Jenny Benson is riding for Cockermouth’s Defenses

Jennins River RideJenny Benson is going to tackle the 40 mile charity bike ride on Sunday 18 September to raise money for vital flood defence work in the town. Jenny is a Flood Warden for Cockermouth Flood Action Group and she helps other people ensure they are better prepared for any future flooding. If you’d like to sponsor her bike ride go to:

As a member of Cockermouth Flood Action Group (CFAG), she’s hoping her efforts will bring the support they received from Cumbria Community Foundation (CCF) after the disaster, full circle. CFAG has been supported by CCF and now Jenny wants to help raise the extra £200,000 CFAG need to find for essential flood defences.

Jenny lives with her partner and two young children and she clearly remembers the day the floods came into the house, saying: “The water started coming in at 3pm and at 4.30pm we waded out of the house carrying my 17 month old daughter Millie. My son Sam had started school just weeks before and he had been collected and taken home by a friend. We went round to collect Sam, stayed for tea and then moved in with another friend for a week. After that we were offered a house to rent and we stayed there for nine months! Now, I am pleased to say we have been back in our own house for a year.”

Jenny works for Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake as a Development Manager and is planning to use her bike which was rescued from her flooded house for the ride. She said: “I decided to do the Jennings Rivers Ride because I thought it would be a good incentive to get me back on my bike and also because it would help highlight the continuing work of Cockermouth Flood Action Group.”

Having had to live away from home and rebuild her home life, Jenny’s motivation is clear: “The flood defence work on Gote Road has been completed, but the rest of the town remains vulnerable. The Environment Agency has said it will carry out a £5.2 million flood defence scheme, but only if the people of Cockermouth raise £300,000 towards it. Cumbria Community Foundation has been very generous and kick started Cockermouth Flood Action Group’s fundraising efforts by giving £100,000. That means as a community we need to pull together to collect £200,000 and we have to do it by Christmas 2011. I am collecting sponsors for my bike ride – but there’s no way I’ll raise that much. Cockermouth Town Council is asking residents in September if they would agree to paying £6.46 per person ‘precept tax’ to help raise the cash. I’ll say yes in the survey because I think it isn’t a lot of money to invest to protect our community.”

Andrew Beeforth, Director of Cumbria Community Foundation, welcomed Jenny’s entry for the challenge, he said: “Jenny is a great example of the wonderful community spirit we have here in Cumbria. I am glad Cumbria Community Foundation has been able to help and I can’t think of a better way to put something back than her fundraising efforts for Cockermouth Flood Action Group. It’s also good to see that our donation of £100,000 towards the flood defence work has kick started the fundraising efforts in the town.”

If that wasn’t enough, it is a chance for entrants to get sponsors to raise money for any other charity that is close to their heart. Everyone’s a winner!

There are three rides on 18 September 2011:

The Family Ride, an all inclusive event that challenges youngsters (and their parents / guardians) to ride a distance of just over eight miles through the beautiful north lakes and taking in the rebuilt Newlands Beck Bridge. 

The Middle Distance Event is great for anyone looking for a testing but achievable cycling challenge. The route will appeal to both cycling novices (with some preparation) and experienced riders alike.  You’ll cycle close to 40 miles along lovely roads in the lakes, heading out towards Cockermouth, crossing the Ouse Bridge and returning via the rebuilt Lorton Bridge and finishing with a climb over Whinlatter Pass.

The Big Day Out Ride aims to challenge the more experienced rider and heads all the way out to the Irish Sea at Workington via Cockermouth.  If that was not already enough, riders return to Keswick via Honister, Newlands and Whinlatter passes to complete an epic ride of over 85 miles – although with those hills it is sure to feel more like a hundred!

It’s £10 for The Family Ride and £25 for both The Middle Distance Event and The Big Day Out Ride. The routes will be well signposted, marshalled and supported with feeding stations. Book online at or call: 01900 825760.

If you don’t fancy getting on your bike for a good cause, come and have a great day out in Keswick as Cumbria Community Foundation is also organising a Family Fun Day on Fitz Park on 18 September 2011.

The Times & Star’s story on Jenny can be found here.

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