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 15th July

Route: Canterbury to Barfrestone
Distance: 12.12 miles

Weather: Perfect


Rode from The Rainbow with Eddie, Alex, Zuzanna, Liisa, and Kathrin the last 12 miles to Little Ewell in brilliant sunshine, calling in at St Radigund's workshop on the way, arriving in Little Ewell to a great welcome. Thanks everyone who helped to make it a special arrival.


I can't believe I've done it. 1,754 miles in 33.5 days. What's next, I wonder....

The weather couldn't have been better as we sat in the spacious garden of Little Ewell which I had first visited 18 years ago. Here, the first L'Arche Community began thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury who made available the Old Rectory which became the first L'Arche UK Community founded by Ann and Geoffrey Morgan and Therese Vanier in 1974.

Since then the Community has developed in Canterbury itself with two houses, a craft workshop at St Radigunds and a house of prayer and rest, and another house in the nearby village Eythorne.

Thanks to Dean and Gillian, welcoming posters on a nearby gate and hedge had welcomed us and we wheeled in and broke the finishing tape again carefully prepared from the old perforated computer paper.

Members from the Well Spring day centre, as well as office staff and members of the co-ordinating team, joined us for a sandwich lunch in the idyllic garden. What a tremendous resource it is, nestling amidst mature trees and trimmed hedges in the depths of this quiet archetypal English village.

We then had a time of song, prayer and dance in what is known as the secret garden where an apple tree was planted for the millennium with a trinity of different types of fruit grafted to it representing the ecumenical character of the Community.

As Geoffrey carefully guided the motor mower over the extensive lawn, the local press photographer arrived to take some photos of a re-enactment of my arrival, after which we gathered again for tea for which Paul had baked a celebratory cake - thanks Paul. I remember Geoffrey was one of the leading lights in the mime performed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference in the presence of Jean Vanier and the assembly of Bishops who, 10 years on, were already gathering in Canterbury for this year's Conference .

Since I would not be returning to Little Ewell this visit, I decided to accept an invitation to supper to spend more time with the core members and assistants after which I was kindly driven back to Canterbury by Hiromi, the House Leader. Thanks to everyone at Little Ewell for a great evening.


Sunday 14th July

Route: Basildon to Canterbury
Distance: 68.91; Miles so far 1,742
Weather: Hot and sunny


It was only when I was reviewing the day's ride with Julian that he drew my attention to the fact that Sunday crossings on the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry did not appear on the timetable. Mike Cox kindly gave me timetable and maps when I was in Lambeth, but I obviously didn't tell him I would be travelling on a Sunday, nor did I take a close look until today. Thanks Mike, nevertheless.


Attempts to clarify the position came to nothing, as the travel enquiry line for the area didn't seem to know anything about the ferry, and another number called merely had an ansaphone message.


So I headed off soon after 9.00 am wondering which way would be crossing the Thames estuary. I left Julian preparing for the parish barbeque which looked set for fine weather.


I faced quite a long ride so took the A11 which wasn't that busy, turning off at Standbury Hope to check the state of play at the Tilbury Ferry terminal. Here Kheiron in the Docks Office confirmed there was no service but directed me up to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge traffic control office. En route, I called in at St Clement's Church, West Thurrock where they were preparing for a service and spoke to Sue who kindly agreed to promote the Big Bike Ride appeal. Thanks for your help here.


It's quite a maze of roads to get up to the traffic control station a clearly marked cycle path keeps you clear of the busy road and leads up to the office where Traffic Officer Roberts obligingly help me load my bike onto the back rack of his vehicle and we were soon whizzing over the bridge to the other side where he put me on the right road in a spaghetti junction type complex which was difficult to navigate with the very small scale map I had. Not far along the road, I met fellow cyclist Roy from Greenhythe who suggested I took the minor road to Gravesend.


A bit hilly, but an easy ride otherwise, and I was soon rolling into Rochester and across the bridge and up a long steep hill that tested the legs. From here on the road was long and straight. Apart from the short lunch stop, it was all the way to Canterbury.


I arrived at a services at around 4.30 so thought I'd stop for a coffee at the diner beside the services. had a good chat with Shyla, the waitress there – thanks so much for your sponsorship.


The last leg of the journey looked fairly straightforward, and I passed the first exit to Canterbury not knowing that my map wrongly showed another couple of exists along the A2. I was due to arrive at St Thomas's Church at 5.30 and thought 30 mins would be ample, but ended up having to go as far as Bridge and double back into Canterbury. I pedalled as fast as I could then had to find the church which I was told was near the Cathedral. I eventually rolled up at 5.50 and met Canon Bunce who asked me to speak for 5 minutes after the Gospel. It's quite difficult to compress what I wanted to say into that amount of time, but I managed it.


