Ride & Stride 2019
The Friends’ ability to give financial help to Kent’s churches depends very largely on money raised by the annual Ride & Stride. The idea came from the Suffolk Historic Churches Preservation Trust about 40 years ago and it had spread to most parts of England outside London (where it has never taken off). Unfortunately in some areas it has begun to decline: there are a few counties which used to do it where Ride and Stride has been replaced by a churches open day and at least two – Derbyshire and Northumberland – where the county church trusts have closed down for lack of people to lead them and Ride and Stride has disappeared. Not so in Kent, where I am pleased to say it remains one of the largest community activities to take place in the county each year.
Kent is lucky in that it has an outstandingly good Ride and Stride committee underpinned by an excellent system of local organisers unmatched in most other counties. As a result, the county continues to out-perform almost all others. 2019 was a very good year. The total amount raised, including Gift Aid, was £140,602, an increase of 24% on 2018 and not that far short of the £150,483 raised in 2009, the best ever year. The reasons for this improvement are not clear, though the good weather must have played an important part. The number of churches open was slightly down on 2018, at 707; but the number with sponsored participants was up by 11% at 348 and the number of riders, walkers and sponsored church sitters was 8% higher at 956. The amount raised per person sponsored increased by almost 17% to about £150.
The estimated total number of visits to churches open on the day was up by about 5% at 10,200. However, this total is well below that achieved in 2009 when about 16,300 visitors came.
The church which raised the most money was again All Saints, Ulcombe, at £2,626 and the church with the largest number of participants was again St Peter & St Paul at Saltwood, where 57 people took part, including two groups, one of 17 adults and the other of 26 adults and children. The most visited church was St George, Ivychurch, seen by 106 people and Darren Blunden visited the largest number of churches, a staggering total of 82, bettering his total of 77 the previous year. Nigel Matcham was not far behind: he saw 80 churches.
Highlights of the day included Philip Harris of Headcorn cycling around 17 churches not in Kent but in the Ardeche in France (but our Ride & Stride was the beneficiary); 5 year old Henry Amos of Sevenoaks visited 8 churches in the town travelling on his scooter, with his grandmother trying to keep up; Sian Edwards’ family of six came from Cornwall to Greatstone to take part; the church of the Good Shepherd in Borough Green organised a four-parish pilgrimage walk visiting Ightham, Wrotham, Platt and Borough Green, singing a psalm and hymn at each church; and a group of 5 from Folkestone Methodist church walked to eight churches in the town, the group consisting of someone in a wheelchair, an eight-year-old, an adult and two therapy dogs.
Organising the day involves a huge effort by the committee and area organisers and the Friends are most grateful to them and the many participants and sponsors. Half the money raised by each participant goes to their own church, the other half coming to the Friends to finance our grants programme.
Ride & Stride has a new organiser
Last year’s annual report paid tribute to Carolyn Millen who has played such a vital role in organising the Ride & Stride over many years. Her role as county organiser has been taken on by Deborah Robinson to whom we are very grateful for being prepared to help our vibrant Ride & Stride to continue.
Roland Niblett, who has been treasurer of Ride & Stride for longer than most of us can remember, stands down from that role this year. Few can have made a greater contribution to Ride & Stride than Roland who, amongst other things, provides the statistics and stories in this part of the annual report. We wish him well. At the time of writing a successor had not been appointed.
Ride & Stride Saturday 12 September 2020
The next Ride & Stride day is on Saturday 12 September. Let us pray for good weather and that this tremendous collective effort to support the churches of Kent continues to flourish.