Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust

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Cinderford Churches Ride + Stride Report

All three parish churches around the Cinderford Benefice were involved in the GHCT Ride + Stride event this year. St. Ethelbert’s held their annual Book Sale to coincide with having the church open for Ride + Stride. The church was open all morning and Ann Ladd reports they did have a few cyclists come to sign in and have a well-earned drink.

Jim Duffin and his son in law were pedalling away on an exercise bike as St Ethelbert’s contribution to the event. John, Eve, Nancy, Peter and Nicola from St John’s Church ‘strode’ around the churches in Gloucester. During the day they walked to 24 places of worship in Gloucester which included two mosques, two spiritual churches and a redundant church. They report that they were made very welcome in the churches that were open and had a lovely cup of tea and flapjack at the last church which was the Quaker Meeting Place. Sponsorship money raised to date is in excess of £200.

Chris Witham and Andy Cole ‘rode’ around churches in the Forest. Chris writes:

“Well we’d never normally go out for a ride on a day like this!” was Andy’s positive spin as we stood in the shelter of my porch staring out at the torrential rain bouncing off our bikes. Normally the more optimistic of the two of us when we’re out on the bikes, his home-made waterproof trousers gave him even more reason to be happier than me as we faced Ride + Stride 2016. I’m normally happy to be out on my bike after a week at work, but that day, I’d have been content to stay in the shed taking photos of my bike and GeoBar for the #GeoActive campaign. Nevertheless, we set out into the wet and we weren’t into the woods before I was soaked through. Still, Mitcheldean was a relaxed downhill roll away avoiding the slippery white lines on the Plump followed shortly after by a friendly welcome at the Heritage Open Day in Abenhall featuring work from students at Andy’s school. They encouraged us to visit Flaxley on our way up to Littledean which at least made us feel we deserved a cake despite it only being stop number four. It was great to see so many people at St Ethelbert’s and to receive such a warm welcome.

Braving the weather at St Ethelbert's

Braving the weather at St Ethelbert’s


Another good downhill run took us to St Peter’s Newnham with great views out over the misty river, followed by Awre and on to Blakeney where we visited both the Anglican and Baptist churches to bring us up to eight in quick succession. A longer stretch then followed as we climbed back up to Viney Hill, both glad of the extra effort required as we were rather cold by this stage. We reminisced about past Ride + Stride’s that we’d done with our Dads. Andy remembered ridiculously big hills and I thought back to all the churches in Chesterfield that we used to visit, much closer together!

Gathering momentum and heading back on to more familiar territory, we visited two chapels in Yorkley and the old Methodist church in Pillowell before riding into a head wind along the B4234 approaching Parkend, All Saints and lunch at Dean Forest Cycles. We’d covered 25 miles and were definitely ready for pasties but I knew the day was long from over and even if we headed straight home, it was 8.5 miles up hill. Instead of home, we headed for Coleford passing the old iron works and two steam powered tractor engines before calling in at Ellwood Methodist.

St Margaret’s, Coleford Baptist and St John’s brought our total to 17 as we started debating the need for cake, the call of dry clothes in Cinderford or pushing on to get even more churches. The weather had started to dry up by now and Coalway Methodist and The Church of the Good Shepherd were another easy two stops along the ridge as we made our way to number 20, Christ Church.

All smiles at Christchurch, English Bicknor

All smiles at Christchurch, English Bicknor

It never occurred to me that we might only be two thirds of the way to our total by this stage. We left English Bicknor quickly to the tune of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, not wanting to stick around and gatecrash the wedding before turning the corner by the river to start the long climb from Lower Lydbrook to the top of Ruardean Hill.

As we approached St John the Baptist (24) we had a phone call to say Rachel and Kate were getting ready to pack up at St Stephen’s and we needed to be quick if we wanted cake! Given the lack of churches serving cake since Littledean, we didn’t hang about at any of the three churches in Drybrook on our way to a wonderfully sunny Cinderford. We dropped out of the woods to Bilson Mission and then rode up the High Street to the Methodist Church and St Stephen’s completely oblivious that I’d ripped a rather large hole in the back of my shorts!

The welcoming team at St John's Church

The welcoming team at St John’s Church

We were so glad to finally get some more sustenance and a drink but we weren’t quite done. Our Lady of Victories, St John’s and the Baptist Church rounded out a total of 30 churches, 48.2 miles, 6 hours of riding, 4160ft of climbing and a great sense of achievement. I’d like to say a massive thank you to Andy for planning the route and taking it easy on me by ‘flattening the route out’ and also to everyone who has sponsored us. We’ve raised around £150.

Christopher Witham

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