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A night to remember…

Throughout every stage of our BikeSplashBike challenge we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and complete strangers and our experience of organising our final fundraising dinner and auction was no different.

It was absolutely amazing to have Geoff Holt and his wife Elaine with us to help celebrate Daddy’s life and inspire everyone to give so generously. We are all so grateful to them both. When we first discussed the idea of hosting a charity dinner, we were warned that it was very difficult to make a profit and so we were unsure at first. It was only when Geoff generously agreed to speak at our dinner that we felt sure that we should go ahead! – So Geoff, Thank you!

Geoff Holt

When I first heard Geoff speak at the Winchester Enterprise Lecture, in 2012,  the host at that event summed up Geoff’s attitude to life by reference to a theme from Kaballah, that:

You cannot choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react: and that choice can be an inspiration“.

Those words really stuck with me and often came to mind as we watched Daddy struggle with his illness and the way he dealt with his condition was certainly an inspiration to us…

Thank’s to this over flowing support and generosity we had a fantastic evening and overshot our £30,000 target. We are still waiting for some payments to clear, but we are pretty sure that the final figure will be over £40,000, which is far more than we ever expected! Thank you ALL so So much!!

We are so grateful to everyone who has helped us get this far and especially everyone who came to support us on November 7th and were so generous in their bidding at the auction! 🙂

In particular we have to thank the Royal Automobile Club for donating their beautiful rooms, Encore Entertainment for getting us all in the party mood, Geoff Holt for inspiring everyone to give so generously, Irene Tyack for creating two paintings inspired by BikeSplashBike and everyone who donated the fantastic auction and raffle prizes…

Thomas Plant did a great job at selling them and I hope that they are fully enjoyed by the successful bidders!

We do have a couple of raffle prizes which were not claimed – if you think these belong to you please do get in touch!

Finally – Thank you all for putting up with us!! This challenge has helped us immeasurably through these past few months by giving us something positive to focus on. I am happy to say that Cancer Research UK have confirmed that all the funds we have raised will be used to fund research into Oesophageal Cancer specifically, which will hopefully mean that less people have to suffer the way Daddy did.

A very kind man said to me at the party that if Daddy was able to fill a room the way the Mountbatten Room was filled on the night of our party even after he was gone, then he must have lived a good life…

Daddy did live a pretty great life 🙂 and I can only hope that he was looking down on us all content in the knowledge that all of our lives were the better for knowing him.

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Lake Windermere: Fell Foot to Wray Castle

10 miles. 9 hours. One huge mental challenge.

As we set off into the mist we had no idea how hard it would be…

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It was without doubt the hardest thing we have EVER done. 

I think both of us doubted whether we would make it and I don’t think we could have done it for any other reason.

The first few miles were chilly, but it seemed like an adventure…

After a few hours, despite the amazing scenery and the fly past from the Red Arrows, it began to seem less fun… actually it began to feel like a hellish nightmare! All I wanted was to lie down on firm ground… At the halfway point I was dizzy and shivering uncontrollably! But Alice and I both knew (and Luke kindly reminded her at regular intervals) “if you don’t swim, you won’t get there”! So we kept going. Actually it was too cold to rest so slow and steady seemed the only way. I tried to deceive my body that it was warm by imagining that I was swimming in a huge vat of chicken stew… it actually kind of helped 🙂

Miles 7, 8 and 9 were the hardest as the wind had picked up and there was a lot of boat traffic so it felt like we kept swimming, but weren’t making any progress and as the water was at it’s deepest I was terrified that i was going to freeze to death! I think I had three mars bars in the space of an hour! Helpfully my paddler thought it would be motivational to lie about the distances – so when I had done nearly 8 miles I was told I had done only 6… Possibly the most demotivating lie I have ever heard!! I was NOT happy!!

Finally the red balloons came into sight and it seemed like we would make it. But the actual finish was around the corner and it took what felt like an age to get there… Mummy was waiting and both Alice and I were sobbing as she helped us scramble out of the water and collapse onto the matting provided for exactly that purpose! I have never felt such relief.

To be honest I think the day was almost hardest for Mummy – she must have been so worried and she had to rush around the lake from side to side to watch us as we struggled along. It actually takes well over half an hour to drive from Newby Bridge to Ambleside, which is some indication of the distance we’re talking about!

It certainly felt like Daddy was watching over us and giving us the strength that we needed. I don’t think we would have made it under any other circumstances…

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There are so many people we would like to thank and so much more to say… but perhaps that is for another day.

For now it is still hard to believe that it is over and we made it… As Clint Eastwood would say

“Let’s not go and ruin it by thinking too much”

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Day 18: a magical unexpected Rest Day in Dornoch

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Today was almost like a dream. I think we all feel like someone should pinch us so that we wake up!

