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.


Monday 23rd June

A day in Silsden


I had arranged with Aire Valley cycles to take the bike in this morning for a short service so get there by about 9.30 a.m. by flying up to Steeton top and through Utley like I was in the Tour de France....or so it seemed without any panniers. Many thanks to Alistair and Bernie for doing the work free of charge.

Otherwise a busy day which included a couple of hours in the afternoon with Ruth's help weeding the allotment. Thanks to fellow allotment holders John and Melvyn's watering in my absence, the tomato plants and other polytunnel produce were doing well, though the slugs had demolished the runner beans outside. Will the two that are left survive, I wonder!?


By 8.50 pm, Ruth had dropped me and the bike back at L'Arche Preston. I'm really grateful for all your help, Ruth.



Sunday 22nd June

A day at L'Arche Preston a.m./Home in Silsden p.m.


Maggy had arranged with Nick Mansfield, the vicar of, St Leonard's Anglican Church, Penwortham, for me to give the homily at the 10.00 a.m. Communion service. The curate John Scott was taking the service in Nick's absence, and gave me and the L'Arche contingent a very warm welcome. The service was well supported by a choir and energetic organist who for one hymn changed to the electronic keyboard and synthasiser much to the delight of core member Jenny who couldn't help but exclaim in a loud voice“well done” at the end. Like many core members, she isn't afraid of expressing what we others think. Many thanks to Nick and John for agreeing to support my fundraising with a retiring collection this week and next, and to the parishioners for any support they give.


It was then back to the house where Michael, a friend of the Community and part-time assistant, had prepared a fabulous roast lunch, before being collected by Ruth Yeoman who kindly took me and my bike to Silsden for a planned day at home.


Saturday 21st June

Route: Kendal to Preston
Mileage: 46.54 miles 924 miles so far; 576 miles to go
Weather: Cloudy but fine to Torrishome, then rain to Preston

After a very comfortable stay at the Presbytery, for which many thanks Chris, I headed off to find the road to Lancaster. I was due to stop for lunch at my cousin's in Torrisholme near Morecambe. After an initial busy stretch of dual carriageway down the A591 and then A590, the turn off to the A6 took me through familiar territory, though I had always covered this stretch by car.

The sign to Heversham evoked memories of family gatherings at the Blue Bell, and lunches of Morecambe Bay potted shrimps. Dad had been educated at Heversham Grammar School just up the lane before he embarked on his mining engineering studies. Then on through Carnforth where the train from Edinburgh used to stop and where Aunt Alice who lived down the road in Bolton le Sands would be waiting to hand over hampers of food and other goodies to sustain us on the last stage of our steam train journey to Liverpool. Another Aunt, Mildred, lived in Arnside overlooking the estuary where the tidal boar was eagerly watched through black metal binoculars from her first floor window. Tales of treacherous quicksands; treading for flat fish; playing cards on dreary days ....

Not much traffic on the road today. As I passed all these places, or signs to them, I felt strangely at home with so many strong ancestral connections. It's gentle countryside round here and at one point in the road the distant sight of Morecambe Bay evoked that imagined whiff of estuary ozone. The bikes gear chain has started squeaking – is it the pedals, the crankshaft, the derailler or just my imagination? Paranoia setting in ...

Clouds are starting to get darker – an ominous sign. A right turn before entering Lancaster took me the back way to Torrisholme and I'm rolling up to my cousin's house before 11.00, ahead of schedule. It was great to see Midge, Stuart, and sons Scott and Andrew who had laid on a great spread for lunch. No sooner had I arrived but the heavens opened. Stuart went along to Bare Lane station to meet Gerard Isbeque, a friend from my home parish who had offered to cycle with me today. Gerard is no newcomer to cycling, with a few End to Ends under his belt. He has now retired from a fascinating career in the wool trade which Midge's brother John has been involved with since emigrating to Australia 40 years ago. So it was interesting to hear his tales over a delicious lunch – Thanks Midge.

At 2.00ish it was time to tear ourselves away and head into the rain. Once through Lancaster, there's a quiet road to Cockerham, past Glasson, which would have been delightful in the sun, but nonetheless still attractive in the wet. More sharing stories with Gerard, though difficult at times to ride side by side.

The road then joins the A6 at Garstang, and I thought of Jean Andrews who lives here as we sailed through the town. She was the first Chair of the L'Arche Preston Local Committee with whom I worked closely in the early days. Hope you're enjoying retirement, Jean!

