CYCLISTS and walkers banded together across the Havant area to raise money for church repairs and preservation.
The annual Ride and Stride fundraiser saw hundreds of people hiking and pedalling between places of worship and stopping for a chat and cup of tea along the way.
Hilary Deadman, of Havant, co-ordinates the Ride and Stride events taking place at Havant’s St Faith’s Church.
She said the fundraiser had a strong social element which encouraged a lot of people to take part.
‘People are welcomed,’ she said. ‘At every church there are stewards who offer people refreshments, tea, cakes, squash and a chat.
‘It’s a good, fun day because you’re always meeting other riders and people taking part.
‘Some people here are not necessarily from any church.
‘They’re just doing it for the fun of it and because they recognise the importance of churches in our area.
‘We’ve just got such a lovely area to cycle in, too.’
There were about 30 churches from the area involved in the Ride and Stride, including St Peter’s on Hayling Island, All Saints in Denmead, the Good Shepherd in Waterlooville and Hart Plain Church in Cowplain.
Organisers hope more than £1,500 would be raised for the Hampshire and the Islands Historic Churches Trust, matching last year’s figure.
Mrs Deadman said churches were still vital to the lifeblood of many towns and villages.
She said: ‘Churches, in many places, are the most important part of the community. For example, here at St Faith’s, we’re open every day of the week, and many people come into the church to light a candle and find peace and quiet.
Churches offer friendship and support to people in need.
‘People also love visiting churches because they have a certain significance for them – it’s the place they got married or where their parents’ funeral was held.
‘There are a lot of memories for people.’
Mrs Deadman said many churches were also heritage-listed buildings and were worth preserving for their historical significance.
Money raised will go towards fixing church roofs and other essential preservation works.