THIS year marks the 20th anniversary of the Foulness Island Bike Ride, with thousands of pounds expected to be raised for charity.

In preparation, organisers have reflected on the success of the annual event, which sees cyclists sponsored to take on courses of between 13 and 23 miles.

Each year, the event is organised by the Thorpe Bay Rotary Club, who provide participants with the opportunity to cycle on the island, usually closed to the public.

Loretta Andrews, 66, from Great Wakering, has helped to organise the event ever since it started. She said: “It all started when the rotary club was looking to hold a major event which brought all of the community together. One of our members really pushed for the Ministry of Defence, who own the island, to give us permission to do this. Twenty years later we’re thrilled to still be hosting it.

“We’ve had a whole range of participants in the past, from an 85-year-old to literally a few months old. We even get people with disabilities who ride on adapted bikes taking part, the surface is very flat which makes it accessible to all.

“We never expected this to have gone on for this long and to have had the success it has. Each year at least 1,000 people take part.”

This year’s event is scheduled for Sunday, September 8, with riders meeting at Cupids Country Club, on Cupids Chase in Great Wakering.

Starting times for the event will be between 9.30am and 1pm at half-hour intervals.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised over the years for charity. In 2018 alone, £30,000 was raised.

The secretary of the Thorpe Bay Rotary continued: “This is a fantastic way to not only get fit, but to promote and support each participant’s charity choice.

“A special thanks to everyone who has made this happen throughout the years, including the Ministry of Defence, QinetiQ, the people of Foulness, and those who have taken part from the very beginning.

“We’re hoping the mayor, the chair of Rochford District Council and MP James Duddridge will be attending to mark the 20th birthday.

“We will continue this event for as long as we have permission, leaving behind this community legacy.” To reserve your spot, visit the Thorpe Bay Rotary Club website. Entry for adults costs £17.50, for children costs £8.50 and for families costs £45.