The hottest day of the year so far seemed to be the perfect choice of day to set out on this year’s Ride and Stride. This annual charity event raises money for the Hampshire and the Islands Historic Churches Trust, an amazing body which helps keep churches like ours on our feet, so to speak. A few years ago we received a very generous grant from the HIHCT to help with our windows restoration, so we are always very keen to help them out in return. And the joy of the Ride and Stride event is that while half of the money raised goes to them, half of it comes back to us and goes straight into our Fabric Trust.

Sadly this year my riding companions of old, Rhod Powell and Ben Collins, had cried off due to lack of availability, hum hum, and so off I set on my tod as the sun began to rise. Starting at Shalfleet, I headed down to Thorley, where I found the most amazing spread of goodies laid out in honour, not of my arrival, but their regular coffee morning.

Too early in the day to enjoy this, I headed on to Yarmouth, where I found Michael Beavis helping out with another coffee morning. This boded well for my trip, I thought.

Then on to Freshwater (where I resisted the temptation to nip in for a quick pint in the Red Lion, and then on to Freshwater Bay. The heat was rising…

Here I met a lady who had just come out of the sea, and the temptation to chuck it all in and go for a dip instead was quite high. But we Riders and Striders are made of sterner stuff, so on I went, up the hill towards Compton etc, and swerved off to take in Brook, where I refilled my water bottle.

Then down to Mottistone, Brighstone and Shorwell, where my dear friends Debra and Christopher took pity on me and fed me cold beer and cheese sandwiches. Delicious.

After lunch, with one eye on the fact that the dog was home alone and might want to be let out sooner rather than later, I whistled off towards Chale, taking in Kingston on the way. If ever there was an advertisement for why the HIHCT is so valuable as a charity, the rather sad sight of Kingston Church, padlocked and almost impossible to find, is surely it. I spent half an hour or so trying to locate the church, which I knew was there, but my goodness you have to be persistent if you want to actually find it. Eventually I was guided to a hidden set of steps leading up from an overgrown footpath, and there it was.

It was certainly worth the effort, but how sad that such a beautiful church is so hidden from view.

Anyway, after that it was on to Chale (where I grew up), with its church that absolutely screams the word smugglers to you.

And then it was homewards, back along the Round the Island cycle route towards Brighstone, where I hoovered a chocolate Magnum, ready for the climb up that hideous hill to Calbourne.

At Calbourne my friends Charles and Jane had managed successfully to be out just when I most needed a cup of tea, but there was a very jolly exhibition on in the church.

And from there I headed over to Newtown (last but not least), before popping back to Shalfleet to savour some delicious plums left there by Chloe for hungry visitors.

So all in all, a very enjoyable if rather tiring day in the saddle. I covered 40 miles and visited 13 churches, all in an excellent cause. At the time of writing I have raised over £500 for this amazing cause, and if anyone feels like adding to that total, please do! The link is here:

And many, many thanks to those of you who have already supported this cause. It is very much appreciated.