BIKE lovers are gearing up for an annual event that will see over 34 historic churches open to the public.

Ride and Stride is England's open churches day and gives residents the chance to visit churches in Romsey and surrounding areas, as well as raise money for the places of worship.

The event is designed for people to visit as many places of worship as possible nearby and also get sponsored for visiting them.

Some of the places of worship taking part include Romsey Abbey, St Marks Ampfield and West Tytherley.

Churches in Ashley, Broughton, Kings Somborne, Little Somborne, Leckford and Lockerley will all be providing refreshments for visitors.

The event is organised by Hampshire and the Islands Historic Churches Trust and allows cyclists to visit old churches with ancient bell towers and interiors reflecting the nearby heritage.

Cllr Celia Dowden, who represents North Baddesley on the borough council, said: "It is a great idea for families to go and visit a variety of churches and not just old ones.

"I think it is a nice way for families to go out into the countryside and perhaps contribute to the upkeep, because once they are gone they are gone.

"I suppose we all have a bit of a responsibility to ensure these churches are kept for future generations."

She added: "I would hope that St John's the Baptist in Flexford Road is involved, because it is a beautiful church and people would enjoy visiting it."

Janet Burnage, who represents Romsey Cupernham on the borough council, said: "If it gets people out on a bike that is good. I cycle and I encourage people to get out on bikes.

"I am happy to support people and I do know there are a lot of beautiful churches to look at off the beaten track."

The event will take place on September 14 and the money that is raised by riders is shared between a county church trust that helps historic churches and an individual church of their choice.

Anyone who wishes to take part in the event should visit the Hampshire And The Islands Historic Churches Trust page.