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Our Ride800 blog

800 miles, 15 days, 26 care homes. Hear from our determined Ride800 riders; CEO, Andrew Knight, Marketing Director, Jacqui White and Strategic Programme Director, Tony Weedon. As part of a company-wide fundraising effort, and starting on 2nd May, the team cycles from our Southern-most care home (The Potteries in Poole) to our Northern-most home (Tor-Na-Dee in Aberdeen). Help us raise £15,000 for The Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer Scotland and the Care Workers Charity.

26 homes, 842 miles and 39,400ft of climbing later...

May 16th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO, Residential Care Services

After 14 days in the saddle what a final day in Scotland with glorious sunshine and two short rides to take us to the finish line at Tor Na Dee in Aberdeen. 

After slightly more faffing than usual (and that’s saying something) we rolled out from Stonehaven to cover a mile or so to reach Mowat Court. Kirsten and her team, residents and relatives were there with a fantastic greeting as was Geoff Edwards who unfortunately still couldn’t be persuaded to get on the spare bike for the last leg. I did however see him speeding around the care park on the assisted bike whilst suited and booted. 

We met up with our two guest riders, Wilson, whose wife was a resident at Tor Na Dee who still has an active role at the home, and Dawn, one of our colleagues who had travelled all the way from Wellmeadow Lodge in Glasgow to cycle the final leg with us. After bidding farewell to the Mowat team we started the short 12 mile journey to Tor Na Dee. Wilson led from the front on his battery assisted Brompton bike with Jacqui trying in vain to keep up with Wilson’s breakneck speed! Further down the Peloton Tony and I were assisting Dawn with some mechanical issues with her bike. Of course when I say Tony and I there was only one of us with oil on our hands, Tony taking a supportive approach.

After a few miles we were a little behind time but having conquered the hills whilst being secretly envious of the motor in Wilson’s bike it was my turn for inner tube replacement practice. Our seventh and final puncture of the ride. The rest of the ride was plain sailing and for all three of us a sense of relief but also disappointment that the journey was coming to an end (we briefly considered an extended trip to Inverness).

So the final scene was just a few celebratory high fives away and a roll toward Tor Na Dee. That of course for us would be too simple, on attempting a high five whilst rolling up the final hill our own Tony Weedon (aka ‘Billy Goat’) missed Jacqui’s hand, lost his balance and landed like a sack of spuds (something I could relate to) on the tarmac. Like a brave soldier he picked himself up with a few cuts and bruises and a twisted saddle, and we pushed on up the road.

The welcome at Tor Na Dee was incredible. Led in by a piper and greeted by children from a local school, residents, colleagues and relatives … it was absolutely brilliant - thank you Maureen our home manager and the whole team . A few songs later (including the Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen), speeches led by Liz and tea parties (and what a cake) and the Ride800 challenge was over.

So all that remains is for all of us Jacqui, Tony and myself to say a big thank you to everybody that has supported us to complete the event including all of those that helped us with the complex logistics. A huge thank you to all of our homes who went above and beyond to get involved and support the event.

A very big thank you to all of our sponsors the most important aim was to raise money for our three charities, The Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer Scotland and The Care Workers Charity and support them in the great work that they do. With friends, colleagues, residents, relatives, our corporate sponsors and members of the public who donated whilst seeing us on our ride the not quite final fund total is over £24000 so a big thank you from all of us for your generosity.

Faffing and near misses!

May 15th 2019
Tony Weedon, Strategic programme director

As per usual Andrew and I were up and about first (well on this day we were) and raring to go, bags on the bus, bikes checked, tyres pumped when the faffing began. Jacqui announces that having mislaid her fingerless gloves she’d like to buy a new pair from a shop she’d found on line in Dundee. “It’s only two minutes up the road” she said, but after 15 minutes of zigzagging round the centre of Dundee we arrived at the bottom of a long steep hill. To avoid the hill I offered to chew the fingers off of Jacqui’s long fingered gloves but nevertheless found myself climbing a 500ft hill and adding two miles to our trip.

