Gwent DS Chris Jayne has been describing his experiences as a first-timer on the annual Police Unity Tour cycle ride for the Care of Police Survivors (COPS) charity.
The event raises much-needed funds for the organisation set up to support the bereaved families of officers killed while on duty and culminates in a poignant service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Chris, Superintendent Mick Richards, retired Chief Superintendent Andy Adams and retired PC Maria Makings formed the Gwent team.
Each of the riders wore a coloured wristband in memory of a fallen officer – Chris rode for South Wales Police officer Kevin Williams while the others rode for Gwent officers, Maria for Steve Jenkins, Andy for Adrian Ellis and Mick for Terry Davies.
The Gwent team joined forces with colleagues from South Wales, North Wales and Dyfed Powys to form the Welsh Chapter of PUT which totalled more than 40 riders.
Chris’ Gwent team-mates had all taken part in previous charity rides but it was his first time.
He said: “I have been involved in sport since a very young age and over the last number of years started cycling to reduce the impact on my knees and hips.
“Three years ago I joined a cycling club which was hampered by Covid and during lockdown got into cycling a lot more and enjoyed my time on the bike.
“I have been involved in fundraising previously both inside and outside of work mainly through sport – running the London Marathon, taking part in a 24-hour squash marathons and joining charitable rugby and golf days.
“Maria is also a member of my cycling club and spoke to me about the event and I try to cycle with Andy Adams as often as I can for tips and development and he too spoke of the Police Unity Tour.
“Therefore, it was a natural progression to become involved in this amazing event.”
The Gwent team’s 160-mile ride began at Force HQ in Cwmbran and the route on Day 1 took them through Abergavenny, Kilpeck, Hereford and Worcester before an overnight stay at a hotel near Stoke Heath with 96 miles already on the clock.
Chris said: “Sadly, my Garmin had run out of battery and by the time I checked my phone for Strava we had stopped. It would have been nice to have done an extra four miles to make it 100 miles.
“It was great though and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. A bit of elevation at times but thankfully, with the support of others and training already done, I surprised myself at how comfortable I felt at the end.
“We had regular stops and were protected by the invaluable services of SWP motorcyclists who were worth their weight in gold.”
The Gwent van driver was Assistant Chief Constable Ian Roberts who also became the team’s spanner man and gave “incredible” support with bike maintenance and an endless supply of pastries and cups of tea.
Day 2 saw the riders head for Drayton Manor in Staffordshire, a great route on which the team members were able to put the hammer down and have a good ride at a fast pace.
Chris said: “As we neared Drayton Manor, I became aware of the motorcyclists sounding their sirens which concerned me as I didn’t know why but as we turned into the car park I soon became aware.
“We were greeted by 100-plus other riders from all other forces. This was completely unexpected, and I am glad I hadn’t been told. It was a great experience and welcome party.”
The Welsh PUT Chapter enjoyed food and drinks and swapped stories in a local restaurant that evening.
“I met up with an officer I had attended Cwmbran training school with from Dyfed Powys which was great to catch up on things,” said Chris.
During the meal, South Wales Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan made a presentation to an officer who had retired that day but delayed his last day to make sure he could take part in the PUT ride.
The third and final day of the challenge saw the Welsh teams plus hundreds of other riders from all over the UK descend on the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.
Chris said: “This was an incredible experience – I was completely blown away emotionally by all of it and was very proud of what I had achieved and everyone else had achieved. The accounts by families were incredibly moving.”
Each member of the Gwent team hopes to have raised in the region of £1,000 for COPS and have already started fundraising for PUT 2022.
“Would I do it again? Absolutely! Can’t wait for next year!” said Chris.
Gwent Police Federation has donated £100 to the fundraising appeal.