The 800 mile ride took them from the most southerly to the most northerly of our care homes as part of an organisation-wide season of fundraising for three important charities; Care Workers Charity, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Scotland.
Take a look at our blog below to see how they got on along the way.
May 16th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO
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. tor-na-dee-pr-016
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.
Tor-na-Dee_PR_021After 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.Tor-na-Dee_PR_045
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.
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.
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. Ride800 Scotland
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!
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!
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.
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!
May 10th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO
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.
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.
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!
May 7th 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO
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.
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!
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!
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:
May 3rd 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO
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!!
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!
May 1st 2019
Andrew Knight, CEO
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?!
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!
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!
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.
April 11th 2019
Jacqui White, Marketing director
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 Society, Alzheimer 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.