Faff sorted we set off in the glorious sunshine out of Dundee and crawled our way up the beautiful east coast of Scotland. Andrew provided commentary about the multiple golf courses on route and was quite excitable as we passed Carnoustie golf club. The golf courses went on and on all the way to Arbroath as did Andrew’s commentary; smiling, nodding and trying to look remotely interested it brought a whole new meaning to endurance cycling.

It wasn’t long before I managed to change the subject when Andrew shouted from behind “Weedon!” he didn’t have time to say much more as he collided with the back of my back. I’d entered a very narrow bridge which was wide enough for one bike only. “It’s just a case of balance” I thought, at which point I wobbled and hit the railings sustaining yet another injury. This time Jacqui had remembered the first aid kit but refused to dress the wound to my arm, describing it as a scratch. I tried to squeeze a bit of blood out to make it look a little bit more hard core before agreeing that I was being somewhat melodramatic.

Once again the day presented many torturous hills, including one that had been coated with a deep layer of chippings, introducing quite a struggle to get traction without your rear wheel slipping and skidding. To make matters worse we had to navigate round quite a jittery horse. Being the strongest on the hill climbs I naturally passed first (AKA Billy the mountain goat) without any issue as did Andrew. As we continued to climb we heard the horse getting very agitated, naying and snorting. Jacqui arrived at the top, “I only looked at that horse and it went barmy” she said, Andrew and I just looked at each other!

A short while later we were on a long descent and picking up speed of over 30mph. Jacqui shouted something and for a split second I thought breaking hard would improve my hearing. I then heard that familiar sound from behind “Weedon!” Andrew shouted as he swerved managing to avoid me and the field he was heading rapidly towards. Oops sorry! I replied but he didn’t speak for a while.

We then arrived at the top of a hill looking down into Stonehaven. A beautiful sight and a sense of relief that our time in the saddle was almost complete for the day and excitement that we are one day away from completing the challenge. We’re all very much looking forward to visiting Mowat Court and Tor Na Dee tomorrow.

Sunshine on Leith

May 14th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director

I love Scotland.  Or do I just love the sunshine?  One thing is for sure, I REALLY love Scotland in the sunshine.  The last two days have been a huge turnaround in the weather and our days of not being able to feel our fingers feel like a long-distant (though still painful) memory. Instead we are actually getting a bit of a tan – true cyclist tans that are a patchwork from gloves to sleeve and from the knee down. 

We were off to meet Nicole and the lovely team at Lauder Lodge for a hot breakfast date this morning.  We hadn’t been to a care home for a couple of days as we slogged our way up the Northumberland Coast so we were very excited to sneak around the corner and find some very excited smiling faces, a massive balloon arch and a makeshift Portabello Beach in the front garden, complete with deck chairs for us to chill out in for a while. While colleagues and residents put the supported bike through its paces, we tucked into a breakfast of champions with the obligatory Haggis (which Andrew and Tony were exceptionally happy about).   

From there it was back on the road – and very bumpy, pot-hole strewn roads at that.  Our stress levels were just starting to rise at the thought of several hours dodging gaping holes and Edinburgh traffic, when we popped up onto a really lovely cycle route that somehow snuck us right through the centre of the city on a path surrounded by trees and birds. The next thing we knew, we were at the foot of the Forth Bridge, ready to breathe a deep sigh of relief when Tony punctured and forced a mini rest by the side of the bridge.  

Not many cyclists would describe a puncture as a lucky break, but in this case it proved to be perfect timing.  Just as he was wrestling the new tyre back on, we were joined by Michelle and some colleagues and residents from Murrayside who had come to wish us well and wave us across the bridge.  It was the perfect lift to our spirits, especially as they came armed with a box of iced lollies!  After a hug or two from an oversized elephant (don’t ask, I don’t really understand it either), we were on our way again and over the bridge.

At this point, I have to put aside worries of career limiting blog posts and tell you about one of the funniest moments of the day.  We had overshot the mark slightly on our turn-off on the other side of the Forth Bridge and had stopped to turn around and regroup.  Andrew went to turn his bike and somehow went from completely upright to full-on pavement belly-flop before my eyes.  He had been very concerned about breaking his wrist and putting the rest of the trip at risk, so had withdrawn his hands at the last minute, figuring full body contact would me a much more sensible approach. Well, it worked … he was up and laughing hysterically within a few seconds – phew! 

