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 4th June 2008

Today's route – 47.5 miles from Kielder Water, Northumberland to Eildon by Melrose
Weather – Blue sky, scattered cloud, warm wind, perfect cycling conditions – at last!

All this exercise is making for a great night's sleep though this morning I was awoken by the dawn chorus which must have started around 3.30 am when it starts getting light up here.
Jock had to leave by 8.00 am to return to his parish in Gilmerton, Edinburgh and took with him some excess baggage to leave at the L'Arche house in Leith where I would be staying. I'm still having to learn the hard way about being ruthless in packing only the essentials. I like to have this and that 'just in case'.

The day looked very promising weather wise, so after settling up and thanking Joe who had welcomed us the previous evening, I loaded the panniers and headed west along the south side of Kielder Water. For those who haven't sampled the delights of cycling, this must have been one of my best rides. With very little traffic, great road surfaces, spectacular forest scenery and relatively gentle inclines, I thanked God for bringing me through a tough few days and rewarding me with such beauty. There were signs to many camping sites and activity centres around the Water which made me think that there are many who are not prepared to brave the midges – or many 'one time only' visitors!

The road eventually reaches Kielder itself and then heads north west up to Deadwater beyond which I stopped to celebrate the fact that I had reached Scotland. In many ways it feels like coming home since my parents moved to Edinburgh when I was two.

The road follows a number of burns (streams) and winds right round on itself at Saughtree then climbs gradually through Wauchope Forest with the only sound of a distant tree felling caterpillar. Bright yellow gorse is abundant round these parts and occasionally one gets the sweet smelling scent of coconut carried on the cooling breeze. The hawthorn too is still in profuse blossom and there was one point where I had to stop and just marvel at the beauty of a field of Highland cattle grazing gently amidst blossom laden trees.

The road then drops down to Bonchester Bridge past hamlets of houses then cuts west towards Hawick where I stopped for lunch and got good mobile signal to confirm arrangements ahead. Time for more phone calls, checking emails and writing the blog. Confirmation had come through from Judith that I had a bed offered on the Isle of Mull and in Winchester, so the jigsaw pieces were coming together.

The Beanscene only opened in September and houses the Tourist information Office, a cafe and cinema. A big thanks to Chris at the TIC and Lindsay at Bs for sorting out the WiFi and making me feel at home. Hawick has a long tradition of being a centre for knitwear and the Beanscene is creatively built around an old mill where the huge water wheel can still be viewed which no doubt powered a battery of looms.

I left Hawick around 3.00 and negotiated my way out of town, joined up the hill by another cyclist, Mike Underhill on his son's Claude Butler. We turned off the busy A7 to the B6339 where it was possible to have a chat. Thanks Mike for your company, encouragement and directions.

I was due to stay the night with the co-founder of L'Arche in the UK. Ann with her late husband Geoffrey Morgan had been instrumental in setting up the first L'Arche house in this country alongside Therese Vanier, Jean Vanier's sister. Ann now lives in Eildon near Melrose, and had her daughter Merry staying, whose 30th birthday was being celebrated this week-end, and a close friend Anne. I had previously visited these parts a few years ago with Fran O'Neill when we did the St Cuthbert's Way – a really great walk from Melrose to Lindisfarne.

The SatNav didn't like just the name of a house and village so I plumped for the nearest equivalent which was clearly wrong as the wretched machine kept insisting that I turned right then piped up in a resentful tone “recalculating” when I didn't, as if I was putting it to great inconvenience. Perhaps it's all my fault for not being sufficiently SatNav savvy.

The garden at Littlecroft is just a delight. After a quick shower and change, I was sitting in it savouring a welcome glass of wine in the warm evening sun. Behind us, blending ingeniously into its natural surroundings, stood a long cabin housing an office and bedroom where I was to sleep. It's an amazing eco-friendly design, built with straw bale walls and a sedum roof, and the work of one of Ann's sons who is a green architect in Edinburgh.

It was just great to see Ann again, whom I first met in Barfrestone, Kent, 18 years ago. I particularly remember her kindness and concern in the early days of my job. We then sat around the kitchen table over a lovely meal, catching up on news and reminiscing.

Had a useful conversation on the phone with John Elliott in search of a bed on the way from Perth to Inverness. He suggested the Templetons who are fellow trustees of the Community of the Transfiguration in Roslin where I would be visiting tomorrow. It hadn't occurred to me they lived in the vicinity so after another call a welcome was extended and arrangements were confirmed.

Another exhilarating day, made easier by shedding some baggage (thanks, Jock and driver Peter for making this possible) and significant through my visiting Ann who is such an important part of L'Arche UK's story.

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