2000 miles for Help for Heroes – Day 35 – 29 May

19th June 2010

Saturday 29 May

Odometer – 2038 miles. Amesbury – Gillingham (29 miles).

The B&B had been excellent. But more than that, the owner refused to accept a penny in payment, in recognition of my efforts for Help for Heroes. (I took this to be a gift to me, not to Help for Heroes. There are two ways I categorize donations: to me personally if the giver makes that clear, and all the rest go entirely to Help for Heroes. Each night I tot up the day’s gifts to Help for Heroes and note them down, before adding the money to my own. At the end of the ride I will add up all the days’ takings and send a cheque to Help for Heroes.)

I had 29 miles left to run before reaching Gillingham by noon, so I allowed myself 3 hours and set off at 0855 hrs. It was raining, and as the morning went on it dried up for a while before continuing as a steady rainfall until just before I reached Gillingham. There was a small group at Milton-on-Stour who hailed me joyfully as I rolled up. Among them were the two Gillingham PCSOs, Nicky and Pete. (Later, I was told that Pete – who had met me completely by chance in Cornwall – had confided to Nicky that he doubted I would ever complete the ride, so shattered did I look. So it was good to find him waiting for me at Milton.) I then rode on into Gillingham followed by my police escort, up to the town hall and British Legion. There a great welcome awaited me. First, there were some of the family – Vicky, faithful as ever; sisters Janet and Liz and her husband Chris. Then there was the Lady Mayor, and Lee Mason the president of the British Legion branch who welcomed me. They gave me a framed certificate from the British Legion in recognition of my contribution to Royal British Legion’s and my common cause, the welfare of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. I was also presented with a bottle of Moët et Chandon – which I did not spray over the assembled people as is the response of racing drivers and other such ill-mannered folk. I accepted both with delight and thanked everybody for turning out to greet me. Jake Francis-Jones, a retired naval officer, said they were only there for the beer; but what can one expect from a matelot? There was also a section of smartly turned out army cadets. One of them had already decided to join the Rifles. The scoutmaster was there who gave me a warm welcome. From my church there were Fathers Martin and David with Betty, and many others from the church as well as from the other churches in the town. And I was delighted to see some old friends such as the O’Briens and Adrienne Kimber… so many others it is impossible to name them all, so forgive me if you are not on the roll of honour! Your presence was heart-warming, I promise you.

James Mackain-Bremner started a whip-round raising £230, bringing my total road takings to £950. This well illustrates the generosity of all the people I had met. Having drunk some very fine beer from the beer fest and talked to many people there, I said goodbye and cycled back to my house where I parked the long-suffering bike. James then collected Vicky and me and took us to lunch in his farmhouse, where Anna and the three girls joined us on returning from a walk. We had a delicious cold lunch, with much laughter and talk about what had been happening in the last five weeks. Vicky then drove me home where we began to sort ourselves out.

It had been a great home-coming. In the night I was racked by cramps which had made an unwelcome return.

The journey had taken 35 full days, of which 31 full days were cycling. The distance cycled was 2,050 miles or 3,298 kilometres if you’re a fan of Napoleon. So the average per cycling day was 66 miles – not great, but fair enough in view of the weight of the loaded bike… (and the age of the rider?) The longest day was 102 miles.

If you haven’t already had enough then look out for my afterthoughts in the coming days.


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