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur of sunshine and lovely scenery.  Tony managed another puncture, equalling Andrew’s daily record of two and bringing the team total to six.  We can definitely feel the distance in our legs now though.  I notice it on the hills – yesterday I was coming up one that shouldn’t really have been too big a challenge, but when I went to change down a gear to get over the last bit, I realised I was already in my lowest gear.  On another, when we finally made it to the top, we called a roadside halt in the shade and it took a VERY long time for us to work up the energy to get rolling again. 

But as we came into Dundee, the amazing sight of the Tay Bridge kept us going – even if in fear as I had visions of us soldiering through traffic all the way across.  We shouldn’t have worried though, Dundee is definitely geared up for cyclists with a lane cordoned off in the centre of the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians – safe enough that we could even stop to take in some of the amazing views on the way.  The exciting bit at the other end is that there is even a bicycle lift to bring you back down to street level when done.  Exciting times for three very hot and tired little cyclists!

 

Welcome to Scotland (but stay off the A1)

May 13th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO, Residential Care Services

So today was a momentous one for Ride800, crossing the border to Scotland having left Berwick upon Tweed. A few miles of riding North and we found ourselves on the A1, a road I’d tried to avoid having driven on it for many years. We had no choice for the first few miles so we had to brave it and it had the added advantage of providing the perfect photo opportunity to prove we had crossed the border!

You’ll notice from the photo that Scotland needs to beware as the weather was fantastic today and the Ride800 team were able to get their legs out in unison for the first time! It may have been this sight that caused a lorry driver to veer so close to us on the A1 that the engine heat could be felt on my legs and I recorded my highest heartbeat level of the day! On the plus side we turned off pretty soon after and had a spectacular ride through the borders. It’s nice to know that although there are distinctive differences between England and Scotland (I should know my family has a foot in both) the quality of the roads for the cyclist are very similar and soon, once again, I was changing yet another tube having hit a Scottish pothole for the first time.

From there on, for the first time in the whole journey, the day was pretty uneventful apart from a race up a hill, one of our longest descents of the trip and then the chance to perfect our group riding technique on the run in to Musselburgh. No mishaps today although Tony somehow managed out of the blue to ride into a hedge and Jacqui managed to fall over from a standing position having got off her bike to help with my tyre. I have to say it is pretty bizarre after being soaked to the skin and freezing for a few days that we now have cyclist sunburn, such is the British climate. What we did miss today was the chance to visit one of our homes so we’re all looking forward visiting Lauder Lodge in Edinburgh (Portobello) tomorrow before the final push to Aberdeen.

The donations to our charities have been continuing to grow which is brilliant and I am thrilled that thanks to everyone’s generosity the total funds raised now stands at nearly £20,000. Our homes have produced a fantastic fund-raising effort as have friends and colleagues. A big shout out to our Corporate partners who have been so generous in their support of our challenge. 

So a simple ride tomorrow about 60 miles over 3000 ft to climb and navigating round Edinburgh and crossing the Forth bridge what can possibly go wrong!

A day of aches, pains, punctures, mechanical failure and minor incidents!

May 12th 2019
Tony Weedon, Strategic programme director

The day started with Andrew having to repair a flat tyre before we’d even set off. The sun was shining and it felt quite hot as we prepared the bikes for the day ahead. Brilliant, I thought this is perfect weather and the first day I’m able to cycle in shorts and short sleeves.

Our route today took us up the Northumberland coastal road from Morpeth to our midway stopping point Bamburgh and then to our final destination for the day, Berwick upon Tweed. Sunshine, beautiful scenery but an odd day with no care homes on this leg to stop at.

As we turned right out of the hotel we were presented with our first hill for the day. The incline didn’t look too bad but the length of the climb was quite testing. It was at this point we realised that our leg muscles hadn’t recovered from the day before and sore quads, twitching hamstrings and aching backs set in for the day. The fatigue is really noticeable now with jelly legs and experiencing muscle burn on hills that would ordinarily be a breeze. We stopped at Bamburgh for lunch and as my team mates laughed at my goose bumps I had to admit that my choice of shorts and short sleeves was a little optimistic.

