12 August 2010

Message from Lord Sebastion Coe

Best wishes to the Back Ben Parkinson cyclist team. Inverness to Portsmouth. Heroic and inspirational. Many congratulations boys

Day 13

A relaxed get-away form Aldershot was watched by Corps RSM M Callender, we will just leave it that we didn't exactly pick up any military precision or haste along the way. With an unexpected police escort joining the team, the two policemen on motor bikes put on their brilliant flashing red and blue lights to stop traffic on roundabouts, allowing the team to cruise towards Gosport. Our last lunch, with the ever superb spread of sandwiches and lesser eaten salad, was provided by the most highly underrated group on the entire trip, headed by :

Joanne Roberts (the campaign's primary contact with Ben Parkinson, fund raiser, media communicator, expert dietitian {a major success story in-itself}, procurement officer, chef de tour, navigator & lead car safety enforcer). A very busy and extremely capable lady.

Joanne was incredibly supported en route by Sarah Larwood, Wendy Dean, Jackie Preston, Charlotte Cordy-Redden and Marja Wise, without whom the trip would not have been possible, nor such an enjoyable experience. The team would like to thank Joanne and the Ladies for their unrelenting efforts, for their incredible enthusiasm throughout, for traveling the length of the country executing various roles from excellent map reading, through to driving the lead and rear safety vehicles and for creating an essential support base that ran like clockwork and went largely un-acknowledged. We could definitely not have done this without you.There could not be a better, all round, all-encompassing group. Also Morgan Roberts, who along with Joanne, spent hours on sponsorship placement and he laboured for many days plotting an incredibly safe and scenic cycle route from Northern Scotland to the English south coast, stretching over 870 miles. His attention to detail, was a key to our success.

With ITN waiting to film the finish, the speed was cranked up to greater levels than when following the Harleys in Doncaster. After just under nine hundred miles we motored into Portsmouth at about 25 miles per hour, as a team and over the finish line in Gosport to a champagne finish as friends and families shouted out, waved banners, desperate for a glimpse. The camaraderie that had grown since day one shone through with the team reveling in the moment. Deservedly, Ross "machine" Preston took the final stage,( just as he had pulled the team up the mountainous Cairngorms, Grampians, Cheviots and the Pennines) and had cycled at the front of the peloton all day every day.

Special thanks to the ever smiling Harry Adolphus who took up the idea of a long term association with individual, seriously injured soldiers and set this whole campaign in motion. He spent many many hours working on kit and sponsors and other such matters. He devoted enormous time and energy into igniting the whole process, sacrificing significant opportunities within his academic, school, social and home life. He cycled professionally and  he shared his "media" duties generously with his fellow riders. Morgan, Harry and the team have created a special bond with Ben. Which is simply, after all, the whole point of our campaign. As Harry said to the News At Ten,"we are not trying to build hospitals, just lifelong relationships and mutually supportive friendships with people who have given much more".

Big thanks to James Cordy-Redden who, when asked by Harry, unhesitatingly was the first to agree to join this campaign, (never gave up and drove his body up ever higher peaks, top man James) Josh Wise (stylish and steely, very impressive young man, belies his model looks), Will Dean (quietly determined, never-ever faltered) Ross Preston (yellow jersey on every stage), Will Larwood (flew up mountains) George Farquharson (joined only days after a major shoulder operation, no complaints and weaved an extra 60 miles). Additionally, huge respect from the team to Morgan Roberts who fractured his elbow in an accident when charged at by a car after only 170 miles into the ride, but continued to cycle the balance of 700 miles ('arder that ard). All 8 cyclists added their own special ingredient to the team and discovered that not only could they manage extreme sport but that also there is more in them yet. Every cyclist rode every single yard of the way.

[Thanks also to Freddy Clarke for his two epic stages. On the final stage, Charlie Cowdrey, Ted Croker (the boy cycled with style) Giles Pamplin (heavy bike well ridden) Ben Dean, Sam Mitchell and Tom Fitzgerald (great effort from all three of you)]

After having our bikes as an extension of our bodies for thirteen days, I feel that secretly the gorgeously rhythmic cadence of pedaling, the roar of the wind in our ears and the beauty of cycling the length of Scotland and England will be sorely missed.

It was an epic two weeks and it was an honour to cycle for you Ben Parkinson.

