ADVENTURER AND CHIEF SCOUT Bear Grylls is among a group of celebrities and church leaders supporting this yearâ€™s Ride+Stride open churches day on Saturday, 13 September 2014.
The event, running from 10am to 6pm, aims to raise Â£1.5 million to help safeguard the future of Englandâ€™s historic churches, chapels and meeting houses, and you could be part of that effort in Surrey this year.
Dr Sarah MacKay, from St Maryâ€™s Church, Fetcham, has been involved with the Ride+Stride in Leatherhead ever since it came to Surrey 17 years ago.
'Weâ€™ve really seen a difference in our church'
Sarah said: â€œI just think itâ€™s a great chance to visit beautiful churches and go for a cycle ride on a nice day. You get this great sense of achievement by the time you reach your 20th church which feels amazing.
â€œWeâ€™ve really seen a difference in our church as a result of the money from the event. I am fully behind everything the Ride+Stride stands for â€“ how else do we get people interested in church heritage? Itâ€™s real outreach, making the church visible and part of the community.â€
Sponsored individuals or groups map their own route around places of worship, then ride, run, walk or jog round the course.
As an additional perk, many churches offer visitors delicious refreshments and an opportunity to look around.
Half the money you raise is given to a church of your choice, and the other half to the Surrey Churches Preservation Trust (SCPT) for churches in need.
More than Â£250,000 has been raised for Surrey churches through the Ride+Stride since 1997, with Â£21,000 raised last year.
With the Church of Englandâ€™s 12,500 listed churches alone facing an estimated repair backlog of Â£60 million according to MP Sir Tony Baldry, the money raised by Ride+Stride is a vital lifeline to many places of worship unable to afford the high cost of looking after buildings that are often several hundreds of years old.
'Help ensure that historic churches remain at the heart of our national heritage'
Adventurer, television presenter and Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, is urging people to discover Englandâ€™s most beautiful churches and chapels to help ensure they survive for future generations.
He said: â€œMany historic churches and chapels are battling to survive. Roofs leak, ancient timbers rot and medieval stonework crumbles.
â€œNow you can help by joining the Ride+Stride adventure, a sponsored bike ride or walk discovering beautiful churches, which also raises money for their repair and preservation.
â€œWherever you go, your Ride+Stride adventure will help ensure that historic churches remain at the heart of our national heritage and local communities for generations to come.â€
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will be showing his support for the event by greeting cyclists and walkers departing from St Maryâ€™s Church in Lydiard Country Park, Swindon, Wiltshire.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is backing Ride+Stride in Yorkshire, which, following the success of the Yorkshire leg of the Tour de France, has been re-named the â€˜Tour dâ€™Eglisesâ€™ (Tour of Churches).
A chance to peek behind the scenes
Over 8,000 places of worship will open specially to welcome visitors on Ride+Stride Saturday, a day which also sees many other historic buildings open for Heritage Open Days. In London Ride+Stride will take place on 20 September, to co-incide with Open House London.
Many churches will be showcasing their First World War centenary heritage on Ride+Stride, and in Hampshire and the Islands, a number of churches will have special trails to follow, highlighting memorials and history.
In London, professional guides will lead tours of City of London churches with connections to the First World War.