Cyclists make epic journey for charity

ON Yer Bike! They cycled hundreds of miles, braved one of the wettest summers on record and raised thousands for charity in the process. Today JAMES MARSTON salutes four guys who swapped the sounds of the newspaper presses for quiet of the open roadWHAT an achievement! Thanks to their efforts four charities in Suffolk and Essex are today £12,000 better off.

James Marston

ON Yer Bike!

They cycled hundreds of miles, braved one of the wettest summers on record and raised thousands for charity in the process.

Today JAMES MARSTON salutes four guys who swapped the sounds of the newspaper presses for quiet of the open road


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WHAT an achievement!

Thanks to their efforts four charities in Suffolk and Essex are today £12,000 better off.

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And after cycling from John O'Groats to Land's End, Paul Bartlett, 50, Colin Shanks, 55, Nathan Miller, 30, and Julian Farrow, 34, all printers at the Evening Star's offices in Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, are enjoying a well deserved rest from the saddle.

The four men braved some of the worst weather of last year's summer to complete the 902 mile trip in an impressive 8 days.

Pre-press technician Nathan Miller, of Foxhall Road, Ipswich, said: “I was the most experienced cyclist in the group but I still found it the most difficult challenge I have ever faced.

“We cycled over 100 miles a day for seven and a half days. I am a racing cyclist but still found it very tough, despite training as much as possible before we set off.

“The last leg of the journey was the most difficult - training in Suffolk did not set us up for Devon where it is very hilly.

“But completing it felt like overcoming a huge challenge, and it was a great way to raise money for some very good causes.”

Determined to be able to keep pace with their Nathan the rest of the group took training seriously.

They started off with riding 50 miles, four times a week, and as the event drew closer built up so they were eventually riding 120 miles in each session.

When the time came for the trip the boys were ready - here, in their own words, they describe the journey day by day.

Day 1 John o'Groats to Culbokie, Rosshire

A misty start to the big adventure but all went well stopped for lunch at Helmsdale a chance to rest and refuel. The sunshine made the mountains stand grandly and the views across the Cromarty Firth were breathtaking. End of day 115 miles cycled with come challenging climbs time taken to ride 7 hours and 11minutes.

A lovely night spent in the Torvaig Steading and a warm Scottish welcome from all those in Culbokie.

Day 2 Culbokie to Ballachulish

Set off from Culbokie in light drizzle but nothing to stop us. We stopped in Fort Augustus for lunch. The scenery through the Great Glen was breathtaking, Waterfalls, an abundance of Rhododendrons and wildlife.

We had a good run including a 15per cent descent for one mile into Drumnadrochit.

A short stop in Fort William to rest legs and catch breath and then onwards reaching Ballachulish in good time 93.6 miles travelled today in 5 hours and 43minutes with an average speed of 16.3mph.

All feeling fit and well despite some hairy hair pins and scary hills. Support team doing an excellent job and keeping us going with plenty of good food along the way.

Day 3 Ballachulish to Strathaven

As we set off this morning the clouds were above the mountains and we had beautiful views to see us leave Ballachulish.

An easy first mile then a 9 mile climb up through Glencoe. Travelled across Rannoch Moor up to a height of 1100 feet. A great ride from Tyndrum to Tarbert where we stopped for lunch and met up with members of Clan Shanks who had arrived by four wheels not two. Stunning views of Ben Lomond were the backdrop for lunch. We travelled on through sweeping bends which were exhilarating and made the day. All the way to Erskine Bridge the roads were good and then from the south of the bridge to Strathevan it was slow going but we arrived at our lodgings for the night, The Steading, to a warm welcome and advise as to where to get the best view with a pint in hand tonight. Miles travelled today 106 in 6 hours 46 minutes average speed 15.6 mph.

Forecast not great for tomorrow but fingers crossed it will be wrong. To any drivers out there give the cyclists plenty of room on the road, cheers.

Day 4 Strathaven to Kendal

A tough day - 135 miles travelled in 9 hours 2 minutes average speed 15mph.

Starting out from Stathaven it was overcast and we were cycling into the wind. The first 30 miles were very slow due to a combination of bad road surfaces, bad sign posting and road works.

After that we had a good run to Gretna and we stopped for food at the border. It then started to rain and continued to do so all the way to Penrith. It remained overcast for the rest of the journey. After 120 miles we were confronted with a sign for STEEP SUMMIT so wet and weary we faced a 5 mile climb up to 1400 feet reaching the top it was freezing and we were up in the clouds. Coming down we had a 10pc descent and after another couple of smaller climbs we had a good run into Kendal where we have arrived red tired but safe. Not much time to recover tonight before the next stage tomorrow and unfortunately more rain is forecast. Anyone out there who has any powers over the precipitation please work your magic.

Day 5 Kendal to Shrewsbury

Nathan the navigator gave us a good start, the hosts of the bed and breakfast gave him a short cut to the A65 and ten minutes after we set off we were back at the B&B.

Take two. The first part of the day to Lancaster was good, the terrain completely different and in lots of ways easier. However, the weather closed in again at lunchtime and as we stopped for lunch in Wigan the heavens opened and the rain was relentless all the way to Whitchurch.

A very close shave today for one of the riders with a car but happy to report all OK.

From Whitchurch to Shrewsbury the rain abated and the only problem then was locating the B&B but a warm welcome was waiting for us on our arrival.

It was a day when it was a question of getting from A to B without too much to cheer us on. 134 miles travelled in 9 hours and 4 minutes with an average of 14.8 mph. Onwards to Somerset tomorrow where we hope the sun will come out for us

Day 6 Shrewsbury to Highbridge

We may be going south but its not true that it is all down hill.