We set off after lunch and within half a mile we were presented with quite a steep climb. As I got up out of my saddle to apply a bit of power I ran into trouble. My chain had jammed causing me to instantly lose momentum; struggling to release my feet from the pedal cleats I took a tumble and ended up lying on my back in the road. Jacqui was a little bit ahead of me on the hill and hearing a few odd noises behind, called back to see if I was OK.  Not hearing my answer, she stopped, but once she realised I was OK she resumed her usual straight talking and said “thanks for making me stop on a hill!”. Andrew kindly repaired my bike and with minor cuts and bruises (very minor) we were back on our way.

Our route planner had taken us off road down a cycle track for a short leg, which turned increasingly rougher resulting in Jacqui getting a puncture, which Andrew again took the lead on repairing. I assisted by passing Andrew and Jacqui the tools and then applying the valve cap once Andrew had pumped the tyre up – team work!

Further on we stopped to admire the view and a field full of cows and their calves, whilst taking a moment to allow our legs to recover after another hill. Andrew didn’t bother to take his feet out of his pedal cleats as he simply held onto a gate. We set off again and I heard a clatter and kafuffle behind me, which was Andrew losing balance and just about releasing his foot to avoid hitting the deck.

On a serious note the absence of any care homes on route was really noticeable today as we missed out on that injection of motivational support. I’d like to once again thank all of the homes we have visited on route your support and the efforts you made to raise money has been fabulous.

Including gift aid, with your generosity and the support of our supplier and service provider sponsors, we have now reached a staggering £19,268 and our powering on toward our stretch target of £21,000.

The long and winding road

May 11th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director

The big one.  We had seen it on paper and knew it was going to be a tough day.  I think I speak for all three of us when I say that right from the start we have all been fearing today’s schedule: 78 miles and more than 5,000 ft of climbing.  

Turns out though, it was the 7am rollout that was our first real challenge.  You learn a lot about colleagues when you see them at ridiculous o’clock in the morning – Andrew’s smile muscles don’t work until after 7.30am, whereas Tony’s phaffing bones come out in full force (I suspect not helped by the fact that I am an obnoxiously upbeat morning person!)  Anyway, we were eventually on the road and stretching our legs through some of County Durham’s finest. 

The weather was perfect, the scenery was absolutely stunning and it was shaping up to be quite a good day.  Until, of course, we hit our first hurdle – an almost vertical hill that stretched so high we couldn’t even see the top.  Think Frodo approaching Mordor … though with a bit more fear on our faces.  Still, we soldiered on and made it, huffing and puffing to the top.  And while this was our toughest, it set the scene for the rest of the morning – struggle your way to the top of a hill, roll down for a few seconds of exhilarating recovery.  Rinse.  Repeat.

All good, until we suddenly find some huge cement blocks and a menacing ‘Road Closed’ sign across our path.  Which meant our 78 mile route suddenly became an 84 mile route as we had to detour down the valley to get to the next bridge.  Some decidedly unhappy faces at this point, and even I had to reign in the singing for a bit!

By the time we got to Stanley Park, we were very late (sorry team!) and somewhat exhausted, but coming around the corner into the carpark suddenly changed all that.  I am not too big to admit that I got a bit emotional at this welcome and had a slightly leaky eye moment behind my sunglasses!  There was a brass band playing Super Trouper, a huge welcome banner, the local councillors out to greet us, and what felt like hundreds of colleagues, residents and relatives waving flags and cheering from the balcony.  The funny thing was that our plans had been lost in translation slightly and quite a few people thought they were cheering us on after a two mile ride from the nearest town … there were a few shocked faces when we explained it was Barnard Castle we had ridden from, not Beamish!

After a fantastic lunch with the team, and some very moving speeches from one of the residents and a relative, we were off again with Dale from Armstrong House joining us for the next leg.  The team at Stanley had reassured us it was pretty much all downhill to Armstrong, but in retrospect I think they could see our reticence to get back on the bike and were just giving us an extra little nudge.  Still, despite the traffic and one or two ‘minor’ hills, we made it in good time and received another amazing welcome from Shirley and the team at Armstrong.  The front of the home was decked out with more bikes (and bike parts!) than I have seen in a while, and some very creative souls had knitted their competition bike – brilliant! But definitely my favourite part here was the cardboard cut-outs the team had made of the three of us on our bikes … absolutely hilarious and the best I have ever looked on a bike!

