Mountain bikers showed up in their hundreds to blow away the Christmas cobwebs in the 12th annual Salisbury Plain Area Mountain (SPAM) Biking Winter Challenge.

About 550 riders turned up at the group’s Erlestoke base for Sunday’s event, with some coming from as far away as London and Shropshire.

The event is run by volunteers from SPAM Biking, with all proceeds going to charities.

Participants could choose from three different distances – 25km, 35km and 50km.

The SPAM chairman, Martin Disney, estimated that this year’s event had generated £6,500, after all expenses, with the money to be distributed to local charities and groups.

Volunteers from Dorothy House were at the finish line to greet the riders with tea and cake, and raised more than £400 for the Winsley-based hospice.

Mr Disney, 37, of Westbourne Road in Trowbridge, said: “We were apprehensive beforehand, because of the bad weather, and we were worried about whether people would show up, so it was a relief when people started arriving.

“The numbers were much better than last year, which was mainly because we had to hold it before Christmas.

“It was great to see more families get involved in the shorter routes.

“The money will be distributed to local clubs and charities, some as nominated by the marshals for the event, with another donation going to the Bradford on Avon Lions Club, who did an excellent job of organising the car parking.

“We will also be making a donation to children from the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics, who have been invited to compete at an international competition in Malta in July, and we would like to thank parents for marshalling the event.”

The fastest 50k rider, Ryan Bevis of the NFTO Race team from Hereford, managed the challenge in one hour 53 minutes.

The first SPAM/ Westbury Wheelers rider to finish was Nigel Brown, coming in 10 minutes later.