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.

Thursday 5th June 2008

Today's route – 57.3 miles from Eildon by Melrose to Edinburgh via Roslin
Total mileage so far 244.6 miles; miles to go 1,255.4.
Weather – Blue sky with broken cloud – another good day

My first night in an eco-house induced sound sleep. I realise, though, there is an underlying accumulation of fatigue which will need a day's rest to sort, so I'm looking forward to Friday when I spend a day in L'Arche Edinburgh.

My previous experience of long walks and cycle trips is the great sense of well-being (normally) at the end of a day, a healthy appetite and almost instant sleep when the head hits the pillow. This trip is no exception, and I'm aware that, despite the rain earlier this week, my spirits have remained high. Somewhere along the line, though, I need to be prepared for a less buoyant mood!

The day ahead looked great for cycling, and after a good breakfast I said my farewells. Hope you got home safely, Anne, and have a great party, Merry. Thank you, Ann, for your warm hospitality amidst all the preparations for Sunday.

I headed down the cycle path to Melrose past a plaque commemorating Thomas the Rhymer – the legend goes that he fell asleep below a tree near here and woke to find a shining lady on a dappled grey horse who took him to Fairyland from whence he returned 3 days later a wiser man. I'll leave people to Google for the full story.

Melrose is a quiet border town between Galashiels and St Boswells. It's rugby country. The cycle path through and around the town soon took me alongside tree lined tracks skirting he River Tweed and the sound of lawnmowers carefully clipping the tops of the well manicured lawns of the riverside mansions. Evocative smells of summer. The legs started to itch from the storm of midges which had left their calling card of red spots. No other people or bikes in sight though I sense it's busier at the week-ends. Well done Sustrans for developing the cycle network!

I was due to meet Jock at Peel corner where the A710 meets the A72. Whilst waiting his arrival I got chatting to Ian with two whippets who was the recipient of one of my cards. His was the white van I passed a mile back. Great to chat, Ian – all the best. Jock and Peter soon arrived and we were soon on our way toward Innerleithen where we were to meet Lizzie Findlay, a friend of the Roslin Community, and linked with Faith and Light, the sister organisation of L'Arche, set up to provide a support network for people with learning disabilities living at home, their families and friends. I had met Lizzie at the Jean Vanier Glasgow retreat in Bearsden with Ceelie Horsbrough and many others from Faith & Light. The cycle track hugs the southern side of the river and drops into the town over an impressive iron bridge.

We found Lizzie and John's house with the help of a neighbour who turned out to have organised some fundraising for L'Arche when it was one of the Church of Scotland's nominated charities. John is a skilled carpenter who has built an impressive extension where we sat down to a delicious lunch. Lizzie, an art therapist, planned to join Jock and me on the last leg to Roslin. She would be returning on Saturday by car with her home cooking for Roland's 91st birthday. It transpired that this was Lizzie's first trip to Roslin by bike. The B709 is a quiet back road heading due north from Innerleithen through the Moorfoot hills. Half way up we were stopped by a white van heading south looking for a place near Roslin, so we put them right. Hope you found the place OK, lads! Thanks for your interest in sponsoring the ride.

Climbing the Moorfoots involved a persistent but manageable climb. At the top I could see a cutting promising a splendid view of Midlothian from the other side. Not the first time has my imagination raised false hopes, as another rise came into view. When the summit was eventually reached, we all stopped to marvel at the site of the Pentlands to the west and Firth of Forth and Fife to the north. This is the area I grew up in and which holds such deep memories.

The cycle path peeled off to the west after an exhilarating ride down, and given we were running late, it was agreed I would ride ahead to Roslin where we were expected between 3.00 and 3.30 pm. Cutting through the hamlets of Carrington and Parduvine there was evidence of mining activity nearby, with extraction of sand or gravel along intriguing covered conveyor belts running under the road and across the field like an endless green caterpillar.

The last bit to Roslin really tested the legs, as the road drops down to Roslin Glen before climbing steeply to the village of Roslin which has become the focus of intense interest as the result of a recent thriller, and famous for its institute which cloned Dolly, the late sheep. More importantly it's the home of a small ecumenical community whose members live in wooden huts of the sort you and I would use to house a lawnmower. I was privileged to be asked to be a trustee of the Community some years ago and have come to love the peacefulness and tranquility it offers through a deep commitment to prayer and the simple life in the Franciscan tradition.

John Halsey, Will Henderson, John and Cath Norman and Marie Wedge from L'Arche Edinburgh (thanks for organising this, Marie) gave me a great welcome in the same kitchen I had visited one Wednesday in 1988 to meet Roland. Jock and Lizzie soon arrived, also relieved to have conquered the final hill. Well done Lizzie for a fantastic achievement! Before departing, we all paid a visit to the chapel (2 huts joined together) for a rendition of the Magnificat and a parting Blessing for a Journey, after which I said a quick hello to Roland who stays in the background these days.

As we assembled for the final photos on the pavement outside, two very patient mothers with prams waited. Thank you, Fiona and Nadine, for your understanding and I hope you might support the ride!

From Roslin it was a gentle ride along the cycleway to Loanhead and then rather a hairy ride through rush hour traffic round the east side of Edinburgh, through Gilmerton where Jock has his parish, and then to Leith. Members of The Skein, the Edinburgh Community's first house which overlooks Leith Links, gave us all a great welcome, supported by Heather Coogan the new regional Co-ordinator for Scotland, and Jane Salmonson, the L'Arche Overseas Development Co-ordinator who has been helping to plan the fundraising.

We had made it by 6.00 pm and so supper was ready, and everyone gathered around the table for a traditional L'Arche meal, after saying goodbye to Jock. I've really appreciated your company and encouragement over a couple of days.

It's significant that I'm staying at The Skein as it was the first house I had helped to buy in my capacity as Company Secretary back in 1990. Warm memories of those days with founding Community leader Nikki Ewing, Chair Helen Reid-Thomas, and Treasurer John Norman.

A party from the other house, Creelha, came round for prayers at about 8.00 pm. Sarah chose the theme, being change, which helped me reflect on the many changes that had happened for me over the last 12 months, and those which have also affected L'Arche. Before retiring to bed, I agreed to have a ride round the links with George, one of the founding members. He is very proud of his trike. Marie took some photos which I hope may see their way to the blog. And so the end of the longest day's ride so far and the end of the 1st stage. Only 1,255 miles to go!


midgerichmond said...

This is amazing reading your blog! I might have known you'd have your laptop in tow! It's fascinating reading about all the interesting places you've visited. Keep up the good work and hope the weather stays fine. Love Midge x

Corinne said...

Trust you had a good time in Edinburgh. Glad you're making good progress and that the weather is good. Enjoy the Cairngorms. Hope you haven't squashed too many bananas :-)
Love Brian & Corinne.