B2L – Great Bromley to London (Day 17)

The Final Day!

So the final day dawned, my ride into London. This was the day that I had been least looking forward to (in fact, the only day I wasn’t looking forward to) in that riding in London is not something I particularly enjoy. Wonderful as recumbent tricycles are, they aren’t really suited to London traffic and drivers.

Still, there was plenty to look forward to today apart from this. The chance to tour the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre, riding with some friends through Essex, the chance to finish this task I had set myself, more sponsorship being raised. So I was keen to get going!

Arrangements had been made for me to have a quick tour of the Colchester PRC at 9am and so James and I set out from home fairly early (8am) to cycle the six miles and then give ourselves plenty of time to find out where we should check in, in case we couldn’t find it (not having been to the barracks before). Fortunately Steve Schollar, the Help For Heroes Centre Manager, was waiting for us in the car park even though we were 25 minutes early. After checking in and getting our security passes we headed off on what must be the smoothest roads in Colchester across the new barracks to the PRC which is on the south end. This included going over the bridge across Berechurch Hall Road which I have only ever cycled under previously – and the road under it is one of the most potholey and bumpy roads in Colchester. What a contrast!

We arrived at the centre and were greeted by several people who made us a cup of tea and had a good chat about my tour and the PRC and more. After we had finished our cups of tea we were shown around what is clearly an excellent new facility. It was really good to see the quality of everything there and also how many wonderful outside seating areas there are to relax and recuperate and have time to think. We had the workings of the PRC explained to us – it all looks very positive. What I hadn’t realised is that it isn’t just for those wounded by IEDs but is also for military personnel who may have MS, for example, or other issues.

After we’d had a bit of a look around we took some photographs outside with the brand new name plaque for the building.

And here is a picture with James and with Steve the H4H Centre Manager:

Our visit actually lasted almost an hour and a half and culminated with the bravest of the centre staff having a go on Alfie – he went pretty quickly! We were very grateful people had given up their Sunday morning to show us around and to give us such personal attention!

Then James and I were let out of the pedestrian gate which opens at the Corporal Budd VC Gymnasium where our friend Mark was waiting for us. Some others who had planned to cycle with us to London had decided it was wisest not to due to the engineering works on the trains – they wouldn’t have been able to get home afterwards!

The plan was for Mark, James and I to cycle to Maldon where we would meet Martin (another cyclist friend) and at this point James would turn round and cycle home so that he would be available to collect Mark and I in the car at the end of the ride.

We were lucky with the weather as it was a bright morning without too many clouds although it wasn’t as warm as it looked. James, Mark and I made reasonable progress to Maldon although the strong headwind (which was with us the whole way to London!) was a bit of a pain.

We met Martin at Maldon Tesco’s where I took the opportunity to buy a cup of tea and shared round some of the fantastic fruit cake my next-door neighbour had made for me yesterday. We then waved goodbye to James who was taking a more scenic route home (we had come the most direct route which had a fair bit of traffic for a Sunday morning).

We headed off up the awful hill to the centre of Maldon for which I had to use my granny ring. We then headed off through Hazeleigh and then Bicknacre. We had various text messages from Wowbagger whom we were planning to meet along the way. He, Jane and Delthebike had met each other at Shenfield and then cycled to a tea room. My little cycling party was a bit later than expected (due to us spending longer at the PRC than we had planned) and so they cycled towards us to meet us. We all met in the village of East Hanningfield and Del was ready with his camera:

And another Del took of me pulling a silly face:

We had a quick chat with Del (who had to ride home again) and then the group of five (me, Jane, Wowbagger, Mark and Martin) headed off towards the Ingatestone Garden Centre for a spot of lunch.

Wowbagger and I had eaten here before – tea and cake sort of food – but it was heaving with people when we got there, they’d run out of lots of options for lunch, and it also seemed rather dramatically overpriced this time. However we were hungry (as it was 2:00pm) and so decided to eat there. As we arrived we saw Jurek, another cycling chum, awaiting us – he had ridden over from London to come back with us. He and Mark also shop at the same bike clothing store (Aldi!)