All too soon we were back in the saddle again and off to Ponteland Manor.  With about a mile to go we seemed to lose all sense of direction.  All three of us have maps on our bike computers to get us from home to home, which works really well most of the time, but at this point we all wanted to go in three different directions.   The pressure was on as well – the home teams have had an app which shows where we are on a map so they know when we are arriving … so here we were standing by the side of the road, two minutes from the home and most worried about the fact that they would all be there laughing at our sense of direction (they were by the way!)   

We got there in the end and were welcomed by Paula (both the real version and a cunning paper mache copy) and the team and had a fantastic afternoon tea.  The energy in the home was infectious and before we knew it, we were joining in with a very energetic sing-a-long, during which Andrew showed off his local knowledge and rattled out a few hearty choruses of Blaydon Races, while I learned that June is actually pronounced Joon (thanks Justine!) The team had also prepared a fabulous cake for us, complete with a picture from our very first day in Poole … it seemed like forever ago, and we all looked so fresh-faced.

The final 18 miles after Ponteland was a mental struggle.  We were doing everything we could to put off getting back on the bikes, but turns out that was the hardest part of the afternoon.  Once we were away, the ride itself was lovely – beautiful scenery, late afternoon sun and only a few (!) hills to test the legs.  I was a bit surprised to realise it was 7.45pm by the time we got to the hotel – more than 12 hours today, and my bike computer showing seven and a half hours ride time.  Tired little riders this evening!

Tour de Yorkshire meets Ride800

May 10th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO, Residential Care Services

Well after yesterday what a pleasant surprise in Harrogate this morning…no rain. After what was without doubt my hardest days cycling ever yesterday it’s fair to say my enthusiasm for getting in the saddle today was a little low! 

We had a 40 mile ride to look forward to before we reached The Terrace in Richmond in North Yorkshire followed by another 18 miles or so to Kings Court in Barnard Castle. Once we won the fight through the rush hour traffic in Harrogate it was clear this was going to be a much better day, a ride over the river Nidd and then over to Ripley followed by a few climbs to get to Ripon. 

The weather was making the day to be honest it was just nice to be dry but the views as always in Yorkshire were stunning and Ripon Cathedral looked at its best. For part of the way we were following the route of the Tour De Yorkshire - much respect to the professional cyclists who make these hills look so insignificant, after yesterday’s efforts my legs, and I am sure Tony and Jacqui’s, were suffering a little. I won’t be comparing our times to that of the tour but it was good to feel like part of the tour with banners and flags still in place. 

We stopped at a lovely quaint Yorkshire tea room for a break today (the McDonalds at Leeming Services) and a pretty welcome cup of coffee at the time. Then on to the final climb to reach the Terrace with a bit of a leg burner and the balloons outside the home were a very welcome sight. Great to be welcomed by all of the home managers from North Central and Dianna Coy including of course Nikki, her team and residents. More cakes and tea followed (very welcome too) and a good natter with our colleagues and residents. David, one our residents who had in his younger days completed the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle ride and the coast to coast walk, offered his advice in true Yorkshire style –  ‘you’ve just got to pick up your bike and go for it’. So we did… after we had seen the bike displays, the good luck artwork that the residents had created with a local nursery school, and presenting a very well deserved Regional GEM award to Amanda Moore for the great work she has done at The Terrace. 

Then it was on to Kings Court to Barnard Castle which was another 18 miles, with a very short but annoying climb as soon as we left Richmond and the a very welcome downhill followed by an incredibly hard climb to the A66. Then we spent the next 10 miles being blown away with the beauty of the Tees Valley before landing at Kings Court to see Mitch and her team, again to a brilliant welcome (I know it sounds repetitive). The team at Kings Court can definitely claim the prize for the highest bike display and I think the other photo from Kings Court speaks for itself! 

Thank you North Central for the great welcome.  Now we have our longest day ahead - 78 miles and lots of climbing up to the North East … I hope the Angel of the North is looking out for us. One thing is for sure we are even more determined to finish the ride having seen the charity donations reach over £18000, thanks everyone.

The toughest days cycling I’ve ever experienced!