After a lovely night in Shrewsbury with great hospitality and a feast for breakfast from the Castlecote Guest House we set off in driving rain.

We thought that cycling 138.5 miles today would not be enough so we took a wrong turn and added four miles to the tally. Average speed 14.6 mph which took 9 hours and 28 minutes.

Once we reached Hereford we stopped for lunch and the rain subsided. We then enjoyed a lovely run along the River Wye through the valley. A monster climb followed with a fast descent down into Monmouth.

We stopped for more refreshments at the Severn Bridge which was a good psychological pit stop. The ride through the Bristol rush hour was not much fun including a monster climb up to the airport. A great cycle to Highbridge in Somerset the sun came out and we enjoyed a lovely sunset. Hanging in there but everyone very tired and the posteriors are beginning to be saddle sore. A lovely warm welcome and a hot cup of tea and fancies were the pot of gold at the Rainbows guest house. We are looking forward to crossing the border into Cornwall tomorrow with the end in sight on Saturday. Thanks for reading it's keeping the guys going.

Day 7 Highbridge to Wadebridge

The last long day in the saddle, if this had been our second, would we have made it? I am not sure.We started in sunshine and felt optimistic, but with bad weather forecast we held little hope of not getting a soaking at some point in the day. By the time we got to Bridgewater the rain had arrived and stayed with us for a while. The cycle along the B3227 ( a road we will never forget) was a battle against all the elements, torrential rain, flooded roads and some of the scariest hills we had encountered on the whole trip. This was certainly going to be the longest day yet. We stopped at Great Torrington for lunch and toolk shelter in the camper van. After some warm refreshments and a gentle nudge to get back on the bikes from Eileen and Andy we set off again in torrential rain.

By Holsworthy the weather began to brighten and we enjoyed a dry run to Whitecross near Wadebridge. This was the most taxing day of the ride both mentally and physically. It is certainly a day we will always remember. The tally for today was 123 miles in 9 hours 10 minutes at an average speed of 13.4 mph. A warm welcome greeted us at The Old Post Office and it was a welcome relief to get off the bikes

Day 8 Wadebridge to Land's End

Refreshed and revived after a splendid evening meal at the local pub and the luxury of a late and hearty breakfast.

We set off in sunshine for what we hoped would be a short and leisurely hop to Lands End, a mere 55 miles away. Our aim was to arrive at the finish line after our families who had travelled down from Ipswich to greet us.

How wrong we were. The rain had not given up on us yet and as we cycled up Highgate Hill, it turned to hailstones and the glistening white turbines towering above us turned black.

The rain jackets did little to protect us but undeterred we carried on to Redruth where after a short stop the jackets came off and a was a pleasant and warm final push to Lands End.

Our families were there with banners, flags, streamers and liquid refreshments to help us celebrate and give us a heroes welcome.

Our last night was spent in the village of Portscatho where the landlord of the Plume of Feathers was both generous in his hospitality and kindness as were other members of the community who gave generously.

The Evening Star's Lifesaver appeal, the Alzheimer's Society, St Helena Hospice and Grooms Shaftesbury were each handed a massive £3,000 donation raised by the gruelling trip.

Nathan said each team member chose a charity. He added: “Each of us had a charity close to our hearts and we thought they were all worth supporting.”

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover, who launched the Lifesaver appeal in 2006 said: “I am very proud of what these lads have achieved. This money will go towards machinery that is urgently needed at Ipswich hospital.

“It is crucial equipment that the NHS will never buy and the sweat and hard work of these people will save lives.”

East Suffolk Alzheimer's Society also received £3,000 which will go towards carrying out their vital work in the community around Ipswich and the surrounding area.

Branch administrator Jon Lee, who received the cheque on Monday night, said: “It was an amazing feat and we are all very grateful to them for achieving it and thinking of us.”

And community fundraiser for the St Helena Hospice in Colchester, Heather Buxton, said: “St Helena Hospice is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and supports over 1,800 patients and their families.

“The rising cost of providing these services is currently £4.5 million for this financial year, and our fundraising team relies on the support of people like these to make it happen.”

Have you benefited from the charities? Do you have a similar story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The journey from Land's End to John O'Groats involves travelling from the extreme northern point of mainland Scotland, in Caithness, to the extreme south western point of Cornwall's Penwith Peninsula.

For over a century undertaking the journey, by a variety of means from riding, driving, to hiking naked, has been seen as the British Isles' most extreme test of endurance.

Thousands take up the challenge every year in order to raise money for charities.

The world record for making the journey by pedal power alone is held by Andy Wilkinson, who completed the journey in 41 hours 4 min. 22 seconds, beating the previous record, also held by Mr Wilkinson, of 44 hours.

Another man who completed the journey made headlines for different reasons.

The 'naked rambler' Stephen Gough was arrested several times while walking the route twice, between 2002 and 2004.

The Evening Star's Lifesaver appeal was launched in 2006 with the initial aim of raising £22,000 for a vital piece of heart monitoring equipment for Ipswich hospital's accident and emergency unit.

Enough money was raised within months for the cardiac ultrasound machine and as donations from individuals and businesses continued to flood in it was possible to buy more machines.

Next on the shopping list were four portable heart monitoring machines, now in use at the cardiology department at the hospital.

And the latest windfall, raised through the cyclists' achievements, will be spent on a mobile defibrillator for the new emergency department at the hospital's Elizabeth Garret Anderson centre.

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