Even more than the English castle, the ubiquitous English church tower is for many the archetypical symbol of England and its landscape.
© Via Wikimedia Commons from geograph.org.uk Photo Adrian S Pye
But with many of these picturesque Ancient Monuments increasingly suffering from neglect and decay, it is left to organisations such as the Churches Conservation Trust to step in and save them from ruin.
Now the charity, which has rescued and restored hundreds of churches across the country, is asking the public to join them on their latest quest to raise funds and draw attention to our crumbling ecclesiastical heritage.
Pedal around the Pulpits is a series of three sponsored cycle rides starting on August 15 around some of the most picturesque churches in Norfolk and Suffolk - including several of the 342 churches saved by the CCT since its inception in April 1969.
The Trust, which says it needs £1.5 million each year to fill a funding shortfall, will be helped by veteran pulpit pedaller Andy White. In 2011, White notched up more than 700 miles, raising £1,200 for CCT coffers.
An ex-RAF serviceman who served in the First Gulf War in 1990, he has supported the CCT since he found respite from post-traumatic stress disorder in the tranquil surrounds of St Peter’s Church in Claydon near Ipswich, which the Trust helped to restore.
His fellow cyclists will get the chance to explore up to 12 of the impressive CCT historic buildings in three cycling routes taking in Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and Diss.
They include the magnificent “Cathedral of the Fields” St Michael and All Angels at Booton, an impressive but redundant Anglican church under the care of the Trust, and St Mary’s Church, at Redgrave near Diss, which like many churches under their care has become a community venue.
The route in full:
August 15 10am. St Mary’s Church, Redgrave, Diss, Suffolk – 25 miles Via St John the Baptist Church (Stanton) and St Andrew’s Church (Sapiston).
August 19 9.30am. All Saints Church, Icklingham, Suffolk – 70 miles. Via All Saints Church (West Harling), St John the Baptist Church (Stanton), St Andrew’s Church (Sapiston) and All Saints Church (Wordwell).
August 24, 10am. Church of St Michael the Archangel, Booton, Norfolk – 3 miles (Family Day). Via St Nicholas Church (Brandiston) and St Faith Little (Witchingham).
To get involved or sponsor the riders visit the Churches Conservation Trust website: www.visitchurches.org.uk