Since the 1950s the Sussex Historic Churches Trust has been giving grants or interest-free loans to help fund essential repairs to churches of architectural or historic interest in the county.
In the years since, a number of places of worship in the Midhurst and Petworth area have had their share.
But there comes a payback time for their congregations and the communities of towns and villages who – while they may not use them much – would oppose any suggestion their churches should close.
The annual Ride & Stride event, where sponsored cyclists, walkers and even horse riders raise money for the trust by visiting as many churches as possible in one day, is one such opportunity to replenish the trust’s coffers.
This year it takes place on Saturday, September 10. John Andre, from Woolbeding, is not only area organiser for Midhurst, but divisional organiser for the whole of West Sussex. And he is currently on a mission of encouragement to increase the number of people participating.
He explained why: “Last year in Sussex we raised over £50,000. Under the terms of the event, half of this was paid back to the parishes.
“In the same period the trust paid out £64,800 to 13 parishes in sums between £3,000 and £10,000.”
Mr Andre laments that generally there is not much enthusiasm in the parishes of the Rother Valley – his main patch – to get well-organised on the day. That does not mean dusting down your bicycle or putting on your walking boots; rather it means ensuring churches are manned to give cyclists and walkers a warm welcome, refreshments and a chance to look around.
“It is disappointing when you struggle to get to a church and find it locked or deserted,” he said.
“What we really want is an individual in each parish to get some enthusiasm going and ensure every church has someone there to give a welcome on that day.”
For those who consider playing an active role and giving Ride & Stridee a go this year, a map has been devised showing the location of numerous churches to be visited along the A272 between Rogate and Petworth, and to the north and south.
Participants are being encouraged to choose the route and distance they want to cover.
A sketch map of the churches and distances between each one can be obtained from www.rideandstride.info, sponsor forms from parish organisers, or forms and more information from John Andre on 01730 816670.