Day 12

Day twelve saw the team cycle to Aldershot. An early wake up call enabled the team breakfast in the police section of Buckingham Palace and a look at the many decoy cars that allow the royal family to escape the press. Heading out of London we were greeted by the down to earth Lee Dixon, who quickly took to the front of the peloton and ramped up the pace as we cycled out of London. The team would like to thank Lee for his exceptional support towards the cause. Once we parted ways, it was onto The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Surrey. Cycling on the parade ground has been banned for hundreds of years, but with Ben Parkinson everything is possible, and so it was we cycled under the steps where the Adjutant rides his horse up the steps of Old College as he follows the graduating Officer Cadets through the Grand Entrance. A huge thanks to Major David James-Roll of the Anglian Regiment who was outstanding in his welcome and who provided us with a fantastic insight into Sandhurst and its roll in the British Army. Thanks also to Colonel Checketts for his part in the arrangements.

Having left Sandhurst, the team had found a groove and we cycled at some speed towards Aldershot. We were greeted at the main gate of Gibralter Barracks by Corps RSM M Callender. We were royally fed and whilst "The Hurt Locker" was dismissed as utter fantasy M Callender was quick to get down to how we can help our wounded soldiers. The whole aim of our campaign has been a simple one. To ensure that we as a nation and as individual communities get behind our wounded soldiers by finding ways to provide continued lifelong support for these extraordinary people.

Day 11

Day eleven saw the team cycle to St John's Wood, London. The morning did not disappoint, eating in the Senior Ranks mess in Colchester, being waited on hand and foot, a full English breakfast with all the trimmings was had by all. With the regiment deploying to Afghanistan in the coming weeks we were awarded the same t-shirts that they will be wearing and we all wish the regiment an outstanding and safe tour. We were sad to leave them and we will stay in touch with our new friends who said they would invite us to their 50th anniversary. We would be very proud to attend such a function.

Cycling into London was without a doubt the most hair raising part of the trip. With the team "assessing" the changing lights, being forced into bus lanes and then squeezed out like a bar of soap by Double Decker's, we became aware that bicycles effectively have no place in London. Along with one violent confrontation involving stones being thrown at us from a white van, the government's integrated transport policy does not yet seem to work. However, as an extreme sport, it was brilliant fun.

We quickly found our way to Buckingham Palace where Ben had already managed to get to the other side of the gates for a cheeky photo. With the front gates being cleared by the police, two foot guards joined us wearing bearskins to complete the perfect photo. Big thanks to Inspector Farquharson for his amazing arrangements concerning Buckingham Palace.

We were glad to put our bikes safely in what appeared to be the most tightly controlled storage building in London, with doors that would only open once others were closed and more cameras than the Pentagon, it was on to The King's Troop RHA, her Majesty The Queen's ceremonial Saluting Battery. Known as 'The Troop' they are a mounted unit trained to drive a team of six horses that pull First World War 'thirteen pounder' state saluting guns. Each gun is pulled by six horses, the pair at the front act as the accelerator and the pair at the back, the brakes.

We were greeted by RSM Marnie who gave the team a tour around what is an oasis in London few civilians will ever see. Set on just a few acres one would never know that inside the modest exterior lies without a doubt the most impressive stables in the world. Inspected four times a day to ensure that standards are maintained, the horses live in absolute luxury. The barracks are located in the heart of London but are a total contrast to the city's hustle and bustle. A massive thanks to Major Cross, commanding officer of Kings Troop RHA, who organised our visit and RSM Marnie who spent considerable time with us ensuring we were well looked after.Thanks also to Major Peter Griffiths for his wonderful efforts on our behalf.

The night was concluded with a trip to a classy fish and chip restaurant and a opportunistic photo with Minty from Eastenders!

Day 10

Day ten saw the team cycle to Merville Barracks, Colchester. En route, with torrential rain and an electric storm slowing the pace, and making cycling dangerous we took cover in Colchester golf club. Showing tremendous, on the spot kindness, we were immediately led into the members area, wearing only our soaking wet lycra, breaking every rule in the dress code. The members were very generous and we ended up being feted and very well looked after. Thank you.

