Two wheel challenge heralds £1m new Bernicia charity

Intrepid cyclists John Holmes and John Harrison pedalled 130 miles from Berwick to Hartlepool in a bike ride to herald plans for a new £1m charitable foundation for the North East.

The Bernicia Foundation, which is gearing up to go live later this year, will support people and projects that deliver real and lasting community benefit and support inspirational individuals to achieve their ambitions.

The new foundation will be led by Bernicia Chair John Holmes, who together with experienced cyclist Bernicia IT Head John Harrison, embarked on a two-day journey down the North East to see for themselves the initiatives and people Bernicia already supports.

Their adventure began at Berwick’s Northern Soul Kitchen – an ethical café based in a Bernicia premises – sourcing unsold food from supermarkets to be served in tasty dishes to customers.

Representatives from partner organisations the Berwick Community Trust, Northumberland Community Bank and Newcastle United Foundation were on hand with Bernicia Chief Executive John Johnston to wave the cyclists off.

From there, the two Johns cycled down the stunning Northumberland coastal route through Bamburgh and Warkworth to arrive at Hatchmeadows retirement housing scheme in Ashington.

Their second day on the road saw them call into Kingston Property Services in Newcastle – Bernicia’s commercial arm – before continuing on to the housing association’s Durham office, finishing the 130 mile trek at Schooner Court retirement housing scheme in Hartlepool.

Chair John Holmes said: “The Bernicia Foundation is an exciting opportunity for us to award grants and bursaries to individuals and organisations committed to delivering real community benefits, such as tackling loneliness, accessing employment opportunities or supporting young talent to flourish.

“The bike ride highlights that we are finalising plans to launch the foundation, raising awareness by visiting the projects and schemes we already support to show the value of helping people and communities.

“The foundation will use profits from our commercial arm Kingston and invest them back into the people and communities of the North East over the next four years.”

Julien Lake, Chief Executive of Berwick Community Trust, a charity working with Bernicia to give people the skills they need for employment, said: “We are really excited to hear about the Bernicia Foundation coming on stream later this year.

“We think it will be a fantastic opportunity for communities to think about how they can work together with Bernicia and to make life a little better and more rewarding for people right across the North East.”

Bernicia Chief Executive John Johnston said: “The Bernicia Foundation will be a great addition to the Bernicia Group and builds further on our commitment to help deliver regional agendas.”

A website, social media channels and media campaign will support the foundation’s launch, where people can find out more about how to apply for funding and the criteria to determine eligibility for a Bernicia Foundation grant.