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 8th July

Route: West Norwood, London to Braintree, Essex
Miles: 54.99; Miles so far: 1565
Weather: Cloudy turning to heavy showers by lunchtime, clearing in afternoon


A much better night's sleep so ready for the road again. I had been asked to call in at the office/workshop on Norwood High Street en route where a number of people gave me a great send-off towards Tulse Hill. It's been really great coming back to Lambeth where I feel so much at home. There are many links with my 18 years here and some special memories. It's been good to see The Vine flourishing and encouraging to see it is expecting another new member shortly.


I suppose to many, riding through London traffic would seem a scary prospect, particularly after Ann-Marie, one of the female assistants from L'Arche Lambeth, was killed when cycling in the city. My earlier brush with death in Kendal made me acutely aware of the dangers. To some extent the bus lanes help, and there are now some specific cycle routes which take one off the busy streets. Thanks To David G, I had a wonderful roll-out street map taking me right out of London, but this nevertheless required close concentration as well as focussing on staying safe.


The route took me norrth through Peckham, Walworth and onto Tower Bridge. Here I picked up a cycle route along Commercial Road to Limehouse. It's great to see traffic lights for bikes as well a pedestrians along these paths, though whoever laid the tarmac must have had St Vitas Dance. I stopped at one point to check the map and Mike appeared on his bike seemingly from nowhere - he is one of the cycling officers owrking for the London Cycling Campaign. Thanks for your suggested route, Mike. Turning north at Butcher's Row and rejoining Mile End road west, Bow Church appeared, hidden by trees and isolated by the busy dual carriageway. I recall during one of the IRA bomb threats when the tubs were closed, I walked through London and was amazed to find how many green parks and forgotten monuments appeared along the route.


Then the rain came – in buckets. I took shelter in McDonalds along Romford Road where they had space for my bike. A coffee and muffin gave me an hour and a half free WiFi time, and the staff were very friendly. Thank you for the refuge from the floods! Yes, by the time I left, there was a lake outside, as the drains weren't coping. The sun came out and life looked brighter. I lost the cycle route through Ilford, but found a way through to Eastern Avenue as per my map then north past Newbury Park, Fullwell Cross and up to Grange Hill where I turned east alongthe Lamboourne Road to Chigwell to Lambourne End. Here suburbia gave way to fields and more open countryside. It's only after Stapleford Abbots that you cross the M25.


At one point I turned the corner and there in front of me was a field of ostriches, obviously being farmed for their meat.


From here on I felt as if I was really making progress to Braintree. Up till now the sky had been still heavy in places with rain clouds, but it quickly brightened into a beautifully sunny afternoon with distant white cotton wool cloud formations setting off the ripening field of golden barley.


From Chipping Ongar, I followed Fyfield Road and discovered hidden gems of Essex along the quiet country lanes interrupted only by intersecting the A1060 and A130 roads. Lovely villages and hamlets along here, with the steeples of country churches punctuating the landscape. Fields of wheat and barley abound, with evidence too of serious vegetable production – with broad beans and leeks nearly ready for harvesting.


Braintree soon came within the radar and I was pedalling down the hill to my hosts for the night at around 6.20.

I had met Michael and Claire earlier this year through a mutual friend David Morland, and it was very good to see them again. After a quick tour of their spacious garden and pond, and an examination of their land drainage arrangements, I relaxed in a wonderful hot bath. Claire and Peter are keen cyclists having done the trip to Rome en velo, and are impressively committed to the Fair Trade movement and interfaith dialogue. They invited their neighbour, Peter, also a cyclist who had just returned from France to join us for a delicious dinner.

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