HUNDREDS of cyclists came out in force to take part in the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge starting in Watchet on Sunday 23rd April. The 55-mile route started at Watchet Harbour at 10.30am and finished in the Dorset seaside resort of West Bay.
A shorter 11-mile route started at the Royal Oak public house in Drimpton at 2.00pm and also finished at West Bay. Taking part in the event were former patients who had experienced the work of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance first-hand, others cycled in memory of loved ones, as a personal challenge, or as a team.
The cyclists were set off from Watchet with a 10 second countdown. Watchet Town Crier, David Milton wished everyone luck and rang his bell loudly in the normal manner. The road was lined with supporters who constantly cheered and clapped as the cyclists rode by.
There were three pit-stops along the route at Ilminster, Bishops Lydeard and Drimpton. Each provided a well-earned rest and refreshments for that that wanted it. The finish line was a buzz of atmosphere, with music and interviews being played out from Keep106, kids and adults having a fun time on the brilliant steam trains and everyone enjoying the refreshments available on offer.
There were so many inspirational stories of courage, determination and triumph that were heard, with many hugs and tears shed with families, friends and loved ones. Although the event is not a race, the first male to cross the finish line was Freddie Mackay and the first female was Rachel Collins.At 80 years young, Ed Highnam, a long-serving volunteer of the charity from Sturminster Newton, was the oldest participant who completed the challenging 55-mile route, whilst Adam Tye (aged 15) from North Petherton was the youngest.
The youngest child to start the 11-mile route from Drimpton was 10-year-old Isabel Swancutt from Bridport; she was also the first to finish. Emma Jones, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Fundraising Manager, praised the efforts of the cyclists and those that were involved in the organisation of the day: “What a beautiful day we all had. Everyone who took part this year should be so very proud. Not only for their achievements of completing the challenge, but for raising funds to support our life-saving work.
"So far, this year’s event has raised over £45,000, which is simply incredible. A huge thank you to everyone who helped to organise the event, including our incredible volunteers and wonderful sponsors.
“Our next event is a NEW cycling challenge called Race From The Base. It takes place at our Henstridge airbase on Saturday 10th June and there are three different distances available. We’d love to see it well supported, so if you fancy joining us for the ride, sign up soon. We would love to see you there.”
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance would like to thank all of those who supported the event including: Bicycle Chain, Bishops Lydeard Football Club, Carly Press Printing, Cotswold First Aid, Espressoul, Garador, Glastonbury Spring Water, Hall and Woodhouse, Hunts Food Group, Ilminster Ambulance Station, Keep106, Paul Ritchie and his steam trains and The Royal Oak Pub Drimpton.
More information about the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance can be found by visiting: www.dsairambulance.org.uk or by calling: 01823 669604.