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.

Monday 7th July

Rest Day in Lambeth

Decided to get up late after everyone in the house had left for work. Nice not t be driven by the daily timetable of getting n the road to reach another destination.
Went up to Norwood High Street to meet the office team and prepare for the talk I had undertaken to give this evening at St Luke's Church. Raimonda frm L'Arche Liverpool had supplied me with a CD of photos from Zimbabwe and Martha from Bognor, a CD presentation on L'Arche UK.

This little Asus Eee is a wonderful machne but I've encountered a stubborn side to its nature. It won't recognise external SD memory disks, and I'd transferred all the photos onto one in Brecon. I thought I'd solved the problem there with the help of Ferdinand, but it had defaulted back to its original prohibition setting. I eventually cracked the problem thanks to the Asus User Forum, but then I thought I'd lost the powerpoint presentation I'd spent 2 hours compiling. In the end I as able to recover this, but its size seemed to big for little Asus Eee.
But at lest we could view the photos without captions.

After what had been an afternoon's work, it was time to go over to St Luke's. where the Community and others were starting to gather. Somehow I got the words together for the talk and the photos of L'Arche Zimbabwe were profoundly moving, enhanced with the background music from the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Singers. I must arrange for these to go up on the website.
Thanks to everyone for organising and publicising the event - I realise this was done on top of the day to day pressures of Community life. Special thanks Corrine and team. It was all worthwhile, though, as I banked today £390 for the appeal.

Mark, Anya, Louise, Ian and I then went round to Louise's house with fish and chips to share a bottle of red wine (or 2?!). Wonderful.
Sunday 6th July

Route: Glynde to Lambeth
Distance: 55.56 miles; 1510 miles so far

Weather: Bright start deteriorating into heavy rain then clearing

Fuelled with a hearty breakfast, I said my farewells to Hannah and Ben at 9.30 and headed up through the village. I look forward to seeing them again at their wedding in my home parish in Silsden next month and hope all the final preparations go smoothly. Thanks for a wonderful stay..and the thoughtful snacks.


Up the hill past the Glynde estate house, I soon came across Glydebourne itself, where I later discovered there was a performance of Carmen that evening. Then after passing an alpaca lama farm, the bazaar sight of a grazing camel. The route took me on back roads between the A26 and A27, past the Bentley Car Museum and Wildlife Park (a somewhat incongrous combination) - eventually crossing the A27 past the Lavender Line steam railway. This is beautiful country, and with fields of hay bails and majestic trees.

I was heading north towards Crawley Down where I had planned to meet Christian, a German assistant from The Vine in L'Arche Lambeth, who wanted to accompany me into London. The mobile rang and Christan reported that he had sprung a puncture so would be late for our rendezvous at 11.30, and would have to find a bike shop.

Going through Fletching, I called into the village church of St Andrew and St Mary the Virgin. The service had just finished but I spoke with the church warden and the vicar's husband explaining what I was doing and asking for support for the appeal. Further down the road there was evidence of p sons being taken to a cricket match so I stopped to speak with one parent to explain what I was doing, and further on a mother with two young children on a walk.

Along the road I also bumped into a group from the 1st Hayward Heath Cubs on a woodland trail. Hope you had a good walk despite the rain! Yes, the rain really came down from here on and by the time I reached Ardingly, it was pouring down and no doubt spoiling the plans of the events taking place at the South of England Show ground, near the National Trust Wakehurst Place.

Christian rang to say that he had got his puncture fixed so we were on target for meeting at Hunters Hill at 12.30. I got there feeling like drowned rat, as did other cyclists who were taking refuge at the Crown Pub here at the top of the hill. Christian arrived and we had a quick sandwich lunch before braving the weather again.

The rain eventually subsided as we crossed the busy M25, stopping on the bridge to view the incessant traffic whose noise footprint must affect a wide corridor – the price of progress.

The road up to White Hill was a pig of a climb, and Christian left me struggling, having run out of gears, so there was no option but to get off and push.

We then encountered the outskirts of London at Caterham, and found a cycle path which took us to Purley where we then followed the excellent map prepared by David Grimshaw which guided us easily through the suburban streets. I was aware that the 1500 mile point was soon coming up and quite appropriately I passed it at the John Fisher Sports School, Peaks Hill, Purley. I must write to the Head and ask him/her if the School would consider some sponsorship. I couldn't easily absorb the fact that I'd achieved my goal after 29 days on the road, averaging 52 miles a day. But there were still another 250 miles to go.

By the time we reached Croydon the sun started to shine. We wheeled into Rosendale Road to an enthusiastic welcome. Thanks Christian for the moral support in such miserable weather!

It was great to arrive at The Vine, which as been a second home to me over the 18 years I have worked for L'Arche. Many of the people who were core members of the house have died over that period: Nick, Beryl, Doreen, Bernadette, Primrose and Brian, but Sylvia and since then Sunta have been joined by new members Mike, Donna and Jackwho have brought new energy to the house. They and other members of L'Arche had gathered to welcome us and Marcela and the house team had prepared a delicious buffet. Visitors Robert, Stephanie and family from New Zealand also dropped in. They had both been assistants in the Community many years ago, Stephanie coincidentally having been part of the team which welcomed Sylvia.

It was great to relax amongst friends. Thanks to everyone for the wonderful welcome. I had hoped to get some blogging done after the meal, but Christian and I ,with Louise and Marcela's help, spent a frustrating hour trying to get the house broadband up and running again. At one point in a series of telephone conversations with the BT help-line, we were told that The Vine didn't have a broadband account but a narrowband account. We needed to ring another number which told us we did indeed have a broadband package. In the end we rebooted and it sprung into life again. BT – you need to get yourself sorted!

