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Barrow Pedal Power Helps Families in Africa

Battling headwinds, climbing steep gradients and being “too tired to even speak” were all part of a gruelling three-day, 320mile charity ride for a team of cyclists who rode from Barrow upon Soar, via Barrow on Humber, to Barrow in Furness to raise funds to buy life-saving mosquito nets for a town in Uganda.

The ride was part of Barrow Baptist Church’s Big Bike Challenge, an event comprising three separate cycling events - the Barrow to Barrow ride, the Soar Circular 150-miler and a family fun ride in Watermead Country Park.

The aim was to raise £2,250 to buy 500 mosquito nets for the people of Bugiri in Eastern Uganda, in partnership with Compassion UK. But the teams far exceeded that, raising an impressive £9,000, which will buy 2000 nets. Uganda has a high incidence of malaria with more than 70,000 children dying every year from the disease. Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria typically bite between 10 pm and 2am, so nets are an effective way of preventing this.

Big Bike Challenge cyclists spent days in the saddle to achieve and exceed their goal, clocking up a cumulative total of 3,488 miles, the equivalent of cycling from Barrow to New York! The Barrow to Barrow team also logged 6,227 metres of climbing over three days.

Reverend Graham Dunn, minister at the church and a cyclist in the 320-mile team was delighted at the effort.

“All who took part were determined to complete the challenge,” he said. “Teamwork, a desire to respect our sponsors and the good cause that we were supporting kept us going. People have given so much money to buy mosquito nets, lives will be saved and we are humbled that we have played a part in it.”

Graham was no doubt inspired by his famous niece, Lizzie Deignan, formerly Armitstead, a former World Champion road rider, reigning Commonwealth Road Race champion and winner of this year’s Tour de Yorkshire.

The cyclists had to conquer some arduous passes. Buttertubs in the Yorkshire Dales and Wynrose Pass in the Lake District are daunting even for elite riders. In addition, two of them went on to tackle Hardknott Pass.

Support teams were an integral part of the rides, with Lizzie Moore driving the support vehicle from Barrow upon Soar to Barrow in Furness, complete with sports massage table (she is a trainee sports massage therapist) and cooking hearty meals for hungry riders in the evenings.

The Soar Circular ride was three days of rides – to the source of the Soar River at Claybrooke Magna between Hinckley and Lutterworth; to Belvoir Castle (a route with a steep incline and strong headwinds); and to the mouth of the Soar, where it meets the river Trent. Cyclists returned to Barrow each evening.

“We cycled 50 miles each day and it took a lot of mental determination to keep going and to get back on the bike each day,” said Lucy Elms, organiser of the Soar Circular route, which had 11 riders, aged 14 to 65. “Day two was tough because of the steep climbs and you can’t do much training for hills when you live in Leicestershire!”

The River Ride was a mix of those who cycled from the church to Watermead Country Park, picking up more at Cossington, and others who arrived with bikes for all ages and enjoyed a family day out, the youngest rider being just 4. Donations were mostly made online through Just Giving, but cash donations were also accepted, including from a group of ladies in a pub who opened their purses for cyclists who had stopped for a cool drink.

“People have been so generous and it will make a difference to the lives of many families in Bugiri” said Lucy.

Would they do it again? One already has... Richard Elms cycled 322 miles to Barrow in Furness and enjoyed the ride so much he cycled back to his home in Barrow!

“It was a nice, albeit sometimes slow, way to see England's green and pleasant land,” he said.

Lindsay Ord