This month we caught up with keen Lancaster cyclist Gillian Sheath, who is currently undertaking her fourth long distance cycle ride in aid of charity. This time she has chosen to fundraise for Air Ambulances UK, “you just never know when you might need their help”.
When did you get into cycling?
I learnt to cycle when I was about 5 years old and have been a confident cyclist since then, cycling to school, and early on in my working life cycling around Hyde Park corner to my office. I did crash a Chopper bike when I was about 15, which belonged to my younger brother’s friend and knocked myself out. Apart from that I’ve been safe and happy cycling. My mantra is to cycle like every other person around me is an idiot…
What inspired you to fundraise?
In 2020 we had lock down during a really lovely spring and in order to get out and about I started cycling for 2-3 hours a day. I got the idea to ‘do’ a big ride.
In August 2020 I rang everyone I knew between Lancaster and Lands End and within a couple of hours had 14 nights accommodation. I set off in early September and arrived at Lands End 2 weeks later. I called on favours from friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Alzeimer’s Research were advertising for supporters so I decided I could get sponsorship, which I did through Virgin Money. I was given money through open car windows, whilst I was cycling up hill, and whilst pushing my bike through towns. Due to lockdown my lovely friends provided a packed lunch as you never really knew what might be open and when. I’d baked a huge flapjack which kept me going from 4pm onwards when I was truly knackered. The donations for this trip amounted to £3000.
I enjoyed my time on that trip so much that I thought I’d do another in September 2021. This was to Beachy Head in Sussex from Heysham Head near Lancaster. I chose to raise money for The Samaritans as a patient of mine had taken her own life and Beachy Head is a favoured spot for suicide intenders. My route took me basically directly south to Romsey in Hampshire and then along the coast to Eastbourne. There were some very difficult hills in Sussex. I stick with A and B roads as I do not want to get lost and if I fall off I want someone to notice. I use a paper map. Donations again reached about £3000, with over £200 given to me in cash en route.
In 2022 I chose to cycle from Lancaster Castle to Cardiff Castle via England and back through Wales. This trip was to raise funds for Macmillan cancer research. My route planning went a bit haywire when I thought I was somewhere completely different from where I actually was. This was in Shropshire and when I arrived at Clun youth hostel I was so unbelievably tired that I couldn’t speak. The warden was very kind and I recovered quickly.
What’s the plan for this year’s ride?
This year I have chosen Air Ambulance with the idea of visiting a couple of stations, but they aren’t keen on this as they always need to be absolutely ready for action, rather than chatting to a retired occupational therapist who wants to know how everything works! My route again is via friends and family so I set off from Lancaster on 2nd to Prestwich Manchester, 3rd to Hayfield, 4th to Beeston, 5th to Reepham, 6th to Lincoln Cathedral arriving at 12 noon, then onto RAF Cranwell where I have a niece, then a rest day. On 8th to Leicester, 9th to Leamington Spa, 10th to Kineton, 11th to Worcester, 12th to Stourbridge, 13th to Castle Pulverbatch near Shrewsbury,14th to Bunbury, 15th to Warrington [my home town] and 16th to Lancaster, where I now live.
Over £1800 has already been donated via just Giving, including £100 from a stranger. People are incredibly generous.
I’m very excited about this trip. I know a couple of days will be really hard work, but heh ho. It’ll be great!
The ride so far!
Gillian is currently making her way North and reached Kiveton on the 10th September. So far on her travels she has had some challenging days including an encounter with a dog in Newark which left her in A and E. Tetanus and antibiotics were administered to her, but this did not stop her! She is still well on her way and almost up to her target of £2000! On average, an air ambulance can reach someone in urgent need within 15 minutes. Air ambulance charities are collectively dispatched to over 100 lifesaving missions each day across the UK; each mission is funded almost entirely by the generosity of local communities just like Gillian’s supporters.
To follow her progress and make a donation you can find her Just Giving page here: Gillian Sheath is fundraising for Air Ambulances UK (justgiving.com)
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