Mark Jones is partnerships manager at Destination Basingstoke. He has worked in Basingstoke for 27 years, including 13 years as editor of the Gazette and eight years as director of communications and fundraising at Ark Cancer Charity.

Hopefully, we all get to enjoy special moments with special people that really resonate and matter – the sort of moments which make you think: Wow. Being part of the Arkrider family is one of those Wow times of my life.

Call me sentimental, but last week I had a real lump in the throat moment when the Arkriders organising committee, of which I’m proud to have been part of, announced that our wonderful group of charity cycling fundraisers had reached the end of our journey.

And what a journey it has been. Collectively, over the last eight years, the Arkriders have raised more than £310,000. The majority of that money has benefited the Ark Cancer Charity, and has been instrumental in getting a wellbeing cancer centre up and running at Basingstoke hospital.

Inspired by the vision of the amazing Basingstoke liver cancer surgeon Merv Rees, the original mission of the Arkriders was to raise money on a John O’Groats to Land’s End ride in 2016 – funds that would provide vital services within a new cancer treatment centre due to be built at Junction 7 of the M3 next to a new Critical Treatment Centre (CTH).

Basingstoke Gazette: The first Arkriders trek saw more than £20,000 raised for Ark Cancer Centre charitySadly, political machinations meant the CTH was shelved, and in 2019, the planned cancer centre became part of the long-awaited new local hospital project which will hopefully come to fruition in the 2030s.

By the time it became clear the new cancer centre was some way off, the Arkriders had grown from a group of 13 riders to a massive band of brothers and sisters that had already completed several charity cycle rides and, with the marvellous support of Paul Fearon and his Apollo Hotel team, had put on a glittering charity ball that raised over £30,000 alone.

After John O’Groats to Land’s End, the Arkriders T-shirt of honour reads: Basingstoke to Paris (2017); Basingstoke to Bournemouth and Back (2018); the Twin Towns Tour from Basingstoke to Cologne (via Basingstoke’s twin towns Braine L’Alleud and Euskirchen in 2019); Basingstoke to Bath and Back (2022).

Basingstoke Gazette: £55,000 was raised by the cyclists who took part in the 2019 Twin Towns Tour that ended in Cologne£55,000 was raised by the cyclists who took part in the 2019 Twin Towns Tour that ended in Cologne (Image: Mark Jones)In all, the Arkriders have collectively cycled about 50,000 miles – that’s twice round the world. Just let that sink in…

On a fundraising level, thanks to their cycling prowess, the generous support of incredible individual and corporate sponsors, and the love and support of their nearest and dearest, their legacy is to have played a key role in creating the Ark-funded Wellbeing Centre, which will help and support cancer patients and their families until, and probably beyond, when the new cancer treatment centre is finally built. The money the cyclists raised for The Camrose Centre, which supports homeless and vulnerable people, has also been a game-changer for that organisation and the people it helps.

The other wonderful legacies are friendships have been forged that will last a lifetime, precious memories have been made and, individually, the Arkriders will keep the flame alive when it comes to doing good things for good causes. #specialpeople #makingadifference.