Published: 06:00, 05 April 2021
| Updated: 19:28, 05 April 2021
A second hand car that's racked up thousands of miles in fundraising pilgrimages has been given a new lease of life - for another year.
It means Bessie, the colourfully knitted Vauxhall often seen around Deal can go on to take on another challenge for Hacklinge charity Martha Trust.
Her story is somewhat a fairytale of the rags to riches variety.
Once upon a time, the little old green car was parked on a road in Gravesend.
She was waiting for someone to buy her because her owner had bought a brand new car...
When she got snapped up for the bargain price of £600 she came to Deal. And that's when the fun really started.
Since then Bessie has been turning heads thanks to a unique make-over by keen knitters Pat Wilson and Jill Burford who knitted her a new patch-work cover bursting with colour and character.
Her new woolly shell was so distinctive Bessie woke up to a new calling: to transport intrepid fundraisers to cities across Europe racking up thousands of miles and pounds for the charity that cares for young adults with profound disabilities.
Since 2016 the £200 car has travelled with Mrs Wilson and Mrs Burford Jill Burford to Rome, and Monte Carlo the following year.
Then she went off with Mrs Burford and Fay Franklin to Barcelona the year after that.
Bessie’s team has raised £20,000 for Martha Trust to date. The tally contributes to the £235,000 it needs each year to provide care to those it supports.
This has been done through sponsorship, casino night, raffles, auctions, quiz nights, music events and many generous donations.
She has racked up guest appearances on TV, radio and appeared in newspaper and magazine articles. She's also appeared at the NEC Craft Show, in Montreuil for World knitting day and has become a popular celebrity around the Deal area firstly in her beautiful knitted cover and then emblazoned with the Team Es-Car-go logo.
Her team donated Bessie to Martha Trust to give her another adventure to Monte Carlo in 2020 however due to CoVid19, the trip was unable to happen.
She has lots of experience, conquered the Pyrenees on her way to Barcelona and skirted Mont Blanc on the way to Rome, despite her dislike of hills.
That's why she needed regular upkeep.
Now thanks to Perry's in Whitfield her engine's running smoothly, her bodywork is intact and she is regularly serviced. and will be used by the Martha team for events.
With her new yearly MOT, she's ready to be put back to good use.
Manager Chris Lavery says “Perrys Dover is more than happy to do whatever we can to keep Bessie on the road. The money she is raising is for such a worthwhile cause and is great; we love that we can make a difference and be part of this journey.”
Fundraising & Events Officer Kerry Banks BEM says “Bessie’s story is truly heart-warming and we feel very privileged that Jill, Pat and Fay bought her to take part in 3 of our annual car challenges and then donated her to continue to raise funds for Martha. We are incredibly grateful to the fabulous team at Perrys Dover who have made sure Bessie is roadworthy and safe for her adventures on a yearly basis – their support is invaluable!"
This year’s car challenge is Monte Carlo Madness.
A team of cars, all worth less than £200, will be leaving Dover on September 4. Each team has to pledge to raise a minimum of £1,500 in sponsorship. In return Martha organises channel crossings, accommodation and flights home.
To sign up, please visit marthatrust.org.uk/montecarlomadness, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01304 610448. The event has been rolled over from 2020 and hopes to go ahead, pending restrictions.