AN upcoming event will help provide restoration funds for many Devon parish churches.
Ride and Stride, taking place on September 8, is a national event in which individuals are sponsored to walk, run or cycle between churches to raise necessary maintenance funds.
The event, which began in 1981, raised around £1.3m last year. It is hoped that a similar figure will be reached this year.
In East Devon, a number of churches have benefited from the charity donations and sponsorship of those involved. The funds are not simply used for restoration work, but also aid those involved within the church community to reach out to parish needs. Education and community activities are but two examples.
The results of the scheme's donations are highlighted by the improvements of St Andrew's Church, Feniton, damaged by the floods of 2008. The restoration, which took three years to complete, was partly funded by the efforts of the Ride and Stride campaign. Reverend Cate Edmonds of St Andrew's expressed her deepest thanks for the efforts of fundraisers.
Cate said: "The event can make such a difference to the oldest churches in the UK.
"Fundraisers have been very generous. They have certainly made a difference to the parish.
"All of my churches will be open on the day, including Feniton, Escot and Payhembury. I welcome people to become involved in the event."
While the event is on a national scale, the impact on local parishes is certainly large. With so many churches relying on donations, events such as Ride and Stride often provide even the smallest churches with the funds required for survival and help them to maintain links within the parish.
The Devon Historic Churches Trust, an organisation dedicated to funding repairs and maintenance of places of worship in the Diocese of Exeter and throughout Devon, supports this view, emphasising the local impacts of the scheme. The trust states: "On this day, we support the work of our wonderful churches. Devon's churches have been a central point of life in the county for centuries.
"With your help we can ensure that they remain so."
However, it is not only the charitable exercise that has proved popular. Many have commented that the initiative has provided parish unity, with fundraisers being brought together in aid of a common cause.
David Lanning, a resident of Feniton and churchwarden of St Andrew's, agreed that the Ride and Stride initiative has had a positive impact on his local community.
He said: "The village had been brought together by the initiatives with St Andrew's and, with the church's restoration, the community has been unified.
"Devon Historic Churches Trust has been very generous with its funds, and its work has provided a central location for all."
Participation in the event is free and easy and many parishes are sure to be involved on the day. Information about the event can be found by visiting www.rideandstrideuk.org