Monday 19 December 2016

Cambridge Bikers Christmas Toy Run 2016

A group of 33 members of the Walden Bikers group gathered in the bright winter sunshine on Saffron Walden Common recently, ready to leave on a 9am to ride to Halton in Cambridgeshire. This was the RV point for motorcyclists from all over the CB postcode area, to gather for the annual Cambridge Bikers Christmas Toy Run to Addenbrookes Hospital.

The carpark was filled to overflowing as hundreds of bikers and their families gathered for refreshments and to hear Pete Vasey give the briefing.

This was the biker who rekindled the event back in 2013 and has organised it every year since, along with the full support of Sgt Gareth Williams and his team of Police riders. Sadly, for Sgt Williams it was to be his last Toy Run as he will be moving on to a new role. It was down to PC Simon Burgin to present Sgt Williams with a special momento of his time with the event - a snug-fitting golden santa hat!

At 10 o'clock, a tally of 377 bikes set off in convoy, escorted by the police outriders, and assisted by the safety riders, on route along the A603 through Harston and on into Cambridge. 

The roar of the hundreds of bikes brought out householders in their Sunday-morning attire (including slippers and pyjamas!) who all waved and filmed on their mobile phones. Cars passing the other way tooted and waved and those cars wishing to join the carriageway had a wait in excess of 7 minutes to allow all of the motorbikes in the convoy to pass by.

There were motorbikes of all sizes, including bike and sidecar outfits along with trikes and also a contingent of scooters. Some rode as they were, others went to great lengths to decorate their machines with tinsel and santas and indeed, some spectators might have been mistaken for thinking it was a continuation of the Santacon from Saturday, by the amount of santa-clad bikers that passed in front of them.

The convoy wound its way through the streets of central Cambridge, stopping briefly to regroup at the end of Downing Street, and then progressing along St Andrew's Street where the rumble once again drew out curious onlookers, this time, the congregation of the Baptist Church came spilling onto the pavement. Pressing on directly into the sunshine along Hills Road, the bystanders continued to wave and film the roaring, snaking trail.

Arriving at Addenbrookes Hospital roundabout, the buses were kept from their schedule as the convoy wound its way into the carpark past a mixture of bemused bystanders, and those who were similarly dressed in seasonal outfits. Waving and cheering, staff from the childrens wards had brought some of their patients down to watch the arrival of these albeit, temporary bearers of joy and respite. 

With crash helmets swapped for santa hats, a red trail of santas made their way into the hospital concourse where the generous and kind-hearted bikers handed their gifts to the waiting elves. Sorting as they went, 15 cages of gifts were collected, everything from dolls both big and small to vehicles, again, big and small. There were books, games, toddler toys, stocking fillers and of course, soft toys. 

Talking to student nurse Abby Jones, from ward C3 she said
"I watched the arrival of the bikers with two of my patients, I was welling up. Now collecting all these gifts it is making me so emotional"
She said that "All the staff will work out what will be suitable to give to each child."

Judging by the generosity of the bikers, they were going need some time to do this! Meanwhile all the favourite seasonal tunes were being played by a local wind band who were tucked into a corner of the dining area. Sadly, due to the occurrence of winter viruses on the wards, no children were able to come and watch the event as in previous years but Im sure they will all be delighted. It can never be nice having to stay in hospital but to be a child in hospital over the festive season really is no fun. Families with children in hospital now will be pleased to know that a little bit of extra joy has been brought to their children this Christmas. This is all courtesy of the one group of road-users who often have a bad press. Far from it! They are some of the kindest and most generous people around...I think I can speak from experience there!

Thanks must go to all the riders, the volunteers both on the road and at the hospital. The police - PC Simon Burgin, PC Andy Loop, PC Keith Emerson and Sgt Gareth Williams (who are "allowed a bit of fun and enjoyment too!"). And finally, Pete Vasey aka Chief Santa, who once again organised the event.

May we wish as Happy a Christmas as possible to all the children who are in hospital at this time.

For the full gallery
Saffron Walden Reporter gallery

Monday 5 December 2016

Great Dunmow - Christmas Lights

Wish upon a star...

The weekend saw me covering the last of this years Christmas Lights switch-ons. This time I was back in East Anglia in the north Essex town of Great Dunmow. A whole year of planning had gone into the event, with the High Street closed off to traffic on this Saturday afternoon, and instead of cars, there were rides, games, stalls and even a (rather challenging) ice rink in their place. An enormous inflatable stage filled the width of the road and it was there that the local school chidren sang, the dance schools performed, No Limits Street Band gave a lively performance and finally at 6pm, the jolly man himself, counted-down to the big switch on.

It was truly an afternoon for all the family.

For more pictures, check out the Dunmow Broadcast p6-8 and the online galleries Lights Switch-on and Ice Rink 
(There have been issues with some browsers not displaying the galleries - apologies if this happens to you...they are working on it!)

Great Dunmow Primary School

No Limits Street Band

No Limits Street Band

No Limits Street Band

No Limits Street Band

No Limits Street Band

All lit up for the festive season

Saturday 26 November 2016

Skibbereen - Christmas Lights

The season of Christmas light switch-ons has started. Having covered the first of the season in Cambridge last weekend, I moved from East Anglia to West Cork for the next switch-on. Sad it was that the famed Olympic silver medal-winning brothers, Gary and Paul weren't available to do the honours in their home town, but that didn't stop the crowds gathering.

Opening with a procession headed by the fire brigade, the civil defence, then assorted vintage tractors and cars, the children watched as Santa and Mrs Santa made a grand entrance in a horse-drawn carriage. Then it was down to two lucky girls from the National School to perform the honours. What a moment for them to remember.

The lights are now on and the countdown to Christmas has begun in Skibbereen.