How to raise money for the Vintners’ Foundation is a perennial issue. It has become customary in the past few years for the Company to hold a specific fundraising event, either for the Vintners’ Foundation or for another charity, or both. The ‘Champagne Walks’ in 2006 and 2010 and the March for Mobility in Beaune in 2012 are examples. This year the Mistress had the inspired idea of a sponsored bike ride, to raise money both for the Vintners’ Foundation and for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal for disabled children.
A number of options were discussed in terms of where to start the ride and where to finish, bearing in mind the need to keep the distance realistic but challenging. Eventually the idea of ‘City to Surf’ was born. It met the criteria exactly – not too lengthy in terms of time, but enough of a challenge to encourage sponsorship.
Early planning began six months ahead, and the event took place from 28th-30th June 2015, at the end of the Master’s year. As the time approached, more detailed planning got underway led by Glenn Roberts, the Office Manager. An enthusiastic amateur cyclist, he had an innate understanding of what was needed, and of the level of detail required. A small planning committee was put together, comprising the Master & Mistress, Glenn, Freeman Charlie Hamilton, the Clerk and the General Manager. Every detail and contingency was planned in depth. A sophisticated support structure was put in place; special clothing and equipment were ordered, including shirts sponsored by various wine trade companies; the route was planned down to the last yard; instructions were issued; and the stage set for the challenge to begin.
23 cyclists volunteered to take part, each one having to pay £50 to enter, and undertaking to raise at least £500 in sponsorship money. The team, including support crew plus professional bike mechanic, assembled in the Hall on Saturday 27th June for preliminary briefings, supper and last minute pre-flight checks. Local accommodation was provided by the Company.
The following morning, at 08:00 hours, our very own Alderman & Sheriff Dr Andrew Parmley, accompanied by his wife Wendy, nobly volunteered to sacrifice a rare lie-in to see the team off from outside the Hall. The ride started well and the route out of London, early on a Sunday morning, was relatively straightforward. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop a couple of cyclists going astray in Richmond Park – happily the only time anyone became geographically embarrassed during the next three days. After a first stop at Fairoaks airfield near Woking and then a lunch stop at Preston Candover village hall in mid-Hampshire, the team was beginning to split naturally into three groups. This was to remain the case for the rest of the route. By the time everyone had reached Preston Candover it had started to rain, but this was to be the only rain during the course of the three days. At the end of Day 1 the cyclists had reached Salisbury, some 100 miles from Vintners’ Hall.
Day 2 started well and good progress was made, but the topography was starting to become more challenging. The first stop, on the edge of Cranborne Chase, just south of Shaftesbury, afforded some excellent views across the Dorset countryside. Lunch was again in a village hall, this time in Hinton St George, east of Yeovil. By the end of the day, the cyclists had reached Exeter and were ready for an evening meal and a refreshing glass or two of something restorative in the ‘Mill on the Exe’, on the banks of the eponymous river.
Day 3 promised the biggest challenge, as indeed proved to be the case. Straight out of Exeter, the long uphill ride onto Dartmoor started on a misty, grey morning. By the time the cyclists had reached the top the mist had lifted to reveal a glorious day, albeit slightly warmer than might have been wished for. However luck was on the cyclists’ side as the usual prevailing westerly wind was replaced by an east wind, thereby assisting rather than hindering the going. Psychologically, the most challenging hill of all came after Dartmoor, at Gunnislake. It seemed an interminable uphill struggle, just after everyone thought they had covered the worst. By this stage there was quite a distance between the lead and rear groups. The lead group reached the final destination, Trevornick Holiday Park near Newquay, by mid afternoon. The rear group arrived some three hours later. Nonetheless a cool beer was awaiting them all on the beach – the perfect way to unwind following such a sterling effort. A slap-up dinner followed at Trevornick to which all cyclists, supporters and followers were invited.
It was a fitting end to an excellent event which had gone precisely according to plan and without accident or mishap. It had also succeeded in raising over £55,000 for the Vintners’ Foundation and the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, a great achievement by any standards.
Those cyclists who took part were:
The Master (Rupert Clevely); Liverymen Will Butler-Adams, David Chittick, James Davy, Daniel Dix, Tom Everington, Ian Harris, Alex Hingston, Annabel Hunt, John Mansfield and Phil Tuck; Freemen Charlie Hamilton, Paul Letheren, Will Nall, John Thorne and Tim Tweedy; guests and friends Bertie Brooks, Mark Cliff, Johnny Glover, Rob Hartley, Gayle Vickers and Mark Wood. Last (not in the literal sense) but by no means least was our own indomitable Office Manager, Glenn Roberts.