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.

Tuesday 3rd June 2008

Today's route – 44 miles from Kiln Pit Hill west of Consett to Kielder Water, Northumberland
Weather - persistent rain till early afternoon then dry and brightening.

There is something special about a real farmhouse breakfast. Tom and Peter seemed unusually keen for me to have a cooked one which I suspect is not the norm, so I was glad to oblige! Thanks Ann for great cooking and to you and Tom for a really enjoyable stay. The rain persisted when I left Airey Holme Farm heading north west to Hexham where I was due to meet reporter Gemma from the local newspaper, the Hexham Courant. Ann's email was being particularly obstinate the previous evening so the photo taken of myself and Tom hadn't gone through when I left. I was keen to ensure that the Durham Prayer Group was mentioned in the accompanying email, as any publicity could help to strengthen their membership.

I was getting used to the rain percolating through my helmet and dripping off my nose, but the rest of me was relatively dry thanks to some efficient clothing. The B6306 road takes a more direct route through back lanes to Hexham through Slaley. As I was cycling through the village I passed the First School and wondered if they would be interested in sponsoring my efforts so doubled back and introduced myself and presented my credentials to the Headteacher, Mrs Ross, who was delighted that I had called, as the children were doing their cycling proficiency. In two minutes I had a cup of warming tea in my hand facing a classroom of bright eyed kids telling them about my Big Bike Ride and explaining what L'Arche was and explaining a bit about learning disabilities. It was great to see so much enthusiasm and interest from the kids, and touched when Mrs Ross suggested they too did a bit of cycling to help support L'Arche. The bike attracted a lot of interest not least the SatNav!

I was late getting to the Hexham Courant office, under-estimating the terrain which was quite up and down, but arrived at around 11.45. Gemma had received the email and photo from Ann, and confirmed she would run a piece in this week's edition. I then repaired to Mucho Gusto for an excellent coffee before searching for a wireless hotspot to send yesterday's blog. Weatherspoons were very obliging but the passwords didn't work. So I found the library and got online there. However, I was denied access to see my blog! So it was along to Cafe Nero...

Jock Dalrymple had planned to spend a day with me, and had arranged for a parishioner, Peter and his wife, from Hawick to perform a complicated set of manoevres with cars to bring him and his bike to Hexham, leaving his car at Bellingham. It was still pouring when he arrived, and we met appropriately at the Abbey which was the first Benedictine foundation in England - thanks, Jock, for another historical insight. Jock and I met in Rome and have been cycling at least once a year since 1988, so we have got used to each other's foibles.

We amended the planned route slightly out of Hexham and were a little alarmed to see Peter and his wife heading towards us just after Low Brunton. An accident ahead had forced them to find another route to Bellingham. We eventually came to the spot before Wark where a van had completely turned over on a country lane – fortunately no fatalities.

The rain eventually subsided and the ride became quite enjoyable to Bellingham where Jock picked up his car and went off to check in at the Calvert Trust who had kindly sponsored a discounted overnight stay. I was relieved to handover my panniers for a few miles and set off for an easier ride with the sky brightening from the west, after a cup of tea at the Riverdale Hotel which seems to have quite a reputation for food.

One great aspect of cycling is the ability to exchange words with people along the way and this I did with Lawrence Dagg, a farmer who was viewing a field of sheep when I passed. He had the wisdom of a man who had seen many seasons out, and remarked that perhaps people would take farming more seriously now food was in short supply. It made me think that this was indeed a primary industry which we expect much of without perhaps sufficiently understanding the pressures they face.

I met Jock half way to Kielder and we decided to stop at Stannersburn for a meal at The Pheasant Inn which didn't disappoint us in the quality of food and the convivial atmosphere. A great meal. We rolled out at about 10.00 (still light up here) and attacked the remaining 5 miles while the midges attacked us. I've never seen or felt so many!

The Calvert Trust place where we were staying was very impressive, with a number of groups using it – a couple of schools and a respite group. It's basically designed for people with any kind of disabilities and they have a resident young team who are obviously dedicated to ensuring visitors get the most out of the recreational facilities on site.

Sleep came easily and soundly!


Corinne said...

Don't know if we are meant to use the 'comments' slot for getting through to you, John, but Corinne and I appreciate your blog very much indeed. You seem to be making remarkable headway whilst, at the same time, having quite an adventure. 'Keep eating the fish and chips!'

raikeswood said...

Just wanted to pop by and tell you how much I'm enjoying your blog. Good luck with the rest of the trip. [Gareth Williams]

Corinne said...

Where are you, John, we want to know? Weather in Silsden sunny and warm. Hope you've also had good weather today and had a good bike ride.