Stamford: Homeless Charity Cyclists Pedalling 200 Miles

  Posted: 20.08.21 at 13:08 by Keith Andrew Busfield

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The figures astound – 40 people, 32 cyclists (a record) including bikes, 200 miles cycled, over £20,000 being raised for charity, 500 or more meals needed, floor space for 3 nights for everyone whilst sleeping at least 2 metres apart. Oh, and don’t forget the showers – something rough sleepers really miss.

Add in the challenges of COVID, social distancing, the understandably cautious reopening of halls, churches and other venues who have previously generously hosted the cyclists and it has all added up to an organisational nightmare!

Not to be disheartened though, the charity cycle ride is still going ahead with overnight stays in Grantham, Geddington, and Dunstable. Last year over £22,000 was raised to help the long-term homeless into safe accommodation and a more settled and secure life.

The 2021 Queen Eleanor Cycle Ride takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend (27-30 August 2021) raising funds to support the work of The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields with homeless and vulnerable people in central London.

Funds are urgently needed to help more people make a fresh start away from the streets. The Connection is based a few yards from the site of one of the original Queen Eleanor crosses in Trafalgar Square.

The cycle ride follows the route of the 12 Queen Eleanor Crosses from Lincoln to London. Each of the crosses was built by King Edward 1st to provide a focus for prayers for his wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile.

Out Practicing for This Year's Ride

The cyclists route includes:

Harby Church in Nottinghamshire, close to where Queen Eleanor died in 1290, and the starting point with cyclists descending on the village from all around the UK.

Lincoln, where Queen Eleanor’s visceral tomb sits proudly in the corner of the cathedral, plus the fundraisers visit the site of the original Queen Eleanor Cross which once stood in St Catherine’s, just outside the city.

Grantham – the cross in St Peter’s Hill may have largely vanished during the English Civil War, but there’s a plaque to commemorate the funeral cortege stopping in Grantham and the building of the cross. The cyclists are all staying overnight on Friday on the stone floors of St Wulfram’s Church, suitably distanced of course!

Stamford – quite where the original Queen Eleanor Cross was sited is subject to debate. What’s not in question is the quality of the lunch at the All Saints’ and St John’s Unity Centre or the location modern Queen Eleanor memorial.

Three of the Queen Eleanor Cyclists in Sheepmarket

Feeding bellies not bins meanwhile is the motto of Second Helpings, Stamford, and when help was sought in feeding the cyclists Rev Andy Fyall, Chair of Second Helpings, responded: “A charity saving food waste helping a charity to help the homeless – seems like a no brainer to me!”

Geddington – home to probably the best remaining Queen Eleanor Cross, cyclists will be dotted round the floors of the village for the Saturday night, with dinner kindly hosted by the Star Inn. The procession into the village includes the Queen Eleanor fire engine, a 1953 fire tender which was originally based at RAF Bitteswell near Lutterworth.

Northampton includes lunch in Delapre Abbey where Queen Eleanor’s body rested in 1290 and a visit to the recently restored Queen Eleanor Cross, standing proudly up on the hill.

Stony Stratford once was the site of one of the crosses. Now the stunning Queen Eleanor mural adorns a wall in the middle of town, fittingly outside a bike shop.

Woburn is famous for its Abbey – another resting place of Queen Eleanor – and it was also once home to an Eleanor Cross.

Dunstable is last stop after a long day’s cycling.

St Albans has a plaque on the Clock Tower which commemorates the Eleanor cross.

Waltham Cross has one of the three remaining crosses. It’s then onwards to Waltham Abbey and down into London.

Cheapside with all the hustle and bustle of London, displays a new commemorative stone celebrating the cross that once stood there.

Charing Cross is almost the end of the cycling challenge. The cross though is not the original cross, nor is it in the right place. The replica cross was built in the 19th century to market the railway station and its hotel.

Westminster Abbey is where Queen Eleanor’s body rests in a tomb tucked away in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, complete with a gilt bronze effigy cast in 1291. After over 200 miles cycling it’s also somewhere for the cyclists to take a breather before heading off to The Connection – the very reason for the fundraising.

The Connection at St Martin’s is at the heart of the capital’s response to homelessness. About 1 in 13 of everyone forced to sleep rough in England is found in Westminster, more than any other local authority.

When the first lockdown closed traditional day and night centres, there was a national drive to get people into hotels in order to self-isolate – with everyone pulling together to make this happen.

The Connection remained on the frontline running two hotels, offering food, beds, access to health services and well-being support. However, simply giving people a roof over their head is not always enough – many people have other needs that must be addressed in order to enable them to recover from homelessness and thrive in a home.

Lisa Wilkinson from Geddington has had the huge responsibility of finding places for all the cyclists and their bikes to stay – a huge challenge with the shifting sands of everyone’s differing responses to COVID.

She says: “The lockdown has been difficult for so many of us. The bike ride brings people together at a time when we’ve all experienced the isolation and loneliness of the past year. In raising money for the homeless, it helps those most in need – people who don’t have a home that’s warm and safe for the night, let alone a lock on the door.”

Keith Busfield from Stamford first joined the ride over 10 years ago, since when it’s grown year by year.

He said: “I have a bed for the night. I have a roof over my head. A lock on the door. A hot shower after a hard day’s cycling. Then there’s food on the table each day. I feel so lucky!! That’s why I’m raising money to assist the homeless.”

All donations, however large or small, are hugely welcome via Virgin Money Giving.

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