The traffic got busier as we approached Preston, but we arrived around 4.15 in time for a warming cup of tea with members of the house. Then for Gerard, a mandatory tour of the house from Jenny with her engaging manner. Thanks so much for your company, Gerard, and I'm glad you caught the train back to Colne, from where, like a true cyclist, you were going to ride back home.

Again the focus of the evening was the shared meal around the beautifully hand crafted dining table which could probably sit 16 at a push. Apart from Ems, who was spending the week-end away, Martin, Tim, Jenny, Ellie and Chris were all around, along with Almaz, Elena, Tom, Andy and Livingstone. Elena had prepared the meal with the help of Maggie who has been involved as a live out assistant since the house opened.

A relaxing evening, then an hour to prepare for the sermon I was giving at St Leonard's, Penwortham the next day.


Friday 20th June


Route: Lockerbie to Kendal
Mileage: 74.7 miles 877 miles so far; 623 miles to go
Weather: Broken cloud, blue sky, light wind

Despite being at the budget end of the hotel spectrum, The Blue Bell was adequate for my needs. After a continental breakfast supplied on a tray the night before. I was on the road again by 9.00 am facing the longest ride in the itinerary so far.

The route took me through rural villages, names like Ecclefechan where I met Eddie and young Thomas who gave me directions – thanks for your support. It wasn't long before I was rolling into Gretna where I stopped at the Old Blacksmith's famous for its weddings. Here I met Regie, a police officer from Newquay who kindly stood me a coffee at the adjoining cafe. He was on his way down from John O'Groats on an End-to-End ride, and had a map similar to the one I should have had, so was able to confirm the route through Longtown, Carlisle and beyond. As I was wheeling my bike through the crowds, a man I had seen in the hotel in Arrochar said hello – the coach party had stopped there on their way home.

I rode with Regie towards Carlisle , stopping at the border for a photo, but lost him before entering the town, and hope he got to his destination OK that night at Shap. Good luck with the rest of the ride, Regie - I hope the back holds out.

A quick diversion to leave some info on the ride with Trinity College and Newman School, and then it was along what seemed like a ring road avoiding the city centre. A few miles out and I found a Premier Inn where Jamie and Amy kindly gave me complementary access to the hotel's WiFi. Many thanks for this and the coffee, Amy. Blog sent, I was on my way again on the A6 at around 1.30 pm.

Cycling through Carlisle reinforced by belief that many local authorities pay lip service to cycle paths, and little attention to the state of the road/path surfaces. That said, the majority of car/lorry/bus drivers have given me reasonable space to avoid the obstacle course of potholes which are just not always evident when you're behind the wheel. As I may have already mentioned, all these cycle paths are going to need a significant investment in maintenance and repair. It might be a salutary experience for someone responsible actually to cycle the routes to see the problems that exist. Good to get that off my chest.

The weather improved as the day progressed, and the lack of major inclines meant that I was likely to be on schedule for a 6.30 arrival in Kendal. At Penrith's Tourist Information, I checked the route and decided to take the direct road over Shap summit rather than the longer route to the east. There are some spectacular views of rolling countryside around these parts, and today the high pressure meant clear views in the distance towards the Lakeland hills. After going through Shap village, which is dominated by the huge quarry and associated belching chimneys, the gradual ascent seemed quite manageable, until the last long pull up to Shap summit. There's a nice memorial there to local people who have provided food and shelter to stranded travellers in bad weather. Not a place to cycle over in winter.

A moment or two to survey the distant scene, and listen to the silence when not invaded by the sound of cars and lorries. The descent was one of those exhilerating experiences which makes all the pain and toil worth it. Memories of a similar descent in the Picos de Europe in northern Spain. Max speed 36 mph.

I reached the outskirts of Kendal at around 6.30 as planned and was negotiating the one way system, when I was forced into the pavement by a driver who left me no room when cutting a corner. I raced after the car and caught up with it at the next traffic lights, making the driver aware in no uncertain terms of his threat to my life. The first serious incident in over 800 miles.

I soon found my accommodation for the night at the presbytery of the Catholic Church, where I was warmly welcomed by Fr Christopher Loughran, the parish priest, After a long hot bath to recover from the 74 mile trip, I was given a delicious supper and discovered that Chris had studied at the Beda with Jock Dalrymple. What a small world it is.

