VILLAGERS grabbed their bicycle helmets and boots to help raise funds towards a £400,000 church renovation project.

Residents from Alvescot have clubbed together to raise cash to make St Peter’s Church into a community hub.

The 904-year-old church building is seen as the “focal point” of the village but is in need of restoration.

James Gervers, 60, has lived in Alvescot for 30 years and took part in a 30km cycle ride at the weekend as part of the fundraising mission.

The father-of-five said: “We are trying to make it more of a community use building. It will really open it up as an asset.

“The church has got some beautiful stained-glass windows. It has a peal of six bells and a really keen group of bellringers. The church itself has been renovated but we have had big problems with the damp.

“We’ve put in a ground source heating system, so we can use the church for other things. We’re going to be using the building for many more things. The church is the focal point of the village. You can see it for miles around.”

Keen volunteers took to the countryside for a 30km bicycle ride or 10km walk on Saturday, May 10, on routes which took fundraisers around Alvescot and through the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Camilla Barltrop, 53, from Alvescot, got involved with the restoration project in September and has sent out letters appealing for help and grants.

The mother-of-two mounted her horse on Saturday’s sponsorship morning to help save the Norman church where her 23-year-old son Mitchell was christened.

She said: “We want the church to be less of a place of worship and more of a place for the community.”

Alvescot villagers have worked over the past few years to put together the three-tier project.

Phase one of the project, which cost £184,000 and took three years to complete, included a new toilet and external heat pump.

Work on the second phase, which will cost £100,000, will start in June and is due to take two months.

Volunteers were thrilled with a £74,000 grant from English Heritage to go towards the second phase.

The third phase, which will see underfloor heating installed in the church, is due to be completed by 2016.

Fundraiser and parishioner Jayne Lewin said: “We want to make the church a comfortable community hub and one that more people will look to use.”