If ever we were looking for a sign that Daddy was with us on this adventure it would have been easy to find one today…

Having taken the South side of Loch Ness we had inadvertently bought ourselves a rest day by getting slightly ahead of our itinerary. As a result out accommodation bookings were redundant. We arrived in Dornoch last night and came across a “B&B” close to the beach, which was rather unassuming from the outside or we would never even have knocked on the door. Inside, however, we felt like we had stepped into the Sheikh’s house from the movie ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’, this was luxury as is only seen in movies, Daddy would have loved it! It was totally beyond our budget generally, but certainly not the kind of place we would stay on this sort of trip!

Amazingly, despite (or perhaps, because of) our bedraggled appearance we were welcomed in and the charming hostess insisted that we stay, rest and eat basically for free (the house was experiencing a two day lull between groups of wealthy American Hunters.)

This morning began with a run along the beach and a swim where Daddy must have swum all those years ago.

We then had a delicious breakfast and relaxed on their terrace… When we were brought some tea, the waiter also provided a brand new pack of water-colour pencils and paper… In case we felt inspired to be creative. It was totally unreal and utterly magical!

In the evening, totally unfazed by our lack of appropriate attire the chef cooked us a fantastic vegetarian dinner, which concluded with Mummy’s favourite deserts combined… Carrot cake with Milk chocolate custard!!

Of course it sounds crazy, but the whole day we just felt like someone was looking after us exactly as Daddy would have wanted…
We are all just hugely grateful!

Onwards for the final 120 miles 🙂

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Day 17: Inverness to Dornoch

Miles travelled: 46 miles

Metres climbed: 480

Sea crossings: 3 (as mummy neither enjoys heights, boats or bridges you can imagine that today’s route was right up there with her favourites ;))

In the spirit of never going anywhere directly we decided to head for the West coast of Scotland via the East coast! We can’t totally blame Alice this time as we’d always planned to stop at Dornoch… A place Daddy had visited a couple of times to play golf many years ago and had wanted to show mummy (when we were route planning several months ago this had been on his “must see” list…) coming this way also means we are able to avoid most of the horrid A9 🙂

Alice navigated excellently out of Inverness over the Moray Firth and on to the Black Isle, for our first crossing of the day…

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Once on the Black Isle we headed directly uphill on b-roads for what felt like eternity, but the views weren’t bad…

and after 400m climbing and 10 or so miles it was mostly down hill to Cromarty 🙂 a very quaint town which feels almost at the end of the earth. After a quick and delicious snack at  Coupers Creek we got the tiny Cromarty ferry to Nigg…

After admiring the retired oil refineries we had a lovely flat(ish) stretch for 20 or so miles before we passed the Glen Morangie distillery, and succumbed to the temptation to have a look…

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None of us had realised that Whisky could cost £30,000 a bottle!!

Then it was just a few miles along the A9 and over the bridge accross the Dornoch Firth and into the smallest City in the UK…

It is easy to understand why Daddy loved this sleepy city nestled along miles of the most tranquil coastline… After a quick dip in the North Sea Alice and I are both hoping that Windermere will be at least a couple of degrees warmer!!

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Day 11: Ullswater to Moffat

Miles travelled: 70

Metres climbed: about 600

Bikes repaired: one (twice!)

Feeling all refreshed after our rest day and stuffed full of porridge we got our bikes from the garage where they had been locked only to find that Alice’s had a flat tyre 😦

After replacing the inner tube and inflating with a mini canister of compressed air it almost immediately deflated again… Possibly for the first time this trip, Alice wasn’t very happy! Luckily Philip, the kind gardener, came to our rescue and helped us replace the inner tube again… And fortunately this time it worked!! Not only did Philip fix our bikes, but yesterday he drove us to a nearby town for some emergency supplies (so that we didn’t have to cycle on our rest day) and on too of that he generously donated to support our challenge!! Philip we can’t thank you enough!!!

Alice was still a bit worried though, especially as her bike was also squeaking so we stopped at Halfords in Carlisle and the guys there kindly gave her bike a “once over” for free 🙂 it is so amazing and humbling how much kindness and generosity we are encountering every day!!

We were sad to leave the lakes, but consoled ourselves in the knowledge that hopefully we’ll be back before too long for the Windermere swim!

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We pushed on along a great road which followed the motorway, and pretty soon crossed into Scotland!! 🙂 it seems hard to believe we’ve made it this far…

We had a yummy coffee in the Old Toll Bar (literally next to the border!) to celebrate! It is amazing to think of all the couples who must have said their vows in Gretna for so many different reasons over the years.., eloping actually sounds quite romantic! 😉

After Gretna the road continued to follow alongside the motorway, but sadly the condition deteriorated so that it was a rather uncomfortable ride… Very bumpy!! And weirdly, although it looked like we were going down hill – a lot of effort seemed to be required to build up or maintain any speed… Very weird!!

We were very happy to make it to Moffat!! 🙂

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Day 9: Forton to Ulllswater

Miles travelled: 62

Metres climbed: 1000 (400 of them in one go!!)

