Fundraisers gear up to keep local churches open for communities

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Local people are invited to take part in the annual sponsored Bike ‘n Hike on Saturday 9 September to raise money to repair historic churches in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and help preserve them for the future.

Bike ‘n Hike is the main annual fundraiser for Beds and Herts Historic Churches Trust (BHHCT) which gives grants to repair local churches and chapels. In the past 20 years, the event has raised over £2 million to help maintain church buildings as vital centres for communities, and repairs to these buildings are not cheap.

In 2022, the Beds and Herts Bike ‘n Hike raised over £91,000 and organisers are hoping for even more successful fundraising this year. Anyone can take part and you don’t have to be a churchgoer.

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In the run-up to the big day, organisers are inviting more people to join in and help raise over £100,000 from this one-day event which sees walkers and cyclists being sponsored to visit churches and chapels in the two counties. Some 600 churches will be open for people to visit with many hosting events such as Heritage Days or afternoon teas, whilst welcoming Bike ‘n Hike visitors.

Half of the sponsorship money raised goes to the local church nominated by the person taking part and the rest goes to the Trust to give out as grants for the repair of church buildings. In 2022-23, BHHCT gave out over £150,000 to repair local church buildings.

Madeline Russell, Trustee and organiser of the Bike ‘n Hike said:

“The more people who take part, the bigger the boost for local churches and the money available for grants. There are no set routes – you can really do it your own way. We’ve had people in groups with children, pushing teddy bears in buggies, cycling, hiking across the Downs, driving a mobility scooter, even horse-riding, or taking the train to walk round London’s churches. We know that those who take part have a great day out.

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“When many people’s finances are stretched already, it may seem a lot to ask for sponsorship, but these church buildings give back so much and they are essential to local communities.

Historic church of St Paul's, Bedford, was awarded £10,000 for repairs this year.Historic church of St Paul's, Bedford, was awarded £10,000 for repairs this year.
Historic church of St Paul's, Bedford, was awarded £10,000 for repairs this year.

“In many villages and towns, people often rely on their church as a place for community groups to meet – lunch clubs for older folk; pre-school groups; kids’ clubs, hobby groups, and foodbanks, as well as being places of worship and where people are baptised, married or buried. Many of these churches are hundreds of years old, and they are often the only public building in a village, but they cost a lot to maintain and repair.

“These church buildings are of great architectural interest, and contain our local history, with some going back 1,000 years. Imagine if the local church had to close because of repair costs: there is often nowhere else that can take its place and the loss would be sorely felt in the community.”

To take part, sign up with the Bike ‘n Hike organiser in your local church or chapel, or visit the Bike ‘n Hike pages on www.bedshertshct.org to set up a JustGiving page, and to download the documents to take part – a sponsor form and list of churches which will be open to visit.

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