‘On yer bike’ for charity

IT’S A case of ‘on yer bikes’ for three intrepid cyclists as they prepare to take on two challenges to raise funds for charity.

Island friends Don Catterall and Martin Jones are setting out next week – Saturday August 27 – to undertake ‘The Northwest Passage’, a journey from the most south-easterly to the most north-westerly tips of the UK in aid of The Linda Norgrove Foundation.

And Sam MacPhee from Morayshire will start his Western Isles challenge – cycling from the Butt of Lewis to Barra in ‘Sam’s Solo Hebridean Challenge’ – the day before on Friday, August 26, in a bid to raise funds for national charity Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland.

“Over the last few years I have found several members of my family being affected by severe chest/heart illnesses, including my own father who died almost seven years ago, aged just 64,” explains Sam. “This trip is made somewhat poignant for me as I have lost so many members of my family due to these illnesses.”

He continues: “I have only recently got back in the saddle since school years, now 44 years old, and although I have taken part in many challenges in my time, I do feel that this is probably the most difficult challenge I have ever contemplated!

“I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the Western Isles once more, but I do so with some trepidation. Although I have planned and checked the route for some time, there is no real way of telling exactly what the conditions will offer.

“It can rain all it wants, but I’m just hoping for a North-ish wind to see me on my way south!”

Sam’s challenge, which covers nearly 200 miles, will start in Stornoway where he plans to cycle up to the Butt of Lewis and then back to the port town on his first day.

Day two should see him leave Stornoway early morning to cycle to Leverburgh where he’ll catch the ferry to Berneray before cycling south to Iochar, South Uist.

For his final day in the saddle, Sam aims to cycle from Iochar to Eriskay, get the ferry to Barra, then cycle to Vatersay, back to Barra and catch the ferry back to Eriskay for a well earned rest!

“I was recently over in South Uist some weeks ago and met up with so many people for the first time, despite having not been to the islands for over 30 years previously,” he comments. “”I made so many new friends and was not surprised in any way about the real sense of community that exists within the Western Isles.”

The sense of island community is highlighted by Don and Martin’s cycling challenge – set to raise funds for The Linda Norgrove Foundation, established to continue the humanitarian work of Linda, originally for Uig, Lewis, who was tragically killed in Afghanistan in October last year.

“It’s fitting that this is a cycling event as Linda was a keen biker, having undertaken journeys both across the USA and from Lhasa to Katmandu over the Himalayas,” comments Linda’s father John.

Don and Martin aren’t reaching for the skies atop the Himalayas, but will be exploring the length and breadth of the UK in ‘The Northwest Passage’ challenge.

As Don explains: “We start from Dungeness in Kent and will be following a roughly straight line along the length of the country, arriving at Gallan Head in Lewis on Wednesday, September 14.”

The pair first had the idea for their adventure some time ago having met whilst working at the Comhairle, from which Don recently retired. And, as with Sam, they’re both filled with a certain amount of trepidation about the 800 miles trip ahead.

“I can’t remember why I thought it would be feasible to cycle the length of the UK, but I’m now having to get down to some serious training,” chuckles Martin.

Staying with family, friends, hostels and B&Bs along the way, Martin and Don are hoping to write a blog throughout their challenge to detail their progress – and would welcome the company of other cyclists en route.

“If you would like to cycle with us for a few hours, or even a day or two, you can see where we are on our blog,” says Don. “Company would especially be appreciated on the last leg which will take place, all being well, on Wednesday, September 14, starting in Scaladale in Harris and ending up in Gallan Head.”

To keep up to date with Don and Martin’s cycle, or get in touch to arrange joining the duo for a time, log onto their blog at www.donandmartincycle.blogspot.com – you can also sponsor the pair and donate to The Linda Norgrove Foundation from a link on the page.

And if you would like to support Sam and the Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland charity, log onto www.justgiving.com/sam-macphee.