Mary, a local Committee member, found a parishioner to hand out the Gift Aid envelopes, so a number of donations were handed to me there and then, and the Canon kindly agreed to put the JustGiving web address in next week's bulletin. Many thanks, Canon, for the opportunity to speak about my fundraising appeal.

Whilst at the back of church John Paul introduced himself as an ex L'Arche assistant who was living in Canterbury with his French wife Helene. They kindly asked me back for a drink which turned into an impromptu supper. It was really good to meet you both and Juliette – thanks for your warm and generous hospitality. Yes, somehow the French just have a special knack of making excellent salads!


John Paul took me round to The rainbow where I was staying, where I met assistants Lisa and Sue who made me feel very welcome.

Saturday 13th July

Route: Ipswich to Basildon
Distance: 60.63; Miles so far 1673
Weather: Cloudy then hot and sunny


It was about 9.20 by the time I left, and sad to say goodbye to everyone in the house. Thanks for looking after me so well. I headed down town for the bank, then found the A137 to Manningtree.

On the way I passed a church at Brantham and bumped into a lady visigting the area who was looking fofr the time of services, and asked her to give a sponsor form to the parish priest.

Here I discovered there was a major show called the Tendring Hundreds taking place near Little Bromley. Traffic everywhere. I passed the show site and could see it was a small version of the Kenilworth Show we used to go to as kids with my late Uncle George who farmed nearby.

It looked like the weather was going to hold up for them in contrast to last week-end's wash out at the Great Southern Show.


Then to Ardleigh where I noticed the Methodist Church had a function on so popped in to ask for sponsorship. Thanks for your support, Paul, Stephanie, Margaret, Gloria, Frank and Peggy, and every success with the Link Fellowship.


I stopped for lunch at The New Times pub in Tiptree and endeavoured to interest a couple of patrons in my ride. They have not been the first to question sending money out to Zimbabwe thinking that Mugabe would get his hands on it. I find it quite difficult to persuade such people that L'Arche has established a secure channel through which funds are passed to ensure they receive the money. Thanks to the couple in question for taking the form – I hope you can find your way to making a contribution.


After Malden, I took the minor road to Cold Norton and spotted a cyclist by the side of the road so stopped to see if he needed help. He was faced with a slow puncture and no repair kit, so I was happy to come to the rescue. Hope you managed to get home OK, Mick, and that your son's transplant is a success.


It seemed a long haul from here to Basildon where I was due to arrive by 5.00 for the evening Mass. Fr Julian had kindly responded to our last minute appeal for accommodation after the original plan had to be changed. The SatNav did its stuff so I arrived around 4.50 pm. Fr Julian introduced me and announced the retiring collection would be for L'Arche, so a big thanks to all the parishioners who contributed, and to the Parish for the generous cheque. It was very heartening to have so many people come up to me at the end of Mass to wish me well.


Julian made me feel very welcome and went for a take away curry whilst I had a shower. Over dinner he explained the Team Ministry he is involved in running three Churches in Basildon which seems a creative solution to the shortage of priests. It sounds like a challenging but exciting time ahead. Many thanks, Julian, for your warm and generous hospitality and every success with your ministry.


Friday 11
th July

Rest Day

The previous day had been pretty exhausting so I was glad of a long lie. The Cornerstone is a tribute to all those who were involved in its re-configuration and refurbishment from the former Childrens' Society Home. The original features have been retained and it feels very much like a large family house whilst meeting the stringent care home standards.

With the help of David Wells from the office, I found Moons Cycles and left the bike there with Simon. I'd broken another spoke and he obligingly undertook to have it sorted by close of business. Meanwhile at the house preparations were being made for the Barbeque which had been planned to coincide with my arrival in Ipswich, and to which local friends of L'Arche had been invited.

Later in the morning, I went into town with Nick who wanted to explore a few of the games shops. It's literally 15 mins walk to the centre of town. I was impressed by Nick's awareness about cost, as he tried persuaded a number of game shop assistants to give him the best deal. I realise I'm out of my depth when it comes to Play Stations and Wii systems.

It was just great to relax with the core members who are all much younger than those in the other UK Communities, and who lead quite independent lives in comparison. They are great company and I really enjoyed the chance to recharge the batteries before tomorrow's trip to Basildon.

When I collected the bike from Moon's Simon wouldn't accept any money for the repair. I really appreciate your sponsorship, Simon, and am indebted to you and the Moon's team. Thank you so much.

