John Peet, former General Secretary of L'Arche UK, is hoping to raise £30,000 by cycling 1500 miles around the UK and visiting every L'Arche Community and Project on the way. The money will go to L'Arche in Zimbabwe, where funds are so desperately needed just to keep the Community going, and to the Projects in Glasgow and Manchester that, with your help, will soon become L'Arche Communities.

Day 1: Sunday 1st June

Last minute preparations finally complete, I set off to the Methodist Church at around 12.10 to find an astonishing number of people waiting to give me a send off. I was very moved to see so many people supporting my ride and realised afterwards that they were probably not aware of the hard work that the Silsden Team including David Grimshaw had put into the planning. The weather forecast had not been wrong - steady rain was falling - and my heart sank with the prospect of the first day battling against the elements. After some well staged pictures for the local PR and a few words from me, Corrine Gregory gave a fitting Irish blessing, and Jo Blythe, the ITV weather presenter wished me well before ceremoniously sending myself and Sue Johnson on our way - Sue having kindly agreed to accompany me on the first push up to Cringles. It all seemed a bit surreal seeing the gathered crowd cheer, many of whom I have come to know in my 18 years in Silsden, as I wobbled off unsteadily under the weight of the panniers. The adventure had begun.

Thanks to a few training rides, we were soon up at Cringles and I was on my own speeding down to Addingham and beyond. Despite the rain, I was very aware of the wonderful countryside - along to Bolton Abbey, past Strid Wood and down to Burnsall. The beauty of stone walls and rolling verdant dales punctuated by lonesome barns reminded me why I have grown to love this area so much. On a sunny day, the wild flower meadows would have been a sight to behold - but even in the rain they evoke warm memories of a Carmel Ramblers week-end walk in Dentdale one May.

After Bolton Abbey, I met up with a Leeds YHA group, who later joined me at the cafe at Burnsall which looked too inviting to pass. So I pulled in and had a warming cup of tea, handing out a few cards and encouraging sponsorship among the fellow customers. Thanks to whoever gave me the idea of printing business size cards with the web address for donations - opportunities to tell people about L'Arche along the way, and hopefully persuade people to give to the appeal. Then on to Scargill where I recently stood down as chair after nearly 3 years, and where I met my late friend Alan Isles who went to Nepal to start the tree nursery project that I visited in March. Another cup of tea and a chat with a few members of the Community and I was on my way to the tough bit of the ride - up through Coverdale. I realised that it was impossible to cycle up 1 in 4 gradients with a full load - even with 24 gears. So there were a couple of stretches where I had to get off and push. I'm not sure how I would have coped even without baggage. But this allowed me to marvel at the fabulous countryside - how is it I've not discovered this dale before, having always taken the road to Starbotton, Buckden and Cray? When on the bike again, there is still a substantial climb to the top, and just as I was approaching the summit I heard the rare sound of skylark. Oddly, as the mist was starting to roll in, the rain stopped and the northern sky lighten as I started the descent to Leyburn. The gentle descent was interrupted by another killer climb after which I decided to try the Garmin SatNav for which David G had managed to get a significant discount from Halfords.

This is high tech stuff. Type in the postcode and just sit back, watch the map on the screen and listen to the instructions. Garmin voice directed me to turn left after so many miles. The other high tech features are my gear changers. Thanks to wide advice and a generous price reduction from Aire Valley Cycles, I'm now the proud owner of a Ridgeback World Voyage bike, with gear changers that are integral to the brake levels, making gear changing a doddle. A number of other retailers kindly offered a discount, including Cycle Clothing UK which is a new internet company selling really good gear at really good prices - thanks Charlton for sponsoring the shirts, warmers and shades. As I was pondering on these technological advances, I passed a woman who was doing a 10 mile run in the hope of doing the London Marathon next year. Said she would visit the website, so another card dispensed.

The last leg into Leyburn is along the busier A684 and since I was ahead of schedule, I popped into the 3 Horseshoes for a celebratory pint. The SatNav did its stuff and I was soon knocking at the door of Tom and Paula's Eastfield Lodge Guest house. Through Judith Ellis's links, Collett’s Mountain Holidays have generously sponsored a night’s stay here. I couldn't have wished for a warmer welcome or a better room (with a bath to soak away the day's exertions - rediscovering the pleasures of hot tap toe control) and was treated to a wonderful meal in convivial company. As I was running the bath, Jeremy Cain, a friend of L'Arche, rang to say he couldn't make the ride tomorrow; it would have been good to have his company.

That's all for now. A hard slog, but the bike handled really well, I've chalked up 34 miles in half a day, and met some really hospitable and generous people. It bodes well for the weeks ahead...

1 comment:

John Norman said...

wishing you well, John, at the start of your epic journey. Hoping the weather will get a bit kinder. Looking forward to meeting you at Roslin to escort you in to doubt the satnav will help!

Love, John & Cath