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The Story Behind The Team

Since 1998, our mission has remained the same — to make sure everyone in the Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire area will have a group cycling event to take part in annually.

From the very beginning, we discovered that the outcome is simply better when we cycle together.

We encourage each other to build strength and endurance and achieve new goals, make new friendships, and enjoy the outdoors.
The Castles Bike Ride team brings together amazing individuals who share their experience, knowledge and a group atmosphere to help others maximize their true fitness and lifestyle potential.

Are you ready to join the team?

Castles Bike Ride HISTORY

The Swindon MacMillan Castles Bike ride has for many years been the local committee’s biggest fundraising event.

Originally known as The Three Castles Bike Ride, it came about in 1995 when a keen local mountain bike rider approached a member of the committee with the idea. There were very few, if any charity bikes rides, then and the committee had no experience of organising such an event.

However it seemed like a good idea and Jill Thornton, with her husband Jack, set about recruiting other volunteers from the committee, work colleagues, family and friends to assist.

They located a HQ location close to The Ridgeway courtesy of Allied Dunbar who had a company sports facility near Wanborough. Back in the day advertising was done by posters and newspaper ads and there was no on-line entry system, everything was paper based.

From the very first event, local Bike Retailer, Mitchell Cycles were on board and to this day still donate a Mountain Bike to the rider who raises the most money for Macmillan Cancer Support

That first event attracted 80 riders, who set off first for Uffington Castle and then their route took them to Liddington and Barbury Castles before heading back to Wanborough. Within a few years the event became established as an annual event and at its peak 350 riders took part raising around £11,000 through entry fees and sponsorship.

After 5 years the Event HQ had to be moved and was established at a local leisure centre and with around 250 riders on average, required a police escort for the first 2 miles to get the group safely from Old Town, Swindon to the countryside to the south. At this time the route had to be changed and now only reaches one castle, Barbury, so the name has changed to drop the three

Like the riders, who came back year after year, those original marshals helped for years, many of them jealously looking after what they saw as “their” spot on the route. As many of them are now in their 80’s it is not surprising that they have, one by one, retired and new marshals have to be found every year. However although Jill and Jack Thornton no longer organise the event, they can still be seen out on the course every year marshalling and providing advice and assistance.

Some riders come to the event because it is a great day out in the Wiltshire countryside but many come to support Macmillan, often because they or a loved one has been supported by Macmillan during times of pain and stress after a cancer diagnosis. Quite a few have had their own T shirts printed with the name of the person they are riding in memory or support of.

To encourage more riders to take part in those early days a Team Challenge was created. The winning team would have the honour of having their name engraved on The Team Shield which they would keep for a year. The winning team was not the fastest but the team with largest number of riders on the day. So it was that many local companies and organisations would get behind the event and put teams in.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the ride. The event had to be cancelled for three years due to Foot and Mouth disease and of course Covid. The route has changed just a little over the last 20 years but still takes in some great tracks and trails on the ancient Ridgeway and the route of the

Midland And South West Junction Railway which closed in 1960. Much of the route is off road and vehicle traffic free with just a few short sections of tarmac to link the various sections together. As always there are three options ranging from a fairly easy 8 mile route, to a quite challenging 30 mile route for serious mountain bikers. Many people choose the medium route because they know the tracks and trails are forgiving but there are a couple of climbs to be proud of completing along the way.

This year the start and Finish are located in Coate Water Country Park alongside what remains of a reservoir for the Wilts and Berks Canal so there is a lot of history to be seen.

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