‘On Yer Bike Ref!’ – Referee’s Fundraiser Finally Completed

Si Aldridge has completed a cycle to every Hampshire affiliated rugby club.
The final call was the Royal Navy Rugby Union at HMS Temeraire.
The Army Rugby Union were also visited as part of the challenge.
A previous charity cycle delivered the match ball to Plymouth from Flanders.

A Covid-19 charity raising challenge, for NHS Charities Together, by a Navy Referee was paused due to the impact of Covid but after over 800 miles and a cumulative climb of over 8000m all Hampshire affiliated rugby clubs have now been visited with over £800 raised for charity.

There have been many innovative ways of keeping fit whilst furloughed.  Also, there have been many remarkable charity challenges.  For Navy Referee, Si Aldridge, the idea was to combine both and raise money for NHS Charities Together by cycling to every rugby club that is affiliated to Hampshire Rugby Union from his Gosport home.  He would also include visits to the Army and Royal Navy Rugby Unions.  The aim was to compete the challenge by the end of May but plans were put on hold due to a close family member contracting the virus and eventually passing away.  It made the final rides, after a six week pause, more poignant.  On the 24th July a visit to HMS Temeraire and the Royal Navy Rugby Union completed the challenge for Si accompanied by his wife Chloe and riding partner, Gareth Blake.

The first ride on the 14th April was a gentle start to the challenge.  Less than 8 miles to local club Fareham Heathens, followed the day after by a shorter ride to Gosport and Fareham RFC.  Day 3 saw a thirty mile route across to Pompey to tick off Southsea Nomads, Portsmouth and US Services RFC.  Days gradually became longer and visiting the two Sussex clubs, (affiliated to Hampshire Rugby Union) Chichester and Bognor was slightly over 70 miles in the saddle before a long day West, through the New Forest, saw the 100 miles in a day milestone broken.  It was backed up by another long day as the Army Rugby Union and clubs around Aldershot were ticked off before the enforced pause to the challenge due to Covid-19 and family illness.

At this enforced break there were only 12 clubs left to visit and also the Royal Navy Rugby Union.  The first day back, 10th July, was again nearly a 100 mile ride to visit Romsey and Andover before the circuit of the Isle of Wight left just 7 clubs and the RNRU.  With 6 clubs visited on the 23rd July there only remained Hook & Odiham RFC to visit on the morning of the 24th before a lumpy ride South to finish at HMS Termeraire, the home of the Royal Navy Rugby Union.

With the challenge complete 38 clubs had been visited along with the two Service Unions.  Si had climbed the equivalent of 6 times up Ben Nevis during his 810 miles of cycling, which was over 8000m of ascent.  He had also raised over £800 for the chosen charity, NHS Charities Together.  During the ride Si visited 15 of the clubs on his own but was often accompanied by fellow referee, Gareth Blake and was also joined on some rides by his wife Chloe, son Dylan and also Rhys Cleary.  Finally, as with any challenge, fuelling the athlete is essential, and Si was powered by his mam’s Welsh Cake’s – a perfect mix of carbs and protein!

Anyone wishing to contribute to the challenge can still do so at the following link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simon-aldridge2

By line: Geraint Ashton Jones
Images credit: © Si Aldridge & Alligin Photography