,500 to 3,000 in Norfolk. More than 600 places of worship will be open, including redundant churches, Salvation Army citadels, Quaker meeting houses and Methodist chapels.

Organiser Geoff Wortley, one of the team working behind the scenes to ensure a successful event, will be among the riders on the day.

He is passionate about the cause, and the important role that church buildings play in our lives.

"In some areas the church is the last remaining public building open to all - corner shops and post offices have been closing.

"No one wants to see an empty skyline where a church has gone because of disrepair," he says.

"Many churches now, particularly in rural areas have diminishing congregations who simply cannot afford to do it all themselves, so we organise this event to get the public at large to assist in maintaining and ensuring the buildings are there for our children and our children's children to enjoy as much as we have."

Encouraging people to take part, Geoff says: "The reason we organise the ride is first of all to have a social occasion. Second, it's to introduce people to the wonderful heritage that we have in our county of more than 600 medieval churches - the most in Europe.

"Many of the churches are not normally seen by the public at large, some because they are locked, some because they are very remote.

"The money that we raise is used to keep these buildings in good order, for repair and maintenance and to see that the heritage they contain - the monuments, stained glass windows, the pews and carvings, are preserved and there for the next thousand years."

Last year the Norfolk ride raised �140,000.

The Suffolk event usually raises more money than any other part of the country - �173,000 last year - and is the main source of income for the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust. The Cambridgeshire event is organised by the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust and raised �26,000 last year.

The Norfolk Churches Trust is keen to have pictures of people taking part in the ride for its archives. Send photographs to the secretary, Norfolk Churches Trust, The Old Church, St Matthew's Road, Norwich, NR1 1SP.

See www.edp24.co.uk/bikeride for a sponsor form and a full list of participating churches.