TV presenter Fern Britton joined 500 cyclists in the sixth annual Chilterns Cycle Challenge yesterday (Sunday, March 20).
Keen cyclist Fern and all the other participants tackled the 35-mile challenge in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice Care, which provides nursing services for patients in Herts and Bucks with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.
The former This Morning presenter, who has done the challenge three times before, said: “I love the spirit of the participants and I love the countryside; the Chilterns are just beautiful.
“I’ve ridden the 10k route previously as well and that’s fantastic too – perfect for kids as it’s all on cycle paths.
“Together we’re raising a great amount of money for the Rennie Grove nurses to care for patients in their own homes.”
Fern cycled with two friends from the week-long cycle challenges she has done in the past.
Together the ladies have taken on routes in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam – averaging 60 miles a day over five days - and completed the famous Lands End to John O’Groats route of more than 1,000 miles.
The challenging Chiltern Hills were good practise for their next long-distance charity cycle, touring the Scottish Highlands in May.
Participants travelled from as far afield as London – Rob Marriner and Dan Doherty had discovered the event when searching for a challenging ride around the end of March – and even the South West.
Six family members and friends came all the way from Bristol to take part after the charity cared for Karen Harborne from Chesham last year.
Karen’s brother, Kevin Grainger and his wife Carole were joined by Natalie Grainger, Ben Jones and John and Margery Carr, with the men taking on the 75-mile route and the ladies the 35-mile option.
Carole said: “What an amazing day; we have had such a great time. We are all absolutely shattered but it’s for Karen today.
“We wanted to do something together in her memory and we hope she would be proud of us.
“Rennie Grove were wonderful in their care for Karen and she was able to stay at home right until the end. “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to take part and raise over £1,000 to help the charity continue to care for other patients and families. Thank you to everyone for making it such a memorable day.”
The group had a drama on the way up on the M4 after their new bike rack decided to relinquish its hold on Kevin’s bike in the middle lane of the motorway.
The bike was retrieved safely and even its slightly battered condition did not deter Kevin from taking part.
Other cyclists taking on the 35 miles out to Kimble, Longwick and as far as Bledlow Ridge, then returning to Aylesbury through the Hampdens and Butlers Cross, included husband and wife team, Abby and Richard Fermont from Wilstone, were taking on the 35-mile challenge for the first time following good experiences in another of Rennie Grove’s mass participation events and a recommendation from friends.
“My sister and I have walked the Chilterns 3 Peaks Challenge several times,” said Abby, “but this is the first cycle challenge that Richard and I have done together!”
Five employees from Eltek in Hemel Hempstead came together to ride the 35-mile route for the second year running.
Debbie Lewis, Phil Hardy, Alan Petty, Sean Power and Ian Lewis were looking forward to their first cycling event of the year.
Phil said: “The Chilterns Cycle Challenge offers great routes and is very well organised, so we’re really pleased to be back and raising some money.”
Those taking part in the 75-mile route, which covered parts of Dacorum too, were experienced cyclists who wanted to push themselves.
For Neil Joyce, from Tring, the event was a real comeback success story: “I fell off my bike two years ago and broke my legs and couldn’t walk.
“I saw this challenge and really wanted to push myself to get back on the bike and throughout the whole of winter I trained really hard and it’s so rewarding standing here today at the finish line of the Chilterns Cycle Challenge having done 75 miles.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it and saw some amazing views. If anyone out there thinks they can’t do it - trust me - they can! It’s been a great day for a great cause.”
Gillian Barnett, Rennie Grove’s Director of Fundraising and Marketing, said: “It’s been a fantastic day with support from so many people.
“We are absolutely delighted with the response from the local community.
“It’s been great having Fern with us once again and we’re really hoping that we’ll be able to smash our target of £40,000 for this event and fund thousands of hours of specialist care so more local families can benefit from our 24/7 responsive service in their own home.
“We’d like to thank everyone who took part today for the wonderful support. It was obvious that participants enjoyed the challenge and everyone was so appreciative of our lovely marshals who stood for many hours to ensure our cyclists’ safety and to cheer them along the way.
“Without these fantastic volunteers we would not be able to run the event and we are so grateful to them for the time they gave up today and to the many other people who have helped in so many ways.
“I would particularly like to thank staff from the Kingsbury Pub for getting up early to serve food and hot drinks to participants, Buckingham Bikes for their help in ensuring that our cyclists’ bikes stayed in good working order and GBEMS for their help with first aid.
“It is heart-warming to see a community come together like this to support a service that is making a real difference to so many right on our doorsteps.
“Thank you everyone – and we look forward to seeing you again next year!”