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.











Wednesday 25th June



Route: Liverpool to Manchester
Mileage: 48.67 miles; 1008 miles so far; 492 miles to go
Weather: Cloudy start developing into a sunny afternoon with broken cloud


I'd agreed to meet Raimonda so went along to The Ark at around 9.20 for our meeting when she gave me a detailed description of her life as an assistant in Zimbabwe which would be useful for any talks along the way. Thanks for your time, Raimonda and for the photos you offered to send.


Time to catch up with my blogs which are getting behind, then Kevin Coogan arrived. As well as being a key member of the L'Arche Manchester Project, Kevin is a local Committee member of L'Arche Preston, which happened to be officially opened by his brother Steve of radio/TV/film fame. Kevin offered to ride with me from Liverpool to Manchester, and Hilary too wanted to travel part of the way on her borrowed electric bike, hers being in for repair.


As we set off the weather didn't look too promising but at least it was dry. We hit the Trans Pennine Way cycle path just off the East Prescott Road and sailed, oblivious of surrounding houses, through Childwall, Gateacre and Wolton to emerge from the disused railway line route near Speke. Here we spotted St Ambrose Catholic Primary School so popped in to see if they would sponsor my ride. Thanks Jo for offering to take my request to the Mr Buckley, the Headteacher, and for your warm and friendly welcome.


We then passed the back of Hailwood car factory where all the Jaguars are built and through the Speke Boulevard underpass towards Hale village. Hilary recommended we looked at the Church here but unfortunately it was closed. Instead we called on Janice Collier, the local Vicar, who had welcomed a group from the Liverpool Community few weeks before on a walk from Manchester along the same route. Thank you Janice for agreeing to publicise the request for sponsors, and for showing an interest in making more formal links between your parish and L'Arche Liverpool.


We met Brian Powell on his bike, training for a charity event before parting company with Hilary beyond the Runcorn Bridge. There was then a zig-zag path which took us up a level with great views of the Mersey estuary and clearing skies from the west. Kevin and I decided to take what looked like a promising turning towards the River Mersey, but ended up at a golf driving range and had to double back. Eventually we got through a hairy stretch of busy roads to get from Sankey Bridge to Stockton Heath where the trail hugs the Manchester Ship Canal for a stretch before peeling off south through Thelwell and Lymm.



After stopping at Kevin's in-laws' house near Oughtrington, a member of the Manchester Group, John Marechal, a young 78, met up with us near Warburton. He seemed to take it all in his stride - a great inspiration! The path up to Didsbury soon swings north and, although rough in places, kept us away from traffic and now basking in the late afternoon sun. Soon we were wheeling into Emmanuel Church Hall grounds where a reception party awaited along with a professional photographer who got Kevin, John and myself to ride up one of the neighbouring roads for some shots for the local newspaper. Thanks John for giving us your time and skill and your efforts to get the shots published.


Some of the children had prepared a fabulous banner, and members of the Manchester Project Group gathering for the advertised 'Hot Dogs, Warm Welcome and Cold Beer'. It was great to see many familiar faces and have a chance to say a few words about the trip so far, 1000 miles having been clocked up 8 miles down the road.


It was also great to hear about Andrea's Ben Nevis challenge which had taken place the day I left Silsden. She had been inspired to do it as a result of a talk in her church by Stephen, a member of the Project Group. Thanks so much to Naomi and Johanna for preparing the food, and to Heather and Wendy, Rebecca and Kevin, for organising the reception and young Jamie for his hand in the painting the poster.



It was then back to Heather and Kevin's house in Withington for a refreshing shower, and a relaxing chat over an excellent steak dinner, whilst the washing machine gently rocked my sweaty clothes clean – well, those I wasn't wearing.


The Coogan's attic has been made into a wonderful self-contained bed-sit which was my abode for a very sound night's sleep.


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