St George’s teacher rides 500 miles to raise over £5,000 for charity
During August, RE Teacher Alex Macpherson took on an incredible challenge with his friend John Paynter. Over a week, they cycled the 500 miles of the Welsh Coast cycle route. Despite challenging weather conditions, the ride was full of highlights, peaking with a dolphin display in Cardigan Bay while they enjoyed a post cycling swim. Here, Alex share his reflection of a his and John’s (Jono, as Alex calls him) experiences as they cycled hundreds of miles to raise £5,000 for a Leprosy Care Centre in Zimbabwe.
After finishing the ‘Welsh Coast 500 – JBMS Ride for Leprosy’ cycle it’s time to reflect on the amazing adventure that my friend Jono and I undertook. We are so grateful for the donations, well-wishes, hospitality and support from The John Bradburne Memorial Society (JBMS) members, friends, family and strangers. It is incredibly humbling to see our Just Giving fundraiser hit 95% (and still rising) of our £5,000 target. In addition to this, JBMS members have also sent in some very generous donations by cheque, meaning we are well over the target and the money raised will go to the patients and community at the Mutemwa Leprosy Care Centre in Zimbabwe.
The 500 mile Welsh coast cycle, starting at Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol and ending at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, was a memorable challenge and I will now reflect upon some of the many highs and lows now the legs are back to normal! We set off in a heat wave and the greatest challenge of the first few days was coping with the plus 35°C temperatures along the south coast. Just to add to the discomfort a wasp flew into my cycling jersey just after we had crossed the Severn Bridge and embedded itself in my chest, which remained itchy and sore for the next five days. Despite the heat we made good progress through Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Llanelli, Saundersfoot, Tenby and made it to the Pembrokeshire coast’s beautiful, but steep coves of Broad Haven, Nolton Haven and Newgale. We were going to take a ferry to Skomer Island, but after hearing that the puffins had already flown we decided to head north instead.
After a night in hammock tents near Haverfordwest and having travelled as far west as possible we headed northwards to Fishguard and Cardigan. This was our shortest day so far so despite it being a ten mile round trip to Poppit Sands beach we decided to cycle there for a much needed swim. This turned out to be a great decision as when we entered the sea we were given an incredible display by one of Cardigan Bay’s resident Bottle-nose dolphin pods, which were rounding up and hunting the mackerel, sea bass and other fish feeding on the schooling sand eels very close to the shore. This was without doubt the non-cycling highlight of the trip and such a privilege to witness.
The next day we continued northwards and after a fast downhill section, reaching 44.9mph, we limped the bikes into the Aberaeron Cycle Works, where despite not booking and being busy they managed to repair Jono’s damaged disk brakes and replace my worn brake pads. With the bikes in better shape we continued northwards to Aberyswyth and it’s extremely steep hills and beyond to the beautiful and secluded Wallog Farm where we refuelled on pasta and ale and enjoyed another swim in the sea.
Finally the heatwave subsided, however we now faced strong headwinds on our longest and hilliest day northwards through Borth, Machynthlleth, Aberdovey, Harlech, Porthmadog, Beddgelert, through Snowdonia and across Anglesey’s Menai Bridge. We made great progress early on during this 100 mile day as we knew we had to be in good order for our assault on Snowdonia’s Pen-Y-Pass climb. We both felt some trepidation for this feat but despite being the longest climb, the gradient of 4% was very manageable compared to some of the gradients we had encountered, and the picturesque views certainly helped. The downhill section, despite being flanked by rain, was the cycling highlight of the trip; zooming downhill with Mount Snowdon to our left, through the breath-taking Nant Peris glacial valley was exhilarating. Despite the distance that day, after the invigorating Snowdonia section we barely registered the 11 mile hilly last leg to Anglesey along some very narrow, bumpy and undulating B-roads.
We had a great night in Holyhead and set off early the following morning eastwards through Bangor, Conway, Colwyn Bay to Chester for what we thought would be an easy day. The wind however had shifted from the north to now coming from the east and we had another full day of riding into a headwind. To make matters worse, a rear gear cable broke and we spent over two and a half hours trying to replace it, which we couldn’t so after tensioning the cable to sit in a middle gear setting we tied knots in it and made it across the English boarder and into Chester.
After the heatwave and the strong headwinds, we were ready for any weather, however it was a calmer, grey and almost frictionless day and we enjoyed the ‘uncontested Champs-Elysees stage’ cycle around the coast of the Wirral and across into Liverpool. I said it was almost frictionless; we had the first puncture of the trip, caused by a tiny 2mm piece of metal that had pierced my front ‘Specialized Armadillo’ tyre after cycling alongside the military ranges (possibly a bullet or grenade fragment). We cycled up the hill to our end point; Anfield stadium (sadly just missing Mohammed Salah, Virgil Van Dyke and a few other players handing out free footballs) where we were allowed into the stadium for a few victory photos and some time to reflect on the journey. After over 509.74 miles cycled, 7,472 meters climbed, a tube of ‘Chamois Buttr’, bunches of bananas, flapjacks, Tesco meal deals and countless water bottle refills we had made it. We tried to get the train home but due to the rail strikes we stayed in Liverpool and celebrated the eight days!
We are incredibly humbled and grateful for the generous donations, which have so far raised in excess of £7,000 for the Mutemwa Leprosy Care Centre in Zimbabwe. We are also very grateful of the support, well wishes and the kind-hearted hospitality of the Paynters, Eversheds and the Crystals for accommodating and feeding us. It was a great adventure and a wonderful way to experience the Welsh coast.28 August 2022