Now don’t get me wrong, I am no Bradley Wiggins. Since being at university I have barely ridden my bike (though cycling around campus and through the city is a favourite with many students here). I haven’t had time – normally in the holidays I’m too busy or the weather isn’t good enough. However, once a year my Dad and I make a point of taking part in a local bike ride.
The Ride and Stride is an event run by the Friends of Kent Churches as a way of getting members of the public to walk, cycle or even horse-ride their way around the churches of Kent to raise money and awareness. It started in 1982 in Suffolk and now over 30 counties take part.
I started riding with my Dad and my sister on the bike ride as soon as I was old enough to be deemed safe on the roads (with a helmet, of course!) and despite one or two years where I may have missed out, I have been visiting churches with my Dad every year since. Although it is a sponsored event (which is of course a highly important part of the whole thing) I mostly see it as an excuse to go on a bike ride. My family have been involved with the church over the years, and it was a big part of my childhood; but now that my participation in the church has dwindled, taking part in the Ride and Stride is much more of a tradition for us.
|My dad, my sister Katie and me (in the middle) on one of our many bike rides – September 2002, aged 11|
The morning was beautiful – hot, sunny, and no wind at all. The temperature did prove to be a problem, since I was so unfit, and I did overheat once or twice – but this was better than last year, when Dad and I got drenched in a heavy rainfall.
Since I was moving into my new flat the next day (a subject for a later blog, no doubt), and still had a considerable amount of packing to do, we didn’t want to be out too late. Dad decided that we would improvise on the way, heading to a number of local churches and visiting Nannie on the way so that I could say goodbye to her before returning to University. We set off from our local church, St Peter & St Paul in Teston, and headed down to our local riverside Country Park – a different route to last year.
|Me and Dad at St Peter & St Paul, Teston, ready to start the ride.|
|My dad outside Aylesford church, also called St Peter & St Pauls.|
This was particularly significant, since it was my parents' 28th wedding anniversary that day, and that was the church in which they were married. The best part was that we had turned up at the church at the same time as they would have been saying their vows 28 years ago – and I could tell this meant a lot to Dad. We then went on to have lunch at Aylesford Priory, somewhere that I had never been before, which looked lovely in the sunshine.
|A lovely place to enjoy a packed lunch and an ice cream!|
After popping into the church where Katie and I were christened and visiting Nannie for a well-earned glass of squash and a natter, we went to our final church in East Malling, another significant place for our family, before climbing the steep hill that would take us home. At this point, I had to give up, and pushed my bike up through the fields. The hot weather and weak muscles had gotten the best of me, despite my best efforts. Dad estimated we had ridden around 15 miles though, which is still pretty good for me – and by muscles certainly felt it the next day!
|Our route for the day, expertly mapped out with the help of Google Maps and Paint!|
It was a great way to end my summer at home, and was so much fun too. Though, like I said, I do not cycle here in Southampton, so many other students do – it’s fun, keeps you fit, and makes places easier to get to, sometimes halving the journey time! If you’re starting University in the next week, a bike is always an alternative – just make sure you get kitted out with a D-lock, to stop your mode of transport from being at risk of theft! And, most importantly, make sure you ride safely.