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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.

Over the hill and far away…

May 6th 2019
Tony Weedon, Strategic programme director

Great but gruelling day – 260 miles in the bag and 540 to go!

We enjoyed a cosy night’s sleep and beautiful breakfast at Chandler Court thanks to Home Manager Jo and her team for their fantastic hospitality. It was also lovely to see Jon Bicknell who popped in to see us off as we headed off on a 10 mile leg to Brook Court in Kidderminster, joined by Jo and the home’s new second chef Dean … probably not a normal part of most chef inductions! 

This was the hilliest route that any of our guest cyclists had ridden and the team did really well. Not only that the traffic was a little challenging on one or two roads, so hats off to Jo and Dean, great to have the company and great effort to you both. 

The Brook Court greeting from Home Manager Gill and her team, the residents, relatives and well-wishers was fantastic.  Despite their hilly car-park, the team were in full swing on the supported bike by the time we arrived, with the lifestyle team leading the charge and tackling some of the hills beyond the carpark.  We had actually struggled up the last one of these, so to be taking these on in the supported bike was very impressive indeed! 

We then set off from Brook Court to Mercia Grange. This was by far the toughest leg we have cycled. The hills were long and grinding; at times over four mile climbs. There seemed no end; as we conquered one hill we hit another. 

We had just reached a left turn at the top of a very long hill, at which point several choice words were muttered as we were presented with 14% gradient climb. We are proud to report that we all made it to the top without stopping, but it definitely sapped every ounce of energy and left our legs feeling like jelly.

Arriving at Mercia Grange was reward enough though. Again we received another great welcome from Home Manager Shirley and her team, residents, relatives and well-wishers. We were soon ushered into position for photographs at which point the photographer asked Andrew and I to kneel in front of the residents and colleagues. As I knelt down I could feel my hamstring starting to twitch and then embarrassingly I got cramp, which was proceeded by me lying on the ground in agony with Shirley and Andrew trying to straighten my leg whilst the photographer was taking full advantage. 

Shirley and the team had created another great competition back in an ET movie theme, which was great. Rachel, CRM had brought along Harvey the boxer who was a great hit with the residents and I instantly fell in love with. We were treated to lunch and enjoyed a smashing baked potato and beans – perfect.

The positivity and support is overwhelming and definitely appreciated to keep us going.

It’s all up hill from here!

That Midlands Magic

May 5th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director

Four days in.  We have hit the 200 mile mark. Legs are still functioning and despite an amusing collection of groans and moans when we get off the bike of an evening, I think we are in pretty good shape.  The most challenging bit is actually the first five minutes of the day when we have to convince our bodies that yes, they do really want to do that again!

But the welcome in the homes makes it all worthwhile.  As we rolled into Banbury, wondering whether, it being a Sunday, things might be a little low key, the first thing we heard was the sound of an organ grinder welcoming us into Highmarket House.  As I said yesterday, you never quite know what to expect!  

Residents and staff came out in full force, they had made beautiful floral arrangements on their decorated bike and we had a fantastic chat with the team over a cup of tea and some very thoughtful snacks.  This included the very clever chick pea and peanut butter energy bars – yum, yum and yum again.  I know I might sound the tiniest bit food obsessed in my blog posts, but all of us have been blown away by how much time and effort the teams have put into this … it’s like we are invited to three cracking parties each day.  The reality check when this is all over is going to be very harsh indeed.   

All too soon though, we were off to Ambleside, over some hills, through some lovely countryside, over a few hills, through a very busy Stratford-upon-Avon and just to finish the leg, over a couple of hills.   Luckily this earned us a nice roll down into the home so we looked (in my head at least) much more composed by the time we arrived.  

Again, we had a brilliant welcome from Julia, the team and the residents.  Their decorated bike took things to a whole other level … another wedding theme, but this time with muppet-style bride and groom perched atop the bike and a whole decorated chapel, complete with stain-glass window. And again, a fantastic bit of refuelling.  (OK, I know I have to tone down the food talk, but our salmon with pineapple salsa lunch can’t go without a mention – amazing!)  The supported bike went down a treat as well, most notably with some children who had come to visit their grandparents and who enjoyed wearing us out with races in the car park before we set off … mental note, must conserve energy for the hills!

Then onto our final stretch to Chandler Court where a HUGE welcome awaited us.  Colleagues, residents and friends of the home had all come together and we were escorted into the car park by an honour guard of children associated with the home and the local nursery, all riding all manner of bicycles.  It was mildly chaotic and great fun!  Definitely put the smiles back on our faces after sixty fairly tough miles that day. 