May 9th 2019
Tony Weedon, Strategic programme director

With an elevation climb of over 4500ft it was the day that we had all been dreading. Whilst the scenery was beautiful the ride from Hyde in Manchester over Saddleworth Moor to Bradford in Yorkshire was painful and absolutely energy zapping. 

As we set off it started to rain and it didn’t stop all day, in fact it got heavier and heavier. Soaked to the skin we were then hit by strong winds as we climbed into the Peak District at which point you really know what wind chill means. Our fingers were numb and we were all struggling with the cold despite the amount of layers we were wearing.  Jacqui added a bit of drama as she was convinced she was going to get frost bite.

There was also a couple of heart stopping moments yesterday, the first being Andrew clipping the curb on a steep descent but managing to regain balance and stay on his bike. I had the second near miss losing my balance on a steep ascent and bouncing off a dry stone wall. I managed to avoid any damage to my bike but took the impact on my shoulder. The only casualty was tearing my waterproof jacket which Andrew repaired with sticky tape.

Although Andrew and I managed to somehow avoid any major issues or damage to our bikes, Jacqui wasn’t as lucky as she bent her seat out of line and had to ride the last mile pretty much side saddle. Don’t worry she didn’t fall off - she just managed to let her bike fall over.

We had stopped for a cup of tea in a café in Marsden and the owner kindly let us seek refuge from the rain despite being soaked. Within in minutes we’d created puddles sufficient to warrant the café staff placing out various wet floor safety signs.

The downside to this welcome and warm pit stop was the fact we had to go back out into the weather. We were all feeling a tad miserable at this point, Andrew’s teeth were chattering as he couldn’t stop shivering.

We arrived at Mill Lodge to a wet but very warm welcome. Mar the Home Manager and his team really looked after us. The colleagues were fantastic, from helping me to remove my helmet as I couldn’t undo my strap due to numb fingers, to drying clothes and even offering to help me wring out my socks, which I wouldn’t inflict on anybody.

We were then treated to a fabulous curry lunch prepared by care assistant Ramanpreet Kaur and assisted by catering assistant Alisha Aftab. We had chicken tikka, daahl, sweet chilli paneer, naan bread and a coriander, pomegranate and orange zest salad. It was sensational, the best curry I’ve ever tasted and none of the curries I’ve had in restaurants over the years come close.

Mill Lodge’s residents had decorated two bikes, both celebrating the best of Yorkshire on the back of the recent Tour de Yorkshire - one had a cricket theme and the other focused on Yorkshire Tea. We were asked to pick the best of the two bikes and after a lot of umming and ahing we picked Yorkshire Tea version that the downstairs team had created.  There were some very smug winners amongst the team! 

Finally we were ushered back outside by the photographer who wanted to get various pictures and the reality kicked back in, it was still raining and we had another 18 miles to complete our 60+ mile day to get to Harrogate.

On the upside, we are over half way and our biggest ‘hill’ is now in the bag. 

Grin and Bear It

May 8th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director

There is always a degree of phaffing involved when we are due to leave any venue. Coats on. Helmet in place. Glasses on. Maps ready to go on the bike computer. Gloves ready. Anywhere we go, it usually takes a good ten minutes and even then, one of us usually has to call a stop about 30 seconds down the road for a final adjustment. This morning however, looking out into teaming rain and knowing we had quite a hilly leg ahead, we took these preparations to a whole new level of procrastination. 

And not without cause. Today has not been our most fun day. Rain, wind, hills and wheel-killing potholes … we had pretty much everything cyclists try and avoid on our first stretch from Crewe to Hollins Park in Macclesfield.  Needless to say there wasn’t the usual chitchat and banter as we rode along, just a stony silence and the occasional muttered expletive (not from me obviously, mum!) 

However, as always the greeting we got at our first home made it all worthwhile and Tracy and the team at Hollins Park soon had us draped in towels and sitting in a warm and cosy corner with a constant stream of tea and a very impressive selection of home baking. After a quick tour of Tracy’s poster collection (!), it was off to check out their competition bike. This took the game to a whole new level – with blow up versions of Tony, Andrew and I riding a tandem. Yes, you read that right, the Ride800 team has now been immortalised in what we are assured are PG-rated blow up dolls.  Stranger and stranger.

