A team of four Deaf female cyclists rode from London to Paris recently in support of the BDA’s Deaf Roots & Pride project. BDN salutes their efforts and hears their stories.
Caroline Fearon, Bronwynne Buxton, Wendy Scott and Abbie Willis pulled out of the car park of the Holiday Inn at Bexley in Kent at 7am on July 20th headed for the channel port of Dover.
Ahead of them was 300 miles of tough cycling culminating in a victorious ride along the Champs-Élysées in the French capital on Saturday July 23rd with a finish close to the Eiffel Tower.
The BDA’s Deaf Roots & Pride project supports young deaf people to deal with problems and changes in their lives, and to help them develop into successful young adults.
The project is specifically aimed at deaf children and young people (aged 8-20 years) who are in transition from primary to secondary education or from secondary to external environments.
It aims to give them hope and belief in their potential and encourage a more positive attitude about being deaf.
The London to Paris Bike ride coincided with the end of the BDA’s year of celebrations for its 125th anniversary.
Hundreds of Deaf people gathering in Torquay for the 125 Congress were kept up to date with the riders’ progress and donated generously in support of them.
I have always wanted to do a cycle challenge ever since I started riding with my baby boy on the back of my bike 10 years ago. I so enjoy the freedom and the cool air while cycling.
The ride from London to Paris was a huge personal achievement for us all. Being able to cycle 300 miles in 4 days required a lot of hard training but I actually enjoyed the training.
Day 1 – 73 miles – Cycle Bexley to Dover, Ferry to Calais: I was so nervous with lots of butterflies before we started. We did not really know what to expect. We were told that the journey would include lots of hills so were expecting lots of saddle sores and exhaustion! We had to cycle against the wind on small country lanes and the hills were steep. But the pressure was on to get to the ferry by a certain time. I got lost at one point but soon got back with the right crowd again. It was very hot, with lots of unexpected hills in the countryside. I didn’t think I would even make it to Dover at one point! Jade, one of the staff, was so encouraging. It was amazingly helpful especially as she knew some basic BSL signs! She was a star. We got to Dover on time and it was a huge relief to be on the comfortable seats on the ferry. Day 1 was one of the toughest of the four days.
Day 2 – 79 miles – Cycle Calais to Arras: After leaving Calais we cycled along sweeping roads cutting through large arable fields and small French villages. It was another tough morning with a gradual climb. But the countryside was so beautiful. I really enjoyed the afternoon ride with Wendy Scott along the flowing country roads through picturesque villages all the way to Arras.
Day 3 – 88 miles – Cycle Arras to Creil: I really enjoyed this day, cycling through more delightful villages although my bike had problems due to the heat. The staff kept looking at it to make sure it was safe to ride down the long descents. This day we covered the most distance, 92 miles! We had to be mentally strong through all the stages but we were all on a high that evening.
Day 4 – 55 miles – Cycle Creil to Paris: Destination Paris. I was very saddle sore by now. I got very emotional when I saw the Effiel Tower knowing that my sweet son Joshua and my lovely husband David would be there to welcome us and that we had actually done it!
During the four days of cycling I met a lot of wonderful people and now some of them are doing other challenges to raise awareness and money for the BDA. Bless their hearts. We had two staff with us who could do basic signing which was a relief to help us with information. A lady called Kerry Tute, one of the other riders, used to work for a deaf school and she cycled with us and sat with us in the evenings. She is now taking up BSL again and being with us has given her a lot of confidence back. Now I have heard she will raise money for the BDA on another bike ride.
Would I do it again? I don’t think so, not for a while! Maybe a one-day challenge and possibly a cycling holiday with friends and family with no pressure!
I would like to thank everyone who donated in support of the Deaf Roots and Pride project. The children will be most grateful. Thank you.
Thank you all for your very kind donations to the BDA (British Deaf Association) in support of our big cycling challenge from London to Paris. It was an amazing experience. A total of 312 miles and I did EVERY single mile and hill!!
