PARENTS, teachers and pupils of Bentley Primary School dusted down their saddles to cycle 60 miles from Brighton to Bentley last Saturday to raise funds for ‘The Big School Build’.

With Brighton’s famous pier behind them, the intrepid group of 33 cyclists set off at 9.30am with an energy-sapping nine hours of cycling ahead of them.

Parents of the school planned the route for The Big Cycle, which included most of the Downs Link, a disused railway line from Shoreham-by-Sea to Guildford, and have been helping the riders prepare for their challenge together.

Amanda Sinclair, chairman of the school’s building committee and one of the cyclists, said of the challenge: “It has been an extraordinary day and a real emotional high. With a strong sense of camaraderie, we pushed on to help raise funds for urgent building works for our school.”

She added: “It has been great to meet people I didn’t know. And through our common aim of taking on this cycle challenge to support our school, I got to experience a fantastic community achieve its aim. I am very proud of what everyone has achieved today and the support has been amazing.”

Friends and family took to Bentley’s roadsides to welcome the cyclists home, with younger riders joining the last section to the school playground’s finish line.

Katy Pinchess, headteacher at Bentley Primary School, said: “Our cyclists and everyone involved have been amazing today. They have given their time and through their passion and determination raised just over £5,500.”

She added: “I would like to thank everyone for their support and commitment to The Big Cycle for the benefit of the children of our school.”

Following the ride the campaign to raise £200,000 for urgent building works for Bentley Primary School is now within £5,000 of its target.

With early intervention from Hampshire County Council, the fundraising target was significantly reduced. The school has expressed grateful thanks to councillors Ken Carter and Mark Kemp-Gee for securing further developer’s contributions which resulted in a new fundraising target of £50,000 for The Big School Build team.

The school, awarded Ofsted’s highest possible ‘outstanding’ inspection rating, has been raising funds to pay for significant building modifications to ensure it can continue to deliver the highest standards of learning and development for its 213 children.

Through fundraising events, including a raffle for a new Mini car, and the 60-mile Brighton to Bentley cycle ride, more than £45,000 has been raised through the extraordinary support of parents, families, carers, friends, and individual donors.

The building works, including a new classroom for reception pupils, a first-aid room, new learning facilities for children with special needs and a new kitchen, is scheduled to begin next February.

Originally built in 1842 for 50 children, the school’s drainage system is also set for an upgrade to put an end to the frequently-flooded playground.

Ms Pinchess said: “So many people from the local community have devoted their time and energy to raise over £45,000 for our school. With overwhelming donations and two wonderful fundraising events, we are so close to reaching our fundraising target.”

The school has two more fundraising events to go, including an open day at Mill Farm, Isington, on Sunday when visitors will have the chance to learn about organic farming and enjoy farm trail walks, tractor and trailer and horse and cart rides, shearing demonstrations, children’s activities, and a barbecue. Entry is by suggested donation of £2 for adults, £1 for children, with all cash split equally between Bentley and Binsted school building projects.

And on September 19, Bentley Business Club’s interactive panel session – entitled Future of the South East – will raise money for The Big School Build appeal.