Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bikers join ride in tribute to Wootton Bassett

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Families of the fallen and organiser Julia Stevenson on "fantastic" atmosphere

Thousands of bikers have riden through Wootton Bassett to honour the people of the Wiltshire town and the soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Each rider has paid £5 to take part, with the proceeds going to the charity Afghan Heroes.

An estimated 15,000 bikers and pillion passengers congregated at Hullavington Airfield in Wiltshire.

The first batch of 500 riders left at 1100 GMT to ride to Wootton Basset via the M4 motorway.

The event lasted until early evening, with bikers leaving the airfield at 30-minute intervals to make their way to Wootton Bassett.

About 10,000 riders registered to take part. They were accompanied by some 5,000 pillion passengers.

'Noise and movement'

Crowds gathered along Wootton Bassett's High Street to watch the bikers pass the war memorial.

The town's mayor Steve Bucknell said the "vast majority" of the people in the town "fully support" what the bikers are doing.

I decided to make a Facebook page, and it's just taken off
Event organier Elizabeth Stevens

"Too many times the town has had to stand still in silence but today is all about noise and movement."

Local MP James Gray added that people in the town appreciated the gesture and were "very supportive of it indeed".

Sue Sullivan, from Gloucestershire, is one of those taking part.

She said: "We rode at 1130 GMT and I've never seen so many bikes.

"I'm one of thousands of people who support our girls and boys."

Denise Harris, the founder of Afghan Heroes, said troops on the front line had sent her e-mails backing the event.

Harley Davidson

She told the BBC: "It boosts morale for them.

"I mean they just are so grateful to the general public for their support and their kindness."

The Bike Run was the idea of 18-year-old biker Elizabeth Stevens.

Afghan Heroes - Bike Run
The ride was organised by Elizabeth Stevens, 18, pictured with her partner

Ms Stevens, a mechanics student at the Central Bedfordshire College, had only planned to ride through the town with a few friends.

"Our local bike club was throwing around the idea of a bike run," she said in January, "so I decided to make a Facebook page, and it's just taken off".

Ms Stevens is riding pillion on her partner's Harley Davidson Sportster.

Laurence Phillips from Afghan Heroes said the event had gathered pace after being posted on the social networking site Facebook.

"It's quite a staggering spectacle and an unbelievable show of support for the troops in Afghanistan and a mark of respect for the town of Wootton Bassett."

Ch Insp Owen Gillard of Wiltshire Police said the force was working with the Ministry of Defence and Wiltshire Council to ensure public safety, with police escorting the bikers and a helicopter at the scene.



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SEE ALSO
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11 Mar 10 |  Wiltshire
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06 Mar 10 |  Somerset
Bikers to honour Wootton Bassett
19 Jan 10 |  People and Places

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