Julia Stackhouse never expected to be cycling hundreds of miles for charity. Before lockdown, Julia, who doesn’t consider herself a natural fitness freak, used walking and dancing as her main exercises to lose 4.5 stone.

But, as the COVID-crisis hit, Julia and her teenage son both needed a focus and a reason to get out of the house. At Easter, Julia bought herself a bike, and with her son, has cycled miles and miles, visiting a growing list of churches, mainly within pedalling distance of their Didcot home.

“It took three months, but throughout this period I was working full time for the NHS, on a variety of shift patterns and also working some weekends – so we weren’t out every day,” says Julia. She was careful to observe the Government restrictions on how long they could spend outside exercising.

“The main reason for doing it was that my son effectively finished school on 20 March, as a Year 11 pupil, he needed some focus. I really struggled initially with being at home for work and needed a reason to get out of the house, both for my mental wellbeing but also a distraction from the pandemic.

“I needed to see some good and get away from daily government briefings, public messaging about handwashing and death reporting. I also wanted to engage my parents, as initially, other than collecting shopping and prescriptions, we had very limited contact,” says Julia.

With her son spending every other week with his Dad, single-mum Julia also needed to feel connected to the world outside when she was home alone. “Other cyclists often say hello, and smile as you go by, so you don’t feel so lonely,” says Julia, who is now pedalling to raise money for Alzheimer’s UK.

“So many people have clapped for the NHS over the last few months, visiting the churches has now inspired myself and another NHS colleague to do something in return by Cycling for Dementia in July. ‘My list of villages will continue, and some of these will inevitably be revisited, until I can buy a bike rack for the car – then who knows where I will be cycling,” she said.

Villages Julia has visited so far; South Moreton, North Moreton, Aston Upthorpe, Aston Tirrold, Blewbury, Upton, West Hagbourne, East Hagbourne, Sutton Courtney (George Orwell is buried there), Appleford, Long Wittenham, Little Wittenham, Dorchester-on-Thames, Shillingford, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Mackney, Harwell, Steventon, Rowstock, Milton, Chilton, Culham, Abingdon, Cholsey (Agatha Christie is buried there), Drayton, East Hendred, West Hendred, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Benson, Warborough and the Ridgeway. She has also been to Oxford but put her bike in the car to get there.