Fully fortified, the trip to Abney Court was much more manageable and before we knew it we were riding under a cascade of balloons coming down from the arch and getting a 21 gun salute (well, a party popper salute, but some of them were LOUD!). Tracy and the team again had laid on a fantastic spread and the residents at the home were extremely well informed about our little adventure and keen to talk through some of the detail with us. They obviously thought we were mad taking this on, but to be honest, after the morning’s riding, I didn’t entirely disagree!  And of course, with so many gardeners at Abney, the home’s bicycle was themed around Bill and Ben, the flowerpot men. 

With the rain still coming down, we were once again putting off our final leg to Riverside, but thankfully we were joined by Hayley, Helen and Matt from Team Riverside to boost our spirits and ride the final nine miles with us.  For a team who had done limited cycling before, the team did a fantastic job and we were humbled slightly by people’s willingness to step out of their comfort zone to support us.  Big high five goes out to all three of them for keeping us and them smiling through nine cold, wet and hilly miles.

And then to Riverside, where a very upmarket welcome awaited us – a saxophonist playing away in the background, a full red carpet (with cunning rain canopy!) and hostesses in full bow-tied regalia. It was such a fantastic atmosphere to (almost) finish our day, and just got better and better as the towels and tea gradually helped us get the feeling back into our fingers! I have to say all of the bikes that we have seen along the way have been fantastic, but the Riverside one was very special – the team had followed through on the music theme and covered the entire bike with sheets of music … it somehow also had a record player, drum kit and mini-keyboard attached and turns out our CEO is also a man of many musical talents.  

All in all a tough day, but a very special welcome from all three teams which meant we were still smiling at the end of it all!  

The rolling hills of Staffordshire and Cheshire

May 7th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO, Residential Care Services

It is fair to say it was a tired start from the team today all of us feeling pretty grumpy at the thought of another day in the saddle after a tough day yesterday. After the first few moments of the painful reminder how hard a road bike saddle can be we were off and on our way out of Sutton Coldfield and off towards Station House in Crewe.

For me this was home territory through Lichfield with its three spire Cathedral and then the rolling climb to Abbots Bromley. At this point we were full of enthusiasm and what were a few hills! Tony decided at the end of a 35mph decent to try out his modern, very efficient disk brakes before a bridge over a river, would have been nice if he’d have told me he was going to do that I was about 2cm away from either getting painfully close to a teammate or flying into a river. Crisis averted we pushed on up the hills. The promise I made to take Jacqui and Tony to my favourite cyclists cake shop spurred us on only to find a ‘closed’ sign on the door. Radio silence at this point from the team, not impressed was my take away. We pushed on to Blithfield Reservoir and then over toward Stafford via Hixon and then had a quick break on the outskirts of Stone.

After a few work calls and emails later the next few miles seemed to be just a continuous climb with the legs definitely fading on the hills and then trying to recover on the downhills. One thing is for sure motorists don’t seem to have a lot of patience for cyclists climbing single lane hills and we were pretty pleased to get off the main drag eventually to avoid the HGVs. A few scary moments today on some pretty big and complex roundabouts glad we had the high viz and lights on. After what seemed a painful age we saw Nantwich on the horizon and knew that we were not far from Crewe. 

So after 60 miles we were on the final push last few miles to see the team at Station House and a much needed rest. Turning the corner to the home was probably the most dangerous of the day coming bike to bike with one of our lifestyle coordinators, Rose, who was heading towards us (very quickly) on the assisted bike. A lovely welcome from Julie and her team awaited, which wasn’t easy for the team as there is a major refurbishment taking place at the moment, but despite that they made us really welcome. Thank you to the whole team, residents and relatives at Station House we really appreciated it after a hard day in the saddle. 

So by my reckoning that around 330 miles completed and 470 miles to go. The fantastic news is that everybody has very generously contributed to our Care UK fundraising effort for our three charities and our total is now £17,334.75 and don’t forget it is not too late to donate on our virgin money giving page. Definitely a tough day in the saddle, but two lovely moments made it worthwhile: two members of the public that we started chatting to donated some money, and the welcome we received from our Station House team.

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