The first two days were tough and not that enjoyable I must admit. The first day was through Kent – through the Medway towns on a very windy day and it was also “bin day” so we had to negotiate lots of hazardous overturned bins! At one point I was suddenly covered by a black bin liner but thankfully only for a few seconds. When we got to Faversham we turned off the A2 and went through country lanes via Chilham and downwards to Dover Castle after which we were very happy to whizz down the hill to the docks.
Wendy, one of my co-riders, put it so well when she called the last phase of Kent hills “Gremlin hills” – totally accurate as every time you turned a corner there was another hill when you least expected it! So many of them and we had a deadline to meet the ferry. But we made it! Abbie and I did get lost at one point and ended up adding seven extra miles to our total for the first day!
Our ferry crossing was thankfully very calm and we met some incredible people who were also doing the challenge. Our hotel was about two miles from the Port in Calais.
The second day from Calais to Arras (total of 81 miles) was hard going mainly because we were still tired and adjusting to the terrain which was very plain. There were wind farms for miles and miles. It was very hilly in long climbs in the morning but the afternoon was much easier and more leisurely. However, by the time Abbie and I reached the final meeting point, we were guided to the wrong hotel three and half miles away from ours so we kind of threw a wee tantrum and demanded a lift to the right hotel by van! We were exhausted and rather fed up and a bit demotivated by then. So we were not happy when our leader told us we would face the hardest day the next day. Not what we needed to hear!
The third day arrived and we were dreading it – a total of 92 miles and we had been told that after 80 miles we would face a huge hill – Mount Caesar. But wow, that day turned out to the best day – it was beautiful and at the same time fascinating. We cycled through the fields of the Somme and stopped at some graveyards of fallen soldiers. It was so moving and emotional. It was my son’s 24th birthday and it was heartbreaking to see graves of some who had fallen at 24 years old. I felt so sad for their poor mums.
The countryside became gradually more spectacular and beautiful; the poppies were gorgeous. But the villages we cycled through were so quiet. We wondered where everyone was!
Eventually we reached the 80-mile mark and saw the massive looming forested hill ahead of us which made some of us gulp in a big way. We decided to go for it and meet at the top by whatever means (even by walking up!!) But, hey ho, we managed to cycle up the zigzagged road all the way up to the top where it got lighter and lighter. It was amazing and all the training rides we did at Box Hill twice a week in the previous two months really paid off!! The adrenaline buzz was amazing and it totally revived us. When we arrived at the hotel at the bottom of the hill we were told to carry our bikes and luggage to our rooms on the 2nd floor of the hotel (No lifts!!). Not a problem. We were on a high!
The fourth day started off well as we knew it was the last one and only 55 miles to Paris. The stopping and starting at every traffic light in Paris was a pain after a few days of cycling so freely (I had actually recorded 30 mph at one point which is fast for me!!).
After going through Chantilly and then through the suburbs of Paris we finally grouped up at the Louvre and cycled together as part of a massive group, attracting so many hoots and claps along the way to the Eiffel Tower where we finally ended to much joy and pride!
A magical experience and once again thank you all for your support
I really enjoyed the London to Paris cycle ride on a personal level, meeting new people who have their own amazing stories and backgrounds. I am glad that deaf children will benefit from the money raised during this worthwhile challenge!
What a challenge the London to Paris ride was! Tougher than I expected but I enjoyed the experience totally. I found the first afternoon the toughest of all as there were so many hills to tackle as well as worrying about catching the ferry on time. Caroline and I got lost at one point adding 7 miles on our mileage although we got there in plenty of time! My favourite was Day 3 although we were told it would be the toughest of all so I prepared myself to concentrate on each leg at a time which I did. But I totally enjoyed the day and we did 92 miles! I had goose bumps on our last day when I saw the Eiffel Tower knowing we had done the challenge!
FUNDRASING TOTAL: £6,086
If you wish to donate: www.bda.org.uk/donate/2016-london-to-paris-bike-ride/5
Read more and watch videos about the 2016 London to Paris Charity Bike Ride here.