To celebrate the day, Christian and I went over to the Rosendale for a pint before bed.

Saturday 5th July

Route: Bognor to Glynde
Distance: 53.92; 1455 miles so far
Weather: Bright, sunny with westerly wind

Breakfast with Maureen, Alan and Catherine before Tjeerd arrived with his wife Vega, and son Rembrandt and daughter Salome to accompany me asfar as Littlehampton. They had worked with L'Arche in The Netherlands before coming to Bognor last autumn. It was sad to say farewell to everyone in the house where I was looked after so well. It was yet another example of how it is possible to have a relaxed atmosphere in a house which is efficiently run by a good team who are attuned to core members' needs .

We headed out of Bognor through back roads then picked up the Sustrans cycle path which avoids the busy roads, and were soon in Littlehampton where I visited the bank to deposit accumulated donations and had a coffee with Tjeed and family before continuing along the ocast to Hove and Brighton past Worthing where they were having a Birdman competition at 1.30. Bognor has one of these events too where aspiring human birds take to the pier and normally plunge to earth, or rather the cold sea water, sooner then they would like. The cycle way along the sea front has been well thought out, apart from in Shoreham where I lost the signs and then found myself heading along a peninsular of up market houses with no means of getting back. A short stop for lunch at Shoreham Station before continuing in perfect weather with the wind in exactly the right direction. Lots of other cyclists were taking advantage of the dedicated paths to the point of congestions at one point. Brightly coloured beach huts, striped deck chairs and wind breaks beside an inviting aquamarine sea. Then past Hove and Brighton which were inundated with tourists decanted from at least 100 coaches parked up the approach roads. Past Rodean School, dominating the cliffs, musing at the possibe conversation surrounding this posh establishment's name “We can't call it Rottingdean, my dear, much too common. Let's call it Rodean”

In the distance I could ow see the white cliffs so often associated with Dover, but stretching up as far as Peacehaven where I stopped at Williamsons Pharmacy to get some athlete's foot powder and had a nice chat with the staff there who were somewhat impressed by my mileage. Good to meet you, Frankii, Ruth and Gamil.

From here the road drops down the the estuary that forms Newhaven, and turns inland up towards Lewes. I realise the route is taking me alongside the river so no major climbs. Before I knew it, I was riding into the beautiful village of Glynde looking for Hannah and Ben's house.

I've known Hannah Goss since arriving in Silsden in 1990 and going round to her house where her mother, Anne, hosted some of the rehearsals for the Carmel Players. I had unwittingly picked up the role of Nanki Pooh in The Mikado back then. Hannah had subsequently worked as an assistant in the Inverness Community and then L'Arche Cork.

Ben and Hannah have a fabulous cottage rented from the Glynde estate, I was soon sitting out in their garden, overlooking The Trevor Arms, with a village cricket match visible in the distance. Not so obvious was the residents' outdoor swimming pool. Within minutes I was plunging into this inviting fresh water pool fed from a spring in the village. Absolute bliss. What a fantastic facility. If that weren't all, the village sports a station with a direct line to Brighton, probably opened to serve the opera house, Glyndebourne, just up the road.

The cottage has an enormous allotment just over the road (and visible from the sitting room window) which Hannah and Ben are enthusiastically cultivating - radishes and lettuce were duly harvested for tonight's salad.

Christine, a good friend of Hannah came over for a barbeque and a memorable evening was spent al fresco in an idyllic setting. It turns out that Christine's mother worked with Therese Vanier when they were both working in Africa! Thanks Ben and Hannah for the great meal, and Christine for the yummy pud.

Friday 4th July

Rest Day in Bognor

With no commitments in the morning, I really enjoyed the chance of a lie in. The early morning sun gave promise to a fine day. By the time I went down for breakfast everyone else had left for their day activities in the workshop down town, or in the garden, next door in Jericho.

Part of my task during community visits is to take photos for the UK PR Officer, so it was off out to the garden where Maureen and Cathryn where helping to trim the onions. A variety of crops are looking very healthy in the large polytunnel where the majority of vegetables are grown. Part of the garden team were out collecting some furniture which had been given to the Community. I was able to take a closer look at the impressive new log cabin style Community Room where Louigi putting the finishing touches to the fire-proof cladding.

Then it was off to the workshop to have lunch with Peter, Jeremy, Pammy, Iris, Diane, Derrick, Tomek, Micky ad Ian. Everyone brings their own sandwich prepared normally the night before in their house. It was a chance to open the doors onto the lovely patio outside where one of the artist assistants has painted a fabulous mural of a sun drenched coast line to brighten up the wall of the adjoining property. A chance to meet Leslie and Mary Anne who work in the office, and to get an update on the plans for this evening's gathering.

At 3.00 it was back to Bethany to change into the cycling gear for a picture by the Bognor Observer photographer, and an interview for an article on my ride by their reporter Kevin Smith.

The evening party had been arranged for the Community and local friends to hear about the bike ride, so I told a few anecdotes of my trip so far to the assembled gathering in the garden, under a now threatening sky. A great buffet had been cooked by the Bethany Team under Meghan, the house leader – thanks Meghan, Kristina, James an Marie. It was really good to see friends new and old, including Tom and Roni, Maureen and Ray, and Lois who valiantly took the hat round to collect £110 in donations during the evening. Kathleen O'Gorman, the National Chair of L'Arche who lives nearby in Chichester popped in too. Thanks to all for their contributions.

The rest of the evening was spent chatting and then watching Clockwise with Fred who was falling about with laughter at each turn of the plot which he seemed to know by heart. I haven't laughed so much for a long time – great therapy!