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YHA Fundraising in Richie's Memory
    07/08/2015 10:21

Fundraising in Richie's Memory

Fundraising in Richie's Memory

Guest post by Huw Andrews

In July 2015, I cycled 250 miles in five days from London to west Wales, fundraising to mark the passing of an inspirational friend, Richie Clapham. We lost Richie to cancer in 2011, at just 31. Richie was a mischievous and big hearted friend to many as well as a much-loved son, husband and father. 15 years ago he emigrated to New Zealand with his family and wife-to-be Rachel. In 2005 I lived and worked with them before following the Lions rugby tour of New Zealand with another friend Paul Reaney.

After speaking to Richie’s mum in New Zealand, we decided to fundraise for causes close to his big heart – supporting disadvantaged youth in the UK and NZ. Richie battled hard to reach the birth of his son, Brodee, which he thankfully achieved. They had two special months together and his friends and family have always been in awe of his energy and dedication to them, as well as to youth, the outdoors and dogs. Hence, why we chose to support Centrepoint in the UK, who give a future to young homeless people and Skein Valley Dogs in NZ, run by Richie’s parents who will sponsor a young person. By supporting them to train and care for a champion bred puppy they aim to “Teach them the value of having something else to focus on and be responsible for, in the hope it will distract from their hardships, no matter what that may be.”

Having decided on the causes, I needed to outline the route. From south London where I’m based, to west Wales where I’m from, the most direct route would be along National Cycle Route 4, London to Fishguard. Nevertheless, the most fitting route was to cycle via Richie’s old home town, Cheltenham. Another straightforward decision made, now for the next: accommodation. As a backpacker I stayed in hostels whenever possible, finding a stronger connection to a place through interactions with staff and fellow guests. Sharing ideas, tips and resources encourages a more personal and fulfilling experience, the kind Richie loved! I’d only stayed in YHAs as a kid, yet it was the first and last option I researched. The prospect of being supported along the way, with cycle storage, local advice and towels (so I didn’t have to carry one!) was reassuring. Joining the dots with YHAs either side of Cheltenham, made a arc shape from London through the Chilterns, Cotswolds, Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons to west Wales.

 

Day 1

Route: Streatham to The Chilterns
Stay: YHA Jordans
Distance: 36.6 miles - 3 hours 25 mins (excluding stops)

Once I’d crossed over the M25, after numerous junctions and traffic lights since Streatham, I really felt the ride had begun. Unfortunately I didn’t see a Womble in Wimbledon Common on the way, but the wild deer in Richmond Park made up for it! Although all the YHA staff were supportive and helpful, a special mention must go to Nicola at YHA Jordans. After a guided tour of the hostel, she pointed out some leftover items in the kitchen (including a beer!), chatted about her Swansea roots and asked loads of questions about Richie. On day one Nicola had unknowingly helped me achieve one of my main aims, to share Richie’s story with someone new. Her sincere gestures were a welcome boost on the eve of day two, the big one!

 

Day 2

Route: The Chilterns to Cheltenham
Stay: Tom’s house
Distance: 87.5 miles - 7 hours 46 mins (excluding stops)

I packed up, checked the wall maps and read about Reg, a former YHA Jordans advocate, who clocked up 500,000 miles cycling and 4,000 YHA stays. The day started with hill climbs on main and side roads through sunny woodlands, before the traffic free Phoenix Trail and some A40 cycle paths either side of Oxford. Villages in the Cotswolds were as picturesque and sunny as in the morning. However, when a bolt popped from by rear rack I had to make do with cable ties for the last 20 miles. Richie would’ve loved seeing me muttering to myself searching for the bolt! Arriving at Tom Stephenson’s (a school friend of Richie’s) in Cheltenham, after one of the longest days of my life was exhilarating. After 10 hours door to door, his offer of a bath, beer and takeaway topped it off!

Day 3

Route: Cheltenham to Wye Valley
Stay: YHA Wye Valley
Distance: 29.7 miles - 2 hours 43 mins (excluding stops)

Tom and I spent the morning preparing for the afternoon’s cycle, Roylan Cycles kindly replaced the missing bolt and others for free (the bolts provided with the rack were too short!). Paul arrived from Leeds after lunch and we left soon after Tom repaired his spare inner tube. Pouring with rain, we decided just to get on with the ride, rather than replace the repaired tube we thought we should. What happened 12 miles later? Tom got a puncture and we were given a lesson in the obvious, glue doesn’t work in the wet and trust your instincts! The stops doubled our journey time to YHA Wye Valley and rain poured every second. Walking our bikes towards the back entrance over the footbridge, with a stunning river view, made it all worthwhile. Luckily I did trust a gut feeling earlier in the day, booking us dinner. Our beers from reception were great with the hearty pasta bolognese, massive salad and fudge cake with cream.

Day 4

Route: Wye Valley to Brecon Beacons
Stay: YHA Brecon Beacons
Distance: 51.1 miles - 5 hours 28 mins (excluding stops)

Our wet clothes and equipment, which covered our room, were dry by the morning and we set off after a large and tasty breakfast. Fortunately we found someone who had some spare lubricant, to clean off some rusty chain sections. Another day starting and ending with big climbs, with smaller ones in the middle lay ahead. A friend, Dave Turner, met us for lunch and brought us some spare inner tubes and lubricant. Our pit stop was at the Skirrid Mountain Inn, a 900 year old haunted pub, reputedly the oldest in Wales. The hills on the way to Crickhowell weren’t kind on our heavy intake, but we made it to Brecon unscathed, even though the beer gardens on the Monmouth to Brecon canal tempted us! Instead of being collected in Brecon, I persuaded my hesitant yet dedicated mates to join me on the 6 mile 575 ft climb to YHA Brecon Beacons. Fortunately I got a puncture halfway up which offered a much needed break. I missed the set evening meal, which I should have booked, but the kind staff rustled something up for me.

Day 5

Route: YHA Brecon Beacons to Capel Dewi, Llandysul
Distance: 45.6 miles - 3 hours 47 mins (excluding stops)

Solo again for the final day, it was great to have Tom and Paul’s support. Luckily for them, they missed the worst weather day! After another great breakfast, I packed up and waterproofed as much as I could. I was kindly given some plastic bags for my feet, lights and pack, plus reception let me use their computer to check the weather. I felt completely prepared and ready to attack the last 50 miles. Heading for brunch in Llandovery I made good time. Rather than stick to the main road, I turned before Pumsaint for the Llanllwni Mountains. A more challenging yet direct route with most of the last few miles downhill. Unfortunately, to get onto the mountains the steepest climb of the trip lay ahead. Having been heckled by sheep and chased by a farm dog soon before, I knew I was getting closer to home! Wow, was it worth it. The top was covered in mist, with sheep and horses roaming the scrub, a cinematic scene which I’ll never forget.

Totals

250.8 miles
23 hours and 19 mins pedalling
10.75 miles per hour

5 days
4 nights
3 of us
2 punctures
1 Richie Clapham
0 tantrums

£1205 raised for Centrepoint so far
$712 raised for Skein Valley Dogs so far

Thank you to everyone who’s donated and supported us! There's still time to donate so visit the blog for more information.

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