The clouds started to gather as the evening approached, and as guests arrived the heavens opened leaving the BBQ team stranded under the gazebo. A shame after all the hard work preparing the food. However, it didn't put too much of a damper on proceedings and a fabulous buffet was enjoyed by all. At the end of the meal, I had the opportunity of saying a few words about my trip, and about the Zimbabwe Community. Liz, who volunteers her time for the Community had organised a raffle which ran throughout the evening and raised about £90. Thanks so much for this initiative, Liz, and please pass on our thanks to those who generously contributed the prizes.

Great to meet new people and old colleagues, including Bernard and Heather and Derek too. A pity Kathy wasn't able to make it. A great day and it was impressive to see the house team working hard on the hospitality front. Thanks to Angie, Martin, Nick, Nicola, Stephanie, Steven, Andrew,Miriam, Andrea and Julia for your hard work, and to Anne-Marie and David too, for your help in boosting the appeal funds.


Thursday 10th July

I arrived back from Yorkshire at 5.30 and Anne Marie and Martin kindly collected me from the station. It was Miriam's birthday party, so great activity was underway in the kitchen. Helene Gibbings and son Joe had been invited, so all in all there were 16 round the table. I have to say i was one of the best L'Arche meals I've had – great cooking Andrew.





Wednesday 9th July

Route: Braintree to Ipswich
Miles: 47.40; Miles so far: 1,612
Weather: Wet all day


Further discussions about water engineering were had over breakfast in pursuit of an intermediate technological solution to the drainage problem! Thanks so much Michael and Claire for a really enjoyable stay and for the treats for the journey which lifted my spirits on what was to become a very wet day.


The instructions to get onto the Coggleshall Road were simple and straightforward. I sensed that this was going to one of those days when I had to reconcile myself to getting slowly soaked, and decided that the waterproof trousers where more an encumbrance than a help, and the gaiters might keep the top of my shoes dry but rain gets in through the SPD cleats from below. So I made do with my waterproof day glow yellow jacket and let everything else get wet.


It's in the rain that busy roads show their teeth, and so I was glad to leave the A120 at Coggleshall and ride through this attractive village then north along the A1024 to Earls Colne, and Bures. Here I looked for a cafe and stumbled across the Eight Bells pub instead, but was told that it wasn't open, though I could use their toilet. Before leaving, I asked Wendy if there was anywhere in the village that would serve coffee, and bless her, she said she would rustle one up for me. It appeared with complements of the house. Wendy was trying to persuade her other half to get on his bike, so I hope I have been able to offer a little inspiration! Thanks Wendy and Barbara for looking after a dripping cyclist.



In good weather these back lanes would be idyllic for cycling. At Dorking Tye, I came across a beautiful cottage which was in the final stages of having its thatch replaced. I stopped to speak with Rich and Chris the two thatchers, and to admire their craftsmanship. This roof was being made from straw harvested from fields in nearby Ongar, with Hazelwood pegs acting like giant hair grips to keep the straw in place. It had taken Chris 7 years training to get to this stage. I hope these amazing skills don't disappear. Thanks for taking a break to chat, Rich, and for any support you can give to the appeal.


Again I found myself cycling between acres of shoulder high wheat fields as if I was a beetle crawling along a groove in a thick pile carpet. As with the waterlogged lanes near Wem, the grit was starting to get into the brakes and at one point I detected the back wheel rubbing out of balance. So I decided to visit Hadleigh before continuing my journey. Here I phoned Jon and Gill Durant who are such an important part of the L'Arche Ipswich story which all started in Hadleigh in the early 90s. I discovered that their house lay in the very cycle route I was due to take. So felt I couldn't pass by without dropping in. With no sign of any bike shop in Hadleigh itself, I headed up the hill and soon found the Durant's house, appropriately named Wheatfields.


At Jon's suggestion I rang Moon's Cycles in Ipswich to book the bike in for a rear wheel repair on Friday. I don't normally drink alcohol at lunchtime, but the offer of an Adnam's bitter was too good to decline. Thanks Gill and Jon for a wonderful impromptu lunch which really hit the spot. It also took me back to a meeting John Renn and I had in your sitting room at the start of discussions which were eventually to lead to the founding of the L'Arche Ipswich.



I had arranged to meet John Butt, father of core member Martin, and House Assistant Andrew at 2.45 pm outside Bramford, so after a quick good-bye it was back into the rain and along the quiet lanes which now form one of Suffolk's cycle routes. The rendezvous achieved, we then rode together into Ipswich. It was great to be guided by others through an unfamiliar town.


As we turned into The Cornerstone, the L'Arche Ipswich House in Warrington Road, David and Anne Marie were waiting with bottles of Bucks Fizz shaken (but thankfully reluctant to explode) for the welcoming. It was great to arrive after such a miserable day, and lovely to see everyone again.


I was due to make a 24 hour return trip home so after a hot bath was whisked to Ipswich station to catch the 5.50 train to Peterborough, arriving back home around 10.35.