Last year we featured Marilyn Williams one of our septuagenarian bike ride participants, so we thought it would be great to catch up with her again and hear how the 2023 Bike Ride was for her.
Marilyn is also an ex pat who makes time every year to come back to Norfolk to take part in the Norfolk Churches Trust Bike Ride and Walk. As ever Marilyn thoroughly enjoyed her day, despite riding on one of the hottest days of the year. She managed 40 miles and visited 29 churches, before she ran out of time and daylight.
She persuaded the Hunstanton Union Church volunteers to be photographed with her at the start, these are the people who kept the church open to welcome other riders throughout the day.
Penny and Steve Tong at Hunstanton Union Church
Next stop was Heacham St Mary’s, where she bumped into Tony Groom, in his eighties and still riding for the event. She noted that St Mary’s Church is now surrounded by scaffolding as work has begun on building a new cupola and replacing the old bell. This is the village where her teaching career began, and she would love it if donations could be given to their funds for the restoration.
Tony Groom at Heacham St Mary
From Snettisham and Ingoldisthorpe it was on to Dersingham, where she was given a great welcome as their annual flower festival was taking place on the same day.
Bike Ride sign-in at Dersingham
After a welcome rest, a free coffee, and chats with some lovely people Marilyn rode on past colourful autumn hedgerows to Shernborne and Fring.
Marilyn loves Fring for the beautiful medieval wall painting of St Christopher. It was so cool in the church after the increasing heat outside, so much so that she went barefoot on the stone flags, chatted to several folk and ate her lunch there.
Medieval wall painting at Fring
On to Docking. She says that the heat may have been affecting her as she rode straight past the church and when she realised she had missed it was just too weary to return!
Arriving in Stanhoe she found warning of ducks crossing the road and the village pond, but no church! Then, a very kind lady who lived nearby, gave directions, this time she did go back, but not before being plied with welcome iced water and a can of Pepsi Max from the lady’s fridge and also a donation to the cause.
Stanhoe church looking out
Somewhat refreshed and encouraged she rode on towards her eighth church town, Burnham Market. The downhill stretch through wonderful farmland was exhilarating. At the lovely deli in in Burnham Market she was remembered from last year and had a very welcome cuppa, more iced water, and a rest. With fresh energy she visited the town’s churches and rode out to Nelson’s church at Burnham Thorpe.
With the air having cooled Marilyn spent much too long enjoying the late afternoon sunshine on the village green alongside the carved statue of Lord Nelson himself.
Nelson’s statue, Burnham Thorpe
So, by the time she reached St Clements at Burnham Town it was time to don high viz jacket and switch on lights, with still the Carmelite Friary and St Margaret’s Burnham Norton to visit before another welcome downhill whizz to Burnham Deepdale.
Sadly, now well past 5pm the remaining churches on her list were all closed. There was still the nine-mile coast road back to Hunstanton and it was getting dark. She could still just see at Brancaster, but at Titchwell it was pitch black.
Pushing on to Thornham, her back light was red and flashing, but the front light was weaker, and she was being blinded by oncoming cars. It was too dangerous to go on. Eric’s famous fish and chips came to the rescue and locked her bike away for the night and her sister Heather collected her.
Marilyn particularly wanted to thank the many volunteers who keep the churches open and provide very welcome refreshments, also thanks go to Wild Ken Hill for another very generous donation, members of Hunstanton Rotary Club, Mr Bunn, a Hunstanton Baker, Thornham Artist Shirley Carnt, plus many neighbours, friends and members of Union Church who helped her to raise just under £500, and last but not least Mr Wallis, from A.E Wallis Cycles, Heacham, who lent her a full-size bike rather than her own little fold-up. He let her have it all the previous week without charge.
John Wallis of A E Wallis Cycles, Heacham
Despite the heat, time taken and disappointment at missing her last four churches Marilyn thoroughly enjoyed the day and hopes to do it again next year, albeit a bit faster, as it will be her penultimate Bike Ride before reaching 80. She thinks Mr Wallis may be able to help with an electric bike, though she still wants to peddle, just a little bit of power for those long slow inclines, which she had to walk up this year. She says ‘only non-cyclists think Norfolk is flat!
Whilst the Nelson statue might say ‘England expects’, the Norfolk Churches Trust doesn’t. We are however, very, very grateful to people like Marilyn who year on year support us by taking part in the Sponsored Bike Ride and Walk. Here’s to next year Marilyn!