With the rain storm unrelenting, we were soon back on the bikes to ensure that we arrived on time (exactly 15.00) to be greeted by the national press and radio. With some outstanding renditions of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and passing cars turning up their stereos and winding down their windows, the team cycled into the barracks on a high and were met by two hundred of Bens Comrades from 7th Parachute Royal Horse Artillery and the flashing of cameras, lighting up the overcast day. After greeting Ben, a very fast photo shoot and interviews for ITV Anglia, local radio and print journalists so that no one caught pneumonia; we met Sergeant Rudy Fuller. When Ben was lying in the minefield having been blown up, it was Rudy who was first to sprint through the minefield with no regard for his own life in order to save Ben's. An incredible character, Rudy showed us into the best accommodation of the trip, large rooms decked out in Ikea furniture, with en-suites, which after living rough for 9 days was an absolute luxury.

The night really kicked off once we arrived for the BBQ hosted by Bens regiment. Set in what looked like a converted hanger, with the "light guns" having pride of place, the team met Bens comrades. Meeting Bens regiment gave the team a far better understanding of what Ben had undertaken in the army and of the 7th Parachute Royal Horse Artillery. Simply, the 7th Parachute Royal Horse Artillery are trained to parachute into battle with their guns, providing the "punch" with artillery support. We found out nearly everyone and everything in the army has been nicknamed, Bens regiment is no exception, they are known as the "nine mile snipers" due to their incredible accuracy.

We were told the extremes of "P Company" (test to be accepted into the regiment) from the milling (an all out brawl) which might be outlawed due to possible human rights issues, to the log race; all of which enables a soldier the honour of wearing the maroon beret. Bens friends also gave a great insight into Ben, telling us what an outstanding soldier he is and story's of his exploits on tour. The night really gave clarity to the camaraderie within the regiment.

03 August 2010

Day 9

A chilly start to the day accompanied with a standard scrambled egg breakfast! The day begun at a steady pace as we made our descent into Cambridge , lunch was lovely as one of the gorgeous mum discovered an enchanted school tucked away in a majestic housing estate, several nutella sanwhiches later We set off on the final stretch into Cambridge, despite glimpses of grey clouds we avoided the rain! We arrived at Waterbeach Barracks where Ross Preston took the stage, with George and Harry taking the other two podium posistions. We ventured into the city of Cambridge, where once again we mugged innocent pedestrains of their loose change, we returned to the barracks to be greeted by mouth watering steaks courtsey of Lord Watson, which were magnificently cooked by the parents, we have also gained a new comrad who will cycle with us into the magical town of Colchester!   

02 August 2010

Day 8

After the great day yesterday, we were greeted by Ben at 8 o' clock this morning who reminded us that yesterday "was the greatest day of my life". With his new kit on show he was ready to head to his physio appointment whilst we hit the road. The first day of good weather was followed by large tan lines and dehydrated bodies. An 81 mile stretch from Doncaster to Greetham proved hard work even whilst being clapped along by people who recognized us from the news the night before. It was nice to be given free lunch and drinks from the people of Newark on Trent who wanted to do their bit to help us with what they said was a "great cause".

All looking forward to Cambridge tomorrow, for a press shoot and a fundraising session.

Photos in Doncaster

Day 7

Day seven saw the team travel to Doncaster, home of Ben Parkinson
(Yorkshire man of the year!). ITN news, British road cycling champion
Chris Parkinson along with his cycling club & the local Harley-
Davidson chapter joined us for our ride to the Mansion House.

A great and extremely fast run into Doncaster kicked off the day,
with Chris Parkinson leading the enormous peleton. After a delicious
roast from the Green Tree resturant the team met up with the Harley-
Davidson chapter and ITN news to get some footage that was later used
on ITN news at ten. With a great spread put on by the mayor, the day
was on that will live long in the memory.

A massive thanks to everyone involved today, as Ben said, it certainly
was a "good day". Finally, "it's not about the money it's about
creating relationships".

Day 6

Day six saw the team cycle into York on what turned into a gorgeous
day with the sun making a much needed appearance! A great visit from
Ben kept the "airbourne spirits" high. With an early finish, the
buckets came out and we hit the streets to fundraise, meeting everyone
from ladies on their hen night to the local street urchins.

Tomorrow is a big day as the team heads into Doncaster for a reception
with the mayor.

Photos of the cycle ride in Scotland