Guest Blogger: Cycling Event Celebrates Wiltshire Welcome and Landscape
Each Spring, since 1981, the London Marathon has been held in our Capital welcoming runners from all over the world. On the same day, unbeknownst to many, a sportive (a non-competitive long distance cycling event) is also held in our home county. A national cycling event borne from a desire to help others and a passion for cycling. The White Horse Challenge organised by husband and wife team Fergal and Sarah McGrath is now in its 11th year and has raised over £100,000 for charity, Water Aid, as well as being a great advertisement for the local area.
Journeying around the white horses, the WHC (for short) has become iconic due to its challenging and awe inspiring route and is rated, as the best sportive of the year by many of its participants. The ride itself starts in Shrivenham and spans over 90 miles and three counties, taking in bordering Oxfordshire and Berkshire as well as Wiltshire. With a course that has been carefully designed to not only challenge, but entertain riders, with historical landmarks such as Avebury, Cricklade and the four white horses and beautiful views across Lambourn and Marlborough Downs.
But, what makes the White Horse Challenge so unique to its riders? - friendly, well organised and small. Words used by riders in their esteemed reviews. Due to the recent surge of popularity for events such as the WHC it is a rare to see no more than 600 riders in attendance but the organisers value their participants feedback and understand the importance of the smaller, friendlier event. But, can we also credit the Wlltshire welcome as a driving force for the McGrath’s success in a calendar full of cycling sportives?
The answer is yes, I believe the event it is a cause for celebration not only for the charitable revenue it raises for a worthy cause but for the positive attention it brings to our town and surrounding areas. We are a town with a rich history and landscape which is at times overlooked by locals and visitors alike. As per the SwitchOn to Swindon launch in January, the town must unite, change perceptions and grow its profile. Local events like “The White Horse Challenge” should be supported and publicised for their work.
Rather than looking to our nearest city for an annual sporting event, why not look closer to home - to our neighbouring village of Shrivenham? You do not need to be a cyclist but you could lend your support and extend a Wiltshire welcome to our visitors. Because when it comes to uniting each other should it not start on our doorstep?
Let’s make April, local, not just about running in our Capital but cycling in our villages. Embrace the hills opposed to the high rises, encourage and be proud of the uniqueness of our landscape and the horses that run through it.