Here's where you'll find all the latest news and developments regarding the 2021 Great Exmoor Ride:
Sheppy's Cider Is Back Again!
How's this for some much-needed good news?!
We're absolutely delighted to announce that Taunton-based Sheppy's Cider has agreed to extend its partnership with the GER for a further two years, meaning that it will now continue as the 'Official Drink' of the Great Exmoor Ride until at least 2022.
As part of the agreement, Sheppy's Cider will be available on draught from the GER's exclusive event bar at the seafront finish in Blue Anchor, so riders can look forward to sinking a refreshing pint (or two!) of Somerset's best craft cider to celebrate their achievements after a very rewarding and enjoyable day in the saddle.
And that's not all - Sheppy's has also once again very kindly agreed to give riders a FREE bottle of cider to take away with them to further aid their post-Ride recovery and celebrations! :)
Sheppy's Cider produce a range of award-winning premium ciders from apples grown in their own Somerset orchards, and this is about as local a partnership as you can get with Sheppy's House of Cider HQ just a stone's throw away from the GER start in Taunton.
In fact, the House of Cider itself is well worth a visit once lockdown restrictions have eased: it houses a delightful farm shop, deli, restaurant and museum, and the orchards themselves are open for visits and tours - including, of course, a guided cider-tasting option!
It's plain to see that Sheppy's Cider is simply Somerset through & through, and as such we really couldn't wish for a better Partner - the GER is a celebration of what Somerset has to offer for people who want a great day out by bike and, at the end of this wonderful cycling challenge, everyone can once again toast their success & achievement in style with a glass of the very best Somerset cider :)
It's great news for our riders, so if you've not entered yet get your entry in NOW and make sure that one of those free bottles of cider has got YOUR name on it!
GER Event Update
We're very much looking forward to another great challenge and another big day out on Sunday 12th September, but of course the coronavirus situation is still ongoing and therefore we need to continue to monitor developments, as follows:
Our aim is to remain as flexible as possible in our planning and, while at least a semblance of 'normality' has returned in many aspects of daily life, we'll be taking into account the very latest situation with the virus as we finalise the exact details & arrangements for the day of the GER.
We appreciate that this means our actions will once again be fairly last-minute, but that's simply a consequence of the circumstances that we're still having to operate in - we do hope that people understand that, and also that our utmost priority is to ensure that we can deliver a safe AND enjoyable event.
The plan is that the measures we deploy should be as simple as possible, but also as clear and as effective as possible in terms of mitigating any risks around possible transmission of the virus.
To that end, entered riders will receive a detailed pre-event briefing via email a few days before the event itself - we want to do this in a timely manner, but also in a way that hopefully requires no further revision or amendments to avoid any possible confusion or misunderstanding about how things will need to operate on the day itself.
So it may be a lengthy read with just a few days' notice, but it's essential that ALL participants take a good look at the information that we provide and adhere to the instructions therein on the day. And hopefully reading this shortly before the event will mean that it's fresh in riders' minds on the day and, therefore, easier to comply with any necessary measures & behaviour.
In the meantime we have updates on some other aspects of the event, as follows:
2021 GER ROUTE
We can confirm that the route has been finalised as of 25th August and it's available to download via our Route Details page. It's the same route as 2020, but anyone who's downloaded it previously is advised to do so again just to ensure that they have the correct & most up-to-date version.
The route will be fully signposted as well with branded direction arrows, and please be aware that the signage on the day always takes priority over the route download (to accommodate any very last-minute issues or needs that may arise).
There will be further route checks up to & including the day of the event and, while we don't anticipate any changes, any further adjustments will be notified via email to registered riders or, if absolutely necessary, on the day of the Ride itself.
There will be two official refreshment stops available exclusively for our riders, and these will be at the Anchor Inn in Exebridge (c. 27 miles into the route) and at the Exford Bridge Tea Rooms in Exford (after 40 miles).
Riders will be able to top up water bottles and make use of toilet facilities at these locations, and there will also be a plentiful supply of food & drink available to buy at each location.
These facilities will operate under their own established COVID procedures and as such they offer perfectly safe environments, however we'd ask riders to minimise time spent inside either facility (ie. primarily for toilet use only) and instead to remain outside the premises as much as possible.
And we'll have some excellent hot food & bar facilities available for everyone at the finish - these will of course also operate in a COVID-secure fashion, and it will be incumbent on everyone taking part to observe social distancing and good hygiene practices at all times at the finish area.
Our post-Ride transport service is able to operate at full capacity this year and, while it's no longer a legal requirement, we'd ask users of the service to still consider wearing a face covering for the short duration of the journey back to the Park & Ride (unless exemptions apply).
We've allowed for (and want to maintain) a reasonable amount of spare capacity within the overall transport offering therefore we'll be closing the transport service for advanced bookings fairly soon, so please book ASAP via the Online Entry page if you wish to use this service and haven't booked it yet.