Punctures repaired: 1

Despite the fact that our day started with our first fall (a clipped-in classic ;)),  a puncture 2 minutes later and the biggest “hill” I’ve ever seen…  this might have been our best day so far 🙂

The A6 to Kendal was almost entirely flat… Which was actually a bit weird… Lancaster was surprisingly attractive…

After a quick bite (Alice had the best beetroot and goats cheese sandwich of her life!) in Kendal we popped into Evans cycles who kindly pumped all our tyres and seemed amused when we told them we were headed for Ullswater…

We soon realised why! The road up to Shap wasn’t so much “bumpety Bumpety” as one big (actually massive!) bump!! 400m and about an hour of non stop climbing!! Fun fun fun…

We then took the ‘scenic’ route across the lakes to Ullswater (mummy was not best pleased ;)) but it was gorgeous…

So happy for a rest day here…Rest days are the best days 😉

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Day 8: Chester to Forton

Miles travelled: 70

Metres climbed: 450

Bike shops visited: 2

Having just posted home our unwanted items to lighten our loads (including my rain coat!) We set off from Chester in light drizzle which quickly became heavy rain 😦 Yuck!!

After about 12 miles as we were climbing a hill out of Frogsham I got our first puncture of the trip… Luckily Frogsham had two bike shops, one of which speedily replaced my inner tube and even gave me a headlight for my bike and the other had a perfect replacement rain jacket! Oops! After warming ourselves at Old Hall Hotel, which sadly had  fake fire, but they did make up for it by giving us towels!!

Feeling much warmer in my new raincoat, we pushed on over the estuary on the scariest dusk carriageway bridge ever… Through Rainhill… Where the locomotive was invented…image

Then to Dentons Green for an amazing lunch… Mummy had her second bowl of porridge (we’ve discovered it really is go mixture!) and two portions of yummy carrot cake…

From there we pushed on into Lancashire and discovered our favourite road yet – the A6, maybe not the prettiest, but certainly the most direct and flat we’ve been on 🙂

Dinner was possibly the best yet… Huge vats of pasta which would probably have been enough to sustain an army!

Even better the charming waiter said we could follow the A6 all the way to Ullswater, and while it is flat until Kendal, from then on the route gets a little “Bumpety Bumpety”!

Oh well… Bring on the bumps!! One day till rest day 😉

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Day 7: Bishops Castle to Chester

Miles travelled: just over 63
Metres climbed : not many (yay!! :))

We set off at 7am as we were determined not to be arriving in the dark…

It felt great to have conquered the large part of the mileage by 11am for “brunch”. The New Inn at Baschurch kindly opened their kitchens early to make us poached eggs on toast!! The yummiest we’ve ever had…

After finally unlocking our bikes (yes the key was in my pocket… It just took 20 mins to find it!!) We set off again…

After Baschurch we seemed to be in a food desert and by the time we made it to Holt we were flagging, but soon revived by Hildegard’s tea room, which seemed like an Oasis in a desert… And she even sponsored us as well!!

From there it was just 10miles to Chester!!

I’m just so grateful it was a flat day 🙂 and for my clip ins… I’ve slightly pulled my left knee so luckily was able to pedal mostly right legged…

On to Preston!!

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Day 6: Bettwys Newydd to Bishops Castle

Miles travelled: 70 (pretty direct today with the number one navigator in control!)

Metres climbed: 800

Bikes serviced: All 3 (apparently we had basically burnt through our brake pads… So it was lucky we decided to get them checked in Hereford! Climb on Bikes were super helpful… I think they thought it was pretty funny how clueless we were!!)

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We set off after the most amazing breakfast at Brynderwen Court feeling fully fueled (with ample supplies to last us for the next few days!), but very sad to leave!! 

imageAfter our navigational issues yesterday we decided to follow a more direct route… Which meant more traffic, but was much quicker. We left Wales behind us and headed off into the Shropshire hills..

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We finally made it to Bishops Castle… Feeling pretty relieved to make it in the daylight 🙂 .

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Day 5: Bridgewater to Brynderwyn Court (otherwise known as fairyland!)

Miles travelled: well over 90 (after 10 hours in the saddle my garmin died so it’s an estimate!!)

Mikes travelled in the dark: about 10

Metres climbed: well over 1200image

So what we thought would be a nice flat 66miles turned into a 95 plus mile slalem… With a BIG hill! Now that we’ve realised Alice thinks Wales is further south than Oxford she’s been temporarily demoted from chief navigator to chief morale booster!!

The scenery was fantastic…

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and crossing the Severn Bridge (when we finally realised that having crossed the river Avon did not mean we were in Wales!) was a major highlight!!

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The scenic route from the Severn to Bettwys Newydd was unbelievable beautiful… The dusky pink sky and our fatigue induced delirium only enhanced the natural beauty!! As darkness descended… With only one torch between us some members of the group experienced moments of concern…

Finally we passed the Black Bear Inn and the welcoming lights if Brynderwen Court appeared on the horizon like a mirage… The Williams family welcomed us like conquering heroes… With banners, fireworks and champagne! We soon forgot our aches and pains as we devoured Peter’s sensational chicken pie and amazing pavlova… We can’t thank them enough for their amazing hospitality!! As Daddy would have said… “Nobody does it better”!!

 

photos to follow when we get sufficient signal!!

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