A TAMAR valley cyclist who has clocked up thousands of miles for charity is on the final push to a fantastic fundraising figure.

Over the last 30 years, Jim Bennet has raised £95,500 to help keep the churches of Pillaton and St Mellion in good shape.

He’s now just returned from his latest 100-mile ride on Devon’s Tarka Trail and hopes it will push the total over the £100k mark.

Jim modestly describes his efforts as “putting one foot in front of the other”, but others might describe his long-distance runs and bike rides with more awe.

The 85-year-old has completed 16 marathons and dozens more half marathons, switching to cycling aged 72 after a blood clot and multiple surgeries on his knee.

The money raised has not been for a spectacular one-off project: rather it reflects a steadfast dedication to something Jim believes in.

“Although we don’t have big congregations, the church is a big part of rural community life,” he says.

“When you’ve got two Grade I listed buildings in one parish, the maintenance is onerous and ongoing. All the money really, apart from paying the vicar, goes on maintaining the fabric of the church.”

Jim and his wife Jo moved to Pillaton in 1987 and Jim, then a bank manager, became treasurer of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), a role he held for 32 years.

Jim got involved with the Tamar Trotters and enjoyed weekends taking part in the Paris marathon.

“It’s a fabulous event. But by the time you get to 72 the hydraulic dustcart starts to come perilously close behind you,” he jokes, “I was frightened I’d fall in!”

Jim remains active in everyday life, playing golf and going to the gym, and had just returned from strimming the churchyard grass when we spoke.

He considers himself very lucky to be fit and healthy, and puts his commitment to community life down to the Christian values his parents passed on.

“That has stuck with me. But the bottom line is, I’ve had a lot of fun too.”

To help Jim over the £100k line visitwww.justgiving.com/stmellion-pillatonpcc.