Riders don't need to book a particular departure time for the transport service so there's no pressure from that perspective, but obviously some departures will be busier than others - however there WILL be space on the day for everyone who's booked the service.
We're also very likely to have space on the service on the day to accommodate any last-minute needs, however priority for each departure will go to people who've booked in advance. Otherwise, we trust that anyone who hasn't booked this service has alternative plans in place for their journey home.
We still have a number of places available for any last-minute entries, however these do need to be made soon as we'd like to have everyone fully pre-registered so that we can be sure that we're as prepared as we can be in the event that we need to comply with any Track & Trace requirements. Please go to our Online Entry page ASAP if you wish to join us but haven't entered yet.
We hope all of the above makes sense and is clear, and further detailed information will follow shortly for entered riders.
ROADMAP OUT OF LOCKDOWN
Following the Government's much-anticipated announcement & publication of its four-step 'roadmap out of lockdown' for England, here's our latest thinking on what it means for the 2021 GER.
Firstly, we're pleased to see that this plan confirms our earlier assessment that we could see a material change for the better from Easter onwards and, while no doubt people will have their own views on the pace at which various lockdown measures will be lifted, obviously the overall picture constitutes very welcome news.
And it's certainly encouraging to see that the Government and its scientific advisors actually appear to be able to envisage a complete end to legal restrictions in relation to social contact by the Summer.
However, it's important to note that it's been stressed that it's data and not dates that will ultimately govern the speed at which things unlock, which means that the dates in the roadmap are actually just a rough guide and subject to change.
Nevertheless, based on the information provided in the roadmap, we can have significantly-increased confidence in the prospects for the GER to go ahead exactly as planned on Sunday 12th September 2021, and indeed there's a reasonable expectation that we should in fact be in a position by that date whereby everything has pretty much returned to 'normal'.
That said, at this very early stage it's still only 'confidence' and not 'certainty' so we're not going to get carried away - we're still going to proceed cautiously in our planning & approach for now, and we think it would be prudent at least to see the progress and, in particular, the impact of the 'Step 1' measures in the roadmap before making any major planning changes.
Therefore, while we're very encouraged and certainly feeling cautiously optimistic at this development, we're not taking anything for granted and we're going to wait for greater certainty around the timelines & dates that have been announced, bearing in mind the following important statement in the official summary guidance:
"In implementing this plan we will be guided by data, not dates, so that we do not risk a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. For that reason, all the dates in the roadmap are indicative and subject to change. There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step: four weeks for the scientific data to reflect the changes in restrictions and to be analysed; followed by one week’s advance notice of the restrictions that will be eased. Only when the government is sure that it is safe to move from one step to the next will the final decision be made."
This means that, for now, we'll continue to make COVID-secure arrangements for event delivery until such time as we have the certainty that we can act otherwise.
But the good news is that, even if the actual dates shift slightly, the general 'direction of travel' within the roadmap gives us enough confidence to think that by September we certainly shouldn't need to apply any sort of reduced capacity on the overall event size.
Indeed, the fact is that if the roadmap proves to be even just reasonably accurate in terms of its stated 'unlock' dates then we should, in fact, be in a position to return to pre-COVID arrangements in full - of course we're not counting on that just yet, but it seems to be a distinct possibility and it's something we'll certainly keep an eye on.
In summary then, this feels like positive and encouraging news going forward and, as ever, we'll continue to monitor developments and the relevant official guidance. And, as we've just done now, we'll adjust our thinking in response and update accordingly.
We hope this note is of some help, and please feel free to let us know if you have any queries regarding any of this.
And please still sign up as soon as you can for the 2021 GER if you haven't done so already, and there are at least three good reasons to do this - 1) in the event of ANY cap on numbers 'first come first served' will always be our guiding principle; 2) it really helps us with our planning in these extremely challenging times; and 3) it also gives you plenty of time to get yourself ready so that you can enjoy a totally fab day out!
Come on - Rise to the Challenge with us! :)
2021 - Ongoing Coronavirus Situation
Just as it was ten long months ago, we're back to very difficult and worrying times for a lot of people so, with that in mind, we'd like to share how we see things unfolding in 2021.
The first point to make is that our mindset last year was very much that WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE BEATEN BY THIS, and that most definitely hasn't changed.
The fact is that we delivered a very safe and enjoyable event last year - quite possibly the first one to take place in the entire country following the lifting of restrictions - and it means that we now have a tried & tested COVID-secure model to hand if needed. So hopefully that will give everyone the confidence to trust & support us again this year.
That said, the next few weeks are definitely going to be challenging and dominated by bad news and, quite probably, a real sense of doom & gloom, added to which Winter lockdown restrictions are likely to feel more severe than they did during an unseasonably warm Spring in 2020.