Now I would love to tell you about the Chandler competition entry, but we have been sworn to secrecy on everything that happened once we picked up our glasses of fizz from the hydration station and entered the home.  Not so much a ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour’ type scenario as Jo and the team being ever-so-slightly competitive and having their eye on the competition prize.

What I will close on though is a note about how blown away I have been by the support that our homes have given this challenge, not just in terms of the welcome we have received, but the fundraising all have been doing for weeks on end.  We got a bit emotional today when a spectacular effort from the team at Chandler (this is a secret too – argh!) tipped us over our fifteen thousand pound target.  We have only got their thanks to the fundraising that the teams have been doing in the homes, but also some very generous support from our corporate partners.   

I am especially grateful to the companies I work with directly that have supported our efforts, and wanted to give a particular shout out to ITG, our digital marketing agency who very kindly made a very sizeable donation this week that helped bump us over the top.  Thank you Simon, Lisa and the team for your kindness and support on this front. 

We have now set ourselves a stretch target of £21k – which would make a huge difference to the three great charities we are supporting – The Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer Scotland and the Care Workers Charity.  So if anyone is still thinking of shaking the loose change out of their pockets, it would all be very welcome (here is a handy link just in case you need it) 

Although equally concerned that all this incredible support means we can’t decide it is all too hard and jump in the bus … eek!  

Rain, Hail and Smiles

May 4th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director

You know it is going to be a good day when the first voice you hear (quite loudly) is Eileen Coyle-Jones. After a night of experiencing the excellent hospitality at Mountbatten Grange, she had us up and off veryearly for a gruelling 0.8 mile stage… around the corner to Queens Court.  And yes, we did manage to get ever-so-slightly lost on the way!

Not so Eileen who teamed up with Joy, a resident from Mountbatten, on the supported bike for the ride over to Queens for breakfast.  With both of them looking fabulous in the Ride800 jerseys, they were a team to be reckoned with, and Joy’s obvious pleasure in the experience actually made this one of my favourite parts of the day.  

Closely followed by the excellent breakfast Tik and the team had organised for us (I think Tony in particular enjoyed this one!) and the excellent send-off we received from the team and from Tik’s young children.  The Queen’s Court competition entry was fantastic as well and we finally worked out why Anthony had been so happy to lead us into the maelstrom the day before – he is obviously quite a keen cyclist, with his unicycle and tandem (ridden by a pink flamingo), decked out alongside Tik’s daughters bike.  A proper family affair! 

On then to Clara Court, where we dropped in, ready for a rest.  We should obviously have known better though – it was high energy right from the start and before we knew it, we were busting out our dad dancing (or is mine technically mum dancing?) with the team and residents from Clara.  We were obviously well out of our depth on the dance floor, but it was absolutely fantastic fun and despite spending more energy there than we had on the bikes, it was a completely energising experience.  Not to forget the amazing Moroccan themed ‘snack’ buffet that could have fed us for a week and the brilliant model of Andrew on the bike that had us all chuckling away for the rest of the day (I think Tony and I got off lightly there!!) We are so grateful to Debbie, Gladys and all of the staff that had come in on their day off to meet us – it really was a humbling experience and we were all feeling the Clara love.

All too soon we were off again on the Tour de West London and heading for Catherine Court.  When planning our route, Mike Parish had reminded us that Catherine was in HighWycombe and he wasn’t wrong.  This was our first little taste of proper hills which are most definitely not my forte. Having said that, I was on the front as we approached, and so excited to be almost there I over-shot the mark and had to be called back from down the road for the official ride into the home. Oops! 

You never know quite how you are going to be greeted when you get to a care home.  We were conscious it was a Bank Holiday weekend, so thought things might be a bit more low key.  But this was definitely not the case.  We opened the door and walked into … a wedding. Yep, a wedding!  Their beautifully decorated bike was wedding themed and came complete with a gorgeous blushing bride, a very happy groom and a big group ready to celebrate (many of whom had again come in on their days off!) Andrew was asked to bless the rings, while Tony and I officiated on proceedings.  All very good fun, and resident Frankie had an absolute ball playing groom.  And of course this came with a full wedding feast – we are definitely being well fed on this trip! 

We knew this trip would be tough in terms of hills and weather, but we hadn’t expected to hit both of them so quickly.  Five minutes after leaving Catherine we were struggling up a huge hill on a busy road in a very intense hailstorm.  It felt like someone was shooting high powered pellets into my face … it was a long way from my vision of rolling down leafy country lanes in the sunshine and I was most definitely NOT HAVING FUN at this point.    

