Sheila Fox has lots to celebrate this festive season because she was recently announced as the Sustrans South East Volunteer of the Year 2018.
A retired pre-school manager from Southampton, Sheila's genuine commitment to novice cyclists and her dedication to helping maintain the National Cycle Network made her a worthy recipient.
Sheila, who has volunteered with Sustrans South for four years said she was both surprised and delighted to win the coveted award.
“Cycling has always been a big part of my life"
She said: "Being one of five children it was in my parents’ interest to make us independent and use our bikes as a means of transport. It is something that has stuck with me all my life and I use my bike as my main mode of transport.
“When I retired it was natural for me to look to Sustrans to see what opportunities there were for volunteering. Recently I have become involved with led rides and it has been fulfilling to be involved with those who are less confident in cycling and watch them increase in their ability and realise that cycling is a viable and enjoyable means to get around – I am glad to be able to impart my love for cycling to other people.”
Our volunteers are the heart and soul of Sustrans
Presented with an award by Sustrans England South Director, James Cleeton, at a special workplace led-ride event held at Aviva in Eastleigh this week, he said that volunteers are a vital part of the work of the organisation.
He said: “I am delighted to be able to present Sheila with this award today – her dedication to maintaining the National Cycle Network and bringing the joy of cycling is genuinely inspiring – this and all her efforts over the last four years have made her a worthy recipient.
"Our volunteers are the heart and soul of Sustrans - they fundamentally believe in the work we are doing to make walking and cycling easier for everyone and they freely give their time and energy to communities across the UK to help make it a reality.”
Since February Sheila has led over 20 organised bike rides at workplaces across Southampton as part of My Journey Southampton’s workplaces programme. She is also a volunteer ranger and maintains a section of Sustrans National Cycle Network route 24 from Chandlers Ford to Romsey.
She also led ‘Active Steps’ rides aimed at staff at local businesses who want to get into cycling and get fit. Many of the programme participants are now riding to work alone after gaining confidence and fitness through the Sustrans programme.
All of these projects help reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and tackle obesity.
Currently, Sheila volunteers on a new Sustrans project in Weston Shore called Sustrans WAVes in Weston.
Funded by Sport England, this new initiative gets local people involved by enabling them to decide what activities take place in their community. The project has a number of volunteers but is looking for more.
Cllr Warwick Payne of Weston ward said:
“I’m delighted that Sheila has won this award and it’s certainly well deserved. She has done a lot of excellent work, including her efforts in making the Weston Waves project a success.
“The area is an excellent place to go cycling, with an attractive cycle route along the coastline at Weston Shore and off-road woodland trails for those who don’t mind getting their tyres muddy.
“I often ride along the coastal route myself and I’m glad that Sheila has been encouraging more people to get into the saddle as part of the Weston Waves project.”
This new Sustrans project gives people the opportunity to get involved with activities such as bike rides, nature walks, learn to ride sessions, a bike maintenance hub, cargo bikes for seniors and a walking or cycling train to follow in Westwood.