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Former RAF man rides to the help of Norfolk churches

PUBLISHED: 10:36 16 August 2012

Pedal around the Pulpits, cyclists Edmond McGregor (L to R) Donna Heenan, Margaret Stevenson, Tom Jones and Andy White ready to set off from St Mary's Church in Redgrave on the charity cycle ride.

Pedal around the Pulpits, cyclists Edmond McGregor (L to R) Donna Heenan, Margaret Stevenson, Tom Jones and Andy White ready to set off from St Mary's Church in Redgrave on the charity cycle ride.

Archant

Former RAF serviceman Andy White knows a thing or two about overcoming tough challenges.

For after serving in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia as an armourer during the Gulf War, the 58-year-old suffered from post traumatic stress disorder which caused him to suffer flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares and sleepless nights which in his own words “messed me up a lot.”

But he found the courage to confront his problems and became involved with his local church in Claydon through his wife Margaret, 58, helping out with tasks around the church.

Through this involvement, he became a fundraiser for the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which raises money for the preservation of churches and he has organised an initiative called Pedal around the Pulpits, which involves cycle rides in the Suffolk and Norfolk area visiting CCT churches, some of which need urgent repairs.

Anyone can participate in the three tours and all the money raised is going towards preserving historic churches.

The first ride took place yesterday when a five-strong group embarked on a medium-distance ride which left St Mary’s Church in Redgrave for a 25-mile journey around churches at Sapiston, Stanton and Rickinghall before returning to Redgrave. The next adventure will be the longer distance ride leaving All Saints Church in Icklingham at 9.30am on Sunday and including visits to West Harling, Stanton and Wortwell, as well as Thetford Forest and Hockwold, before returning to Icklingham.

The final ride will be a shorter distance trip for families starting from St Michael the Archangel church in Booton at 10am on August 24.

Last year, Mr White completed a gruelling 12-day 678-mile cycle challenge visiting 72 churches across East Anglia which raised £1,200 for the CCT and provided the inspiration for his latest fundraising drive.

He added: “Being involved with the CCT has given me something to focus on and I have found it very relaxing and enjoyable. During my cycle trip I was able to meet some fantastic people.

“I am not an avid churchgoer, but I am interested in the history of these churches and I think it would be such a shame to lose this.” Emily Barrett, a community fundraising officer with the CCT, said while churches in big cities and towns were generally well supported and maintained, there were some in more rural areas which did not have a fundraising group to look after them, but needed urgent maintenance, such as a Stanton church on the cycle route, which did not have a roof.

The aim is to raise £5,000 from the cycle rides, enough to maintain a church for a year.

She said: “We are hoping to get people involved on the cycle routes who do not know about the church and to raise their awareness of the role and history of the churches in their community and the importance of maintaining them.

To donate, visit www.visitchurches.org.uk. Alternatively, join the cycle ride on one of the three dates specified to donate to the cause.

dominic.bareham2@archant.co.uk

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