Lunch took about an hour so our schedule had slipped even more. I had originally said to various people that I expected to be into London at 5pm but had now revised this to 6pm and Jurek was concerned about how slow the last fifteen miles would be as it’s busy in East London on Sunday evenings. Still, there wasn’t much we could do about that and we headed off, keeping a respectable pace (for me, at least) for a lot of the riding. It was a bit up and down in places, we went through Shenfield/Brentwood and then crossed the M25. Now we felt like we were approaching London! We headed through Gidea Park

At one point I started to go round a mini roundabout the wrong way (my brain was still on cycling on the right!) but fortunately realised pretty quickly and swerved back to the correct side, which provided a laugh for my companions.

The scenery was rather different than my route out of Berlin!

As we approached Chadwell Heath a loo stop was requested. We fetched up at the Goodmayes Tesco and various people went off to find the loo (which ended up a bit of an experience in itself for them!). I took the opportunity to take some photographs as I realised I hadn’t been doing much of this – I was concentrating too much on trying to cycle as fast as I could!

We had a very interesting collection of bikes on this ride including 3 lovely Titanium ones.

After the loo stop we headed off into London proper. This was for me a rather unpicturesque bit of my entire tour and although there were interesting sights there were some very dodgy motorists. Jurek did an absolutely fabulous job of ride leader – I followed his back wheel closely and he led me through all the lane changes, round the dodgy potholes and more. Jane sat on my right shoulder shielding me from the worst of the traffic. They were both quite brilliant!

This was my view for a lot of the ride – concrete, cars and Jurek trailblazing

Then we found ourselves on one of Boris’s new Cycling Superhighways. I liked the blue paint as it made the ride smoother but was told by the upright cyclists that it could be very slippery in the rain. We didn’t stick to the blue paint by any means as sometimes it made you do dangerous manoeuvres.

In a stretch of about two miles Jane was nearly sideswiped by a car (she saw the lady driver was texting at the time), then someone nearly squashed Jurek (fortunately he saw it coming and swerved out of the way) and finally a car tried to muscle past me in a pinch point and I had to slam my brakes on to avoid being hit by it. Not fun, and a reminder of why I don’t like riding in London! On the other hand, lots of passers by seemed amused by this little group of cyclists and a few people waved at me and shouted encouraging (I choose to believe they were encouraging anyway!) comments.

Martin came to the front for a little while as we were heading through Whitechapel (I saw the bell foundry as we waited at yet another set of traffic lights) and so I was following Jurek and him. I was watching the “miles to destination” count down from 15 to 12 to 10… it seemed to be going slowly because of the traffic lights although we were actually riding fairly fast (for me). Then finally we got some views of central London landmarks.

Sorry that pic is appallingly dark – I had very little time for photography whilst whizzing along at 15 miles an hour through glass-littered streets!

We arrived at Stratford and then the roads opened out a bit and felt easier. Jurek had originally decided we would go over a flyover (not sure which one – I was just following him without paying much attention to where I was!) but the wind was so strong he decided against it in the end and we went round the roundabout – unscathed, fortunately.

I was moaning to Jurek and Jane how little I liked riding in London and Jane said she enjoyed it – she’s made of much sterner stuff than me!

And then we rounded a corner and there was the Tower of London and it all looked wonderful bathed in sunshine. Jurek said “I love this city” and I could see why.

We rode along the embankment, knowing there was only two miles to go – hurrah – and it looked as though we would make it by 6pm.

Jurek led me up Northumberland Avenue and then we arrived at the bottom of Trafalgar Square to “hello!” from my mother and father in law, but we rode around the side of the square up to St Martin-in-the-Fields where there was a dropped kerb so we could get off the road. Clare from YACF (the cycling forum) was there with her camera as well and she took several photos.

Arrived at last!

Clare took a few photos of me with my phone as well so I could post the pics on Facebook.

Here we have Wowbagger, Jurek, me, Mark and Martin (Jane had to dash straight off, unfortunately).

My in-laws had found us and went to buy me a bottle of water (which was much needed) and Miranda (Mice) arrived with some little biscuits for me which were fab as I was pretty hungry.

Then Stephanie, the Help For Heroes fundraising rep, appeared and she gave me a medal and a certificate for completing the ride.

Sorry I look a bit gloomy there – I was feeling pretty tired!