So the short-term outlook is certainly pretty bleak and most unwelcome, however the prospects from the various vaccine options DO provide genuine grounds for hope and optimism, and our view is that there is reason to believe that we could see a material change for the better from Easter onwards.
So as things stand there's absolutely nothing to suggest that the GER won't be able to take place as scheduled on Sunday 12th September and we're certainly continuing to plan on that basis - albeit understanding that there is the possibility that we may have to apply a cap on the number of places we can offer. We hope this isn't the case, but we need to be pragmatic and to plan accordingly.
Obviously September is still an incredibly long way away in the context of what's happening, but if we're still subject to anything like existing social distancing measures and eg 'Rule of Six' requirements then our current assessment is that we may have to set a cap of around 300 entries to ensure that we're well within safe limits.
If that's the case then our response would be to implement a 'first come' policy on entries, with those entries over any specified limit or cap being refunded as & when any such official guidance or instruction is received. So, for example, if we do determine that we need to restrict entries to 300 people and we find we've exceeded that number at the time this becomes necessary, we would prioritise the first 300 entries received by date order and refund any subsequent entries with our apologies.
Obviously this is not what we would want in the least and, for the record, we don't at all expect that this will be the case, however it makes sense to plan conservatively and this seems to be the fairest way to proceed if this scenario does in fact materialise.
Clearly, some of this is just conjecture and 'worst-case scenario' planning at this stage but, if the above situation does arise, hopefully you'll appreciate that we have at least alerted you to the possibility - and what the proposed remedy would be - with plenty of notice.
We will, of course, continue to monitor developments and the relevant official guidance & instructions as best we can and, where necessary, we will adjust our thinking in response and advise further accordingly.
Plus, while it's still extremely challenging and stressful for event organisers right now given the near-term negative outlook, this time around it's not all completely new and out of the blue - we don't like it one bit, but at least we've been here before - and, for our part, we actually feel much less daunted and certainly better prepared to meet the challenge than we did in 2020 (and we didn't do too badly then!). So this gives us significant confidence for 2021, and we also hope it's of some help and reassurance to you too.
Finally, we reiterate that we firmly believe that the situation across the country WILL improve from Spring onwards so it's vitally important to remain positive and upbeat where possible in the immediate weeks ahead, and we hope (and expect) that enjoyable, social events like the GER will once again help people physically AND mentally as a semblance of normality returns in the Summer.
Please feel free to let us know if you have any queries regarding any of this, and do sign up as soon as you can to secure your place for the 2021 GER (if you haven't done so already).
And - most importantly - please stay safe, follow the official expert guidance, and remain as positive as you can while we get through this latest difficult period.
Don't forget our motto - Rise to the Challenge! :)
2020 Fundraising Effort
We're fairly sure that no-one needs reminding how difficult and challenging 2020 has been for pretty much all of us, however hopefully it's not been all bad and there's been the odd bit of good news here & there - which we can add to with details of a rather special fundraising effort from our riders this year, given the circumstances.
We've now gathered as much information as we can on the overall fundraising effort from our GER and GWR cycling challenges, and it looks like the combined fundraising figure for 2020 is around £35,000 - which also means that almost £400,000 has now been raised in total for good causes by our riders since we started.
As always, numerous different charities and causes benefitted from riders' efforts & exertions in 2020 and every year we're pleased to see so many being supported.
And we're especially delighted to see that our official charity partner received huge amounts of support again, to the extent that Prostate Cancer UK has now received around £260,000 from its partnership with the Great Weston Ride and the Great Exmoor Ride.
Not unexpectedly, the overall 2020 fundraising total isn't quite as high as it's been in recent years - however when you consider that COVID restrictions meant that we had to limit the total number of available entries to less than 60% of our usual numbers, then you soon realise that it was in fact a pretty phenomenal effort this year.
And, of course, with so many other fundraising events simply not managing to overcome the COVID challenge and therefore not happening in 2020, we're sure that our riders' efforts and contributions are even more welcome and more gratefully received than ever.
So obviously we'd like to say a massive and heartfelt 'THANK YOU' to everyone who rose to one (or both) of these challenges and raised money this year - it's a very significant amount in very testing circumstances, and this success is entirely down to the efforts and commitment of sponsored riders and their generous supporters.
We would appreciate it if fundraising riders could also share this news with the people who supported them, together with our thanks and appreciation for EVERYONE who contributed, and Prostate Cancer UK has specifically asked us to let everyone know that they are extremely grateful for the tremendous support that has been shown yet again.
And of course we very much hope that lots of people will enter and at least consider fundraising again next year - we never even dreamt that half a million pounds in fundraising would be achieved when we started down this path, and yet now it's very much in sight!
THANKS AGAIN, AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU IN 2021 :)