We did expect some tough times on the trip, but there have been a few unexpected challenges we have had to deal with that we didn’t expect.  My top three: 

  1. Concern we might be the only people to cycle 800 miles and put on weight.  We all agree we won’t eat when we get to the next home, but then we see the food laid out and dive right in.  All I can say is we have some very talented chefs and if they all enter Chef of the Year this year it is going to be a tough old competition! 
  2. Worry that we actually have to judge the bicycle decorating competition.  Every home we have been to so far has put so much into their welcome.  There has been resident involvement in all shapes and forms and the creativity and thought that has gone into each bike is incredible. I did plant the seed that we might need a prize for each home, but think we are going to have to be tough with ourselves … not looking forward to that discussion!   
  3. Tony’s sense of humour.  Actually, don’t tell him but he is actually very amusing … he is very new to cycling and still has a night-before-Christmas excitement about everything, that is infectious.  As I say to everyone who asks, we are all still getting along quite well … but there’s a long way to go!

The road to Windsor

May 3rd 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO, Residential Care Services

A big chunk of today’s miles were done in the morning, with 37 miles from Winchester to Whitebourne, in Frimley, to kick us off. I have to say the legs were a bit stiff this morning and the weather was somewhat chilly at the start of the ride. After the undulating roads through Hampshire it was great to arrive in Surrey to be greeted by Derek, Joe and the team and residents who had been using the assisted bike out in the sunshine.

Resident Betty Ford took the bike for a spin with Joe who was celebrating his new 10 years’ service award. Thanks to the Whitebourne team for all of their enthusiasm and hospitality. Their decorated bike was a scene of flowers and butterflies.

We met up with Mike Parish and Jonny Calow who joined us for the ride from Whitebourne to Larkland House, in Ascot. My sense of direction clearly left me somewhere in Frimley as this route involved a couple of dodgy cycle lanes and a couple of u-turns! The pressure of having Mike and Jonny riding in the Pelton obviously got to me!

All was good in the end and Eileen our RD, Maggie Candy OSM and the team were waiting for us at Larkland House, in the sunshine. They presented us with a cheque for £130 that they had raised for our charities and presented by Michael McKinnon on behalf of all the residents at Larkland House.  Their decorated bike was in a very Royal Ascot fashion, with Her Majesty the Queen turning up in person.

More assisted bike riding followed and then Maggie and Anthony from Queens Court joined us to cycle to Mountbatten Grange, in Windsor. That was an unlucky bit of timing as the first rain of the trip arrived … drenched does not describe it, a cycle ride through Great Windsor Park being unable to see a thing. Only Mike Parish’s singing kept us going!

Thoughtfully the team at Mountbatten were ready to hand out warm towels, tea, cake and even a glass of fizz. Eileen Coyle-Jones managed to demonstrate her cycling prowess to us with her very own bike and still had energy to take a few residents for a spin.

The bike display as with all of our visits was excellent and the judging is going to be tough. I was even Knighted and given the freedom of Mountbatten Grange by Dr Michael Mower on behalf of all of the residents!!


And we are off!

May 2nd 2019
Tony Weedon, Strategic programme director

Wow what a fantastic first day. After a very enthusiastic invite from Helen Vine, the business administrator at the domiciliary care offices in Poole, we kicked off the day with a very warm welcome and a cup of tea from the team. Thanks for the sweets ladies.

As we cycled into the Potteries, no more than a mile down the road, we entered the home’s reception through a wonderful balloon arch, where a host of residents and well-wishers were assembled; the atmosphere was electric.

Home manager, Zita had arranged a breakfast buffet to ensure we had fuelled up ready for the day ahead…and wow what a spread Chef, Sarah had laid on. So much thought, all of the dishes were labelled with their health and nutritional benefit, from dragon fruit and homemade muesli to frittata, thank you so much.

The donations we have had from business partners on this event has been incredible, but we were blown away by the fact that Nathan Ruggles from Ruggles and Jeffery and David Jackson and Tina Hawker from DDC Dolphin had also made the effort to come and see us of, as had Victoria from the Care Workers Charity. We were also joined by Geoff Hodgson of Caring Times magazine.