Here is the certificate:

I chatted with Stephanie and her friend for a while, along with the others, and eventually people had to go so it was just Mark and I awaiting James (our taxi service) and his parents. Unfortunately there was a huge queue on the A12 so James had to do a significant detour which added at least an hour to his journey time so in the end we agreed that Mark and I would ride eastwards to Trinity Square (near the Tower of London) where James knew of some parking and which was a bit easier for him to get to. Mark was feeling a bit chilly by this point so we said goodbye to James’s parents who were taking the train home, I bought a sandwich at Pret a Manger (and a cup of tea – I offered my own teabag and they didn’t charge me for the tea!!!!) and then Mark and I got back on the bikes for another two and a half miles to the Tower. I didn’t mind this short extra ride as when I had reached Trafalgar Square my total tour distance was 698 miles – that last little trip clicked it over to 701. Phew!

Mark had a hot drink whilst we waited at Trinity Square and then James arrived. The bikes were dismantled and put in the car and then we headed off home. We were on the road by 8pm, feeling pretty tired but I was delighted to have finished the tour.

I was still carrying around my bag of tools and pump, etc. This toolbag was fairly heavy as I have a decent spanner to remove the back wheel, various allen keys, two spare tubes, the pump, tyre boots, cable ties, insulating tape, puncture repair kits with dozens of patches, other general tools… and on the entire tour I used just one piece of gaffer tape. Typical! Still, I was prepared for the worst so it was worth it!

More donations were arriving as I was approaching London (I get emails each time someone gives via Bmycharity) so that was really encouraging, as were all the messages of support on Facebook when I posted that I had made it!

So now it’s back to normality – I have lots of work to catch up on, I need to give the dog lots of nice long walkies and cook James some nice meals as he’s been fending for himself for two and a half weeks. And I need to try to raise a bit more money to hit my £2,000 target… and to think up the next recumbent tricycle challenge. Watch this space!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 72.4 miles
Moving time: 6 hours 59 minutes 11 seconds
Maximum speed: 33.mph
Average speed: 10.4mph
Average heart rate: 144
Maximum heart rate: 182
Calorie burn (estimate as heart rate monitor didn’t always get a reading): 3,200 calories

Total tour distance: 701 miles

Thanks to all who sponsored me, including:

Lots of friends at Lion Walk URC, people in the village of Great Bromley and further afield, Ardleigh Fish & Chip shop, various friends of my parents and my in-laws, County Broadband, Alan & Paula Bridges, Kevin Wiggins, Canardly, Hotel Zum Schwan, Maureen & Dave, Stephen Breddy, Geordieonabike, Kate McGuire, Grace Lee & Andrew, Clive Banks, Doug Priest, Jenny & Peter Hancox, Heather & Tess, Philip & Yvonne, Ann Jarrett, Charles & Jacqueline Hall, Claire Witham, Moyna Adam, Juliet Whitty, Gina & Alan Reames, Ham, TimC, Jean Armstrong, Sam Armstrong, David & Michele Jenner, Ruth Wiggins, Diane Oshisanwo, Kirstie & Howard & Rose, Roger Smith, John & Shirley England, The Sutherlands, Orienteer, Alan & Jan Bullard, Liz Chamberlain, Huw Jones from Madison, Frances & Ken Eastty, Wowbagger, Chris Samuel, Katy Watts & Lola, John & Jean Tilley, Stuart Affleck, Lindsay Goubel, Auntie Charlotte, Linda Freestone, Gwenllian South, Joe Bellett, Thomas Bennett, Julie Lovegrove, Mum & Dad, Duncan Adam, Kirsty & Steve Rowley, Louise Brooks, Jim & Lesley, Olaf Storbeck, Adam Bell, Anna Buttimore, Ianrauk, Linda Harrison (with Claire & Wendy), Kate Strowbridge and of course all the anonymous donors and those who have filled in sponsor forms or given me cash!

Click here to see my actual ride route: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

4 Comments

Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours

4 Responses to B2L – Great Bromley to London (Day 17)

  1. Well done Helen. So what was the “total cakes consumed”?

  2. Pingback: Berlin to London | Auntie Helen

  3. Marianne

    Hi Helen, Just got back from our trip to Oz and was so wondering how you had got on!! Fantastic effort and wonderful blog – when I left there seemed to be lots of cake pics so hope that continued. So glad you were able to have a trip round the Colchester PRC and great that Stephanie was there with the certificate at the end of your trip. A huge thank you from Help for Heroes Essex and do keep in touch and come and see us. Best wishes Marianne and Valentine

Leave a Reply