NEARLY 550 cyclists did 54 miles of pedal pushing to raise money for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance in its fourth annual Coast to Coast cycle challenge.

They set off from Watchet Harbour and made their way to West Bay for a carnival-atmosphere welcome.

Some cyclists completed a shorter, 11-mile route which began at Drimpton in Dorset and also ended at West Bay.

Those included Andrew Peters and five-year-old Arthur from Bridport who cycled on a tandem bike.

Arthur is the cousin of Adam Sherring who cycled the 54 mile route last year on a tricycle. Arthur said that he loved every minute of it and the best part was coming down the hills.

Of those taking part, many had experienced the work of the air ambulance first-hand and were delighted to be able to play their part on the day.

Sarah Blakemore from Chard dialled the emergency services in 2010 after her 18 month old son Archie suffered burns to his leg while visiting Lyme Regis beach.

Archie was airlifted to the specialist burns unit at Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital, a journey that could have taken at least an hour and a half by road where he underwent surgery.

Sarah said: “The team at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance were so good to us and I had numerous dealings with the charity afterwards. It’s great to be able to take part in the event and have the chance to meet everyone in person.”

Team entries were popular, one of which was the ‘Team o’ Tumblers’ who represented the horse racing, eventing, hunting and farming community.

Their line-up included the recently retired National Hunt Jockey Joe Tizzard, Georgina Nicholls (wife of horse trainer Paul Nicholls), horse trainer Harry Fry, Emma Barber, one of the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Masters, who was airlifted last year along with a whole host of others.

The group had set themselves a fundraising target of £10,000 and had already exceeded that total when they crossed the finishing line.

Publicity of this year’s event was heightened prior to the event with the help of eight year old Olivia Reid from Maiden Newton who appeared on the BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

Olivia took part in the 11 mile cycle and then helped to hand out medals at the finishing line, before reliving her excitement with Chris Evans the next day when she explained how her day had gone.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance chief executive officer, said: “We are delighted that this year’s event was once again well supported.

“We were bowled over by the fact that within three weeks of registration opening, it was sold out.

“Right from the start, back in 2011, we emphasised that it was not a race but a challenge.

“This year, the challenge proved a little tougher with the addition of a head wind and warm weather.

“The atmosphere among the cyclists and those who supported them at the start, en-route and at the finishing point was simply incredible.”

Last year the Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge raised more than £60,000.

This year’s event has already generated £40,000 with additional sponsorship money still to come in.