Six colleagues from both the Potteries, Ferndown Manor and our central support teams donned the Care UK Ride800 jersey and joined us for the first leg to Ferndown Manor. Steve, the maintenance lead at The Potteries did a brilliant job of leading the rid

e with his local knowledge of the route. I felt really proud as the team set off and they did a great job across a busy stretch of town.

We entered Ferndown Manor to be greeted with a banner across the car park reading 790 miles to go. For a split second the scale of our challenge kicked back in but the support from well-wishers and excitement in the air was hugely motivational.

When we arrived at Ferndown Manor Andrew and I hopped onto the pillion bike with me in driving seat. I thought it would be brilliant fun to ride the bike right into the home, although I didn’t share this eureka moment with Andrew. We proceeded across the car park up the entrance pathway, I glanced across to Andrew and he had this odd look on his face and said “are you joking?”. By this time I was committed and had to carry on, we passed through the first set of doors and across the lobby to the inner set of doors. Andrew now had a very different expression on his face, one that I haven’t seen before, and said “you nearly chopped my fingers off” as I pranged the bike into the doorway. Oops no harm done.

Residents from both homes really enjoyed the opportunity to take the pillion cycle for a spin. I think home manager of Ferndown Manor, Janet had a little too much fun as she proceeded to do several laps of the car park!

The residents and colleagues from both homes had decorated their competition bikes beautifully and are serious contenders in the best bike competition – the Potteries had themed their bike around a hot air balloon to give us an uplifting send-off, while Ferndown Manor had paid homage to the Red Arrows with a  bicycle that looked ready to take off!  It was also great to see colleagues and residents from both homes joining us on the Ride 800 challenge as the clocked up miles on exercise bikes.

If we get looked after as well as we have been today we’ll be the only people that can cycle 800 miles and gain weight! Before leaving Ferndown Chef, Jake and Stephen gave us the option of salmon, vegetables and new potatoes or vegetable curry and rice … so of course, I had both.

We then headed off through the new forest and up to Winchester. We navigated our way round ponies, donkeys, cows and sheep but the most unexpected was a family of pigs. These were no ordinary pigs though, these were whoppers. After a momentary standoff followed by one confused pig deciding to cross our path and then immediately turn back, we were unscathed. 

One day done.  50 miles in the bank.  750 miles to go!  

Packed and … ready?

May 1st 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO, Residential Care Services

So it is really getting real now - the afternoon before the start of our Care UK Ride800 challenge. The bags are packed the bike gear prepared and we’re on our way to Poole! The slightly worrying realisation from me is that one of my bags seems to resemble a local Lloyd Pharmacy as I prepare for every potentially painful obstacle that may be in the way of completing 800 miles on a road bike – or it may be just an age thing?!

CareUK Ride800 Group shot

Tony and Jacqui have described their own experiences in training for this challenge and for Tony his first experiences of road cycling. I’ve been cycling for most of my life although my ‘serious cycling’ is in actuality a Saturday morning ride with two other MAMILs and involves stopping off for a pot of tea and homemade cake at a local coffee shop. Not exactly the right preparation for the challenge we have set ourselves but there has been some extra training sessions going in on the spin bike to try and make sure I don’t embarrass myself.

There are a number of reasons why we are embarking on this challenge. As a teenager I used to cycle over to Birmingham to visit my Grandma in the school holidays and at weekends so cycling always brings back some very happy memories. My Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and during my visits over the course of a couple of years I saw how her health deteriorated, I didn’t really understand what was happening as I had no knowledge of the disease at the time. We had many positive and funny moments but I always think I would have handled conversations in a different way if I had known what I know now. The two charities, The Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland do fantastic work in the care sector amongst other initiatives improving understanding of dementia, supporting families as well as funding research. The Care Workers Charity supports care workers in the sector, a skilled group of people who we rely on to look after our loved ones who I am in awe of everyday I go to work. We have close links with all of these organisations helping us to support residents, relatives and colleagues and it is right that we support them in any way we can. If you can support our sponsorship appeal we would all be very grateful.

I have been absolutely blown away and I must say a big thank you for all the support we have received from our colleagues in homes, our support office and of course everybody who had helped organise this event. Very importantly a big thank you to our very generous corporate partners who we will give a shout out to as we keep blogging.

So I guess we all have a ready excuse to get on the carbs tonight! Tomorrow we are joined by six guest cyclists who are going to join us for a ride after we’ve visited our Specialist Care At Home Poole office from The Potteries Care Home to Ferndown Manor Care Home. I’m nervously looking forward to it and I am willing my weather app to tell me some good news!

Gulp one week to go!