It was then time to arrange with Gerard Isbeque, a keen cycling friend from Silsden, a rendezvous point for tomorrow's ride through Torrisholme to Preston, my final destination for the first phase of my ride.
Thursday 19th June

Route: Glasgow to Lockerbie
Mileage: 56.7 miles 803 miles so far; 697 miles to go
Weather: Mainly dry but some heavy showers over Beattock, light wind.

Marion came round and had breakfast with me, Ann leaving for work soon after 8.00 am. As arranged last night, Lawrence Logue kindly called at 8.30 to take me and my bike to a shop in Gibson Street near the University, recommended by Michael McCart and Lawrence's son. We were there by 9.15 only to find that it didn't open till 10.00 pm. So we popped home to Lawrence's nearby flat and I made a few phone calls.

One was to Judith at the L'Arche Silsden office who brought me up to date on the donations received. Thanks to all those who have given either on-line or by returning the sponsor form. I'm sure that many others have the good intention of doing so. It would be great to see more donations coming in. The other call was to Martin Dunlop of the Scottish Catholic Observer to do a telephone interview for an article.

We then returned to the bike shop where proprietor Joe Allan checked the wheel and spotted a broken spoke. He said they were short of mechanics but understood my plight and told me to come back within an hour, So we went back again to Lawrence’s flat and his wife Marie plied us with coffee and biscuits as I sent my blog and discussed Rabbie Burns poem “To a Mouse”

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley
An' lae'e us nought but grief and' pain
For promised joy...

Still thou art blest compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee
But oh! I backward cast my e'e on prospects drear
An' forward tho' I canna see
I guess an' fear!

An apt reminder of the merits of living the present moment and not fretting about the path ahead. When we returned for the bike all was fixed. Thanks so much Joe of Gear Bikes for a great job and a very reasonable price.

It was getting on for 11.45 by the time we left the shop so I agreed to Lawrence's offer to drop me on the south side of Glasgow to make up lost time. This had been planned as one of my longer routes, and I had lost half a day. Thanks so much Lawrence for your kindness and generosity in getting me out of this hole. Good luck with the proof-reading business!

So I started off at Stonehouse and headed south on the B7078. Unfortunately, the maps sent by Silsden ahead of my arrival in Glasgow hadn't arrived, so I had would have to rely on stopping at petrol stations and asking passers by. This, however, would give me an opportunity of inviting sponsorship from strangers.

Passing through Blackwood, I called in at Our Lady and St John's Primary School ad Presbytery to invite sponsorship. Thanks to the receptionist and the Headteacher Mrs Lyons for considering this.

It was then out into the country lanes following closely the M74. Showers threatened but generally it was fine, and signs told me I was following the Sustrans route 74. Some of the surface was annoyingly potted, repeated square holes having been badly infilled, and some very rough surfaces which forced me onto the main carriageway. For quite a long way, though, the track was well surfaced, and separate from the road. Abingdon soon appeared, then Crawford, where Mike Morrison and I stopped on our hitch-hiking holiday to Greece. We had been picked up by an aircraft engineer who was starting to fall asleep at the wheel due to working through the night. He eventually acquiesced to ,my suggestion that he slept and I drove.

From here on, this must have been the old A74 which we travelled as kids from Edinburgh to Liverpool on holidays, stopping at a favourite filling station for Marmite sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, lettuce and crisps, and hot coffee from one of those thermos flasks with a cork stopper. It seemed a huge adventure in those days.

Today it's a great road to travel on by bike, the motorway at a safe distance, pine forests covering the hills ad the comforting sound of the high speed trains occasionally piercing the traffic noise. On to Auchen Castle Hotel, and eventually Beattock Summit where I got a strange kick out of out-pacing a heavily laden goods train struggling up the last incline.

The road through Beattock itself and then towards Lockerbie was relatively flat so quite fast and I was soon entering Lockerbie itself. I decided to stop here, having covered 56 miles since 12.30 pm, and to negotiate a room at a hotel rather than a B&B which would be less able to operate at marginal costing. The first hotel politely referred me to one of two other, and I eventually ended up getting a reasonable deal at the Blue Bell Hotel. Thank you.

And so I was thankful to have been brought safely through the unknown to my destination and reflected again on Rabbie Burns' poem. I also spared a thought for the people of Lockerbie who must still have traumatic memories of that fateful day in 1989.