April 24th 2019
Tony Weedon, Strategic programme director

Firstly I’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody that has already donated to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer Scotland and the Care Workers Charity. Andrew, Jacqui, and I have been hearing from numerous homes about their grand fundraising plans with cycle-athons and help from local community groups, and I hear Tor Na Dee, where we end our challenge, has a few surprises in store for us!

CareUK Ride800 one week to go

Our fund currently sits at 41% of our £15,000 target, which I’m really hoping with your help we can smash. Every donation counts no matter how big or small, donating the equivalent cost of a couple of cups of coffee would make a massive difference.

When Andrew shared his idea for a charity cycle ride I thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to participate in something that would give back and help make a difference. However, when I volunteered I didn’t have a bike or any road bike experience, which probably sounds a bit barmy. That said, I’ve given the training my best, from winter training on a turbo trainer to weekend cycling as the weather improved.

I’m most concerned about the 36,000 feet elevation climb that we will need to conquer from start to finish, which is c.7000 feet more than the height of Mount Everest at 29,029 feet. In particular there’s a couple of really challenging days at over 4,000 feet each day as we cross the Pennines from Riverside in Hyde to Mill Lodge in Bradford and then another day across the North East to Stanley Park, Armstrong House, and Ponteland Manor. As I live in the North I’ve had the opportunity to train on the Pennines and in the Lake District but I’ve only hit 3,200 feet in one day and that was exhausting.

On a lighter note, there’s a lot more to this cycling than I initially thought and it definitely feels like I’ve been on a crash course for beginners. So I thought I’d share my top ten learning points so far:

Tony’s Top Ten Tips

10. Dogs really do chase bikes.

9. Sheep take no messing, don’t make eye contact, be courteous and let them pass.

8. When taking a break on a windy day, don’t put your gloves down, you won’t see them again.

7. Not releasing your foot from your pedal cleats quickly enough when stopping causes you to lose your balance and fall off.

6. Some members of the public will help you whilst others will laugh and photograph you.

5. Only an unskilled cyclist would pop his own inner-tube when fitting a replacement at the roadside and have to call his wife to be rescued by car.

4. Swallowing big flies is the norm.

3. If a bumble bee the size of a sparrow with a sting lodges itself in your helmet, leave it there and let it buzz and flit about until ready to leave.

2. Cow poo on the road on a rainy day creates slurry, which passing cars liberally coat you with as they pass.

1. Getting too close behind a horse isn’t wise as it’s quite a shock when they go to the toilet.

Three weeks and counting

April 11th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director

CareUK Ride800 three weeks and counting

OK.  Deep breath.  Three weeks to go as of today.  This not-so-little adventure is getting real.  

This is the point where you usually say you have jumped in and done the training and got the winter miles in and the legs are good to go.  Truth be told though I am a bit of a fair weather cyclist and aside from a couple of blinders in April, there hasn’t been a huge amount of fair weather to tempt me out.  But I have managed quite a few epic sessions on the turbo trainer over winter … so as long as there is a heater nearby and a bit of Netflix playing to entertain me, I should be OK.  And the weather on the East Coast of Scotland is definitely ‘fair’ this time of year, right?  (eek!) 

Andrew, Tony and I managed our first training session this week.  After fits of giggles at first sight of each other in lycra (bizarre thing to see a colleagues knees for the first time after years of working with them!) we set off for a relatively comfortable 20 mile loop around Suffolk. It soon became clear that Tony has been clocking up some stealth training in the last few weeks (while I have been preparing by hobbling about on crutches) so for all my trash talk he most definitely dropped me on the hills.  Not to worry though, it’s a loooong way from Dorset to Aberdeen. 

Our big focus at the moment though is on fundraising.  The whole purpose of this trip is to raise funds for three amazing charities : The Alzheimer’s SocietyAlzheimer Scotland and The Care Workers Charity. Some of our corporate partners have already come to the table on this and I am grateful to our marketing agencies WPR and Unigraph for getting the ball rolling.   

I did have the pleasure of visiting the incredible team at Clara Court yesterday to celebrate their fantastic Outstanding rating from CQC (go team!) They are already preparing for our visit on the 4th of May and have a fantastic display already set up in reception to support their fundraising efforts (nobody, not even the local mayor, could say no to Debbie’s smiling shake of the bucket!) I know a lot of our other homes have similar plans underway and I heard rumour today of an exciting plan being hatched at Connaught House…  

In any case, any donations big or small would be most welcome – just take a look at our event page for more information.  

Right, back to that training plan.