Back in June, intrepid cyclists Daisy Hutchison and Theo Solley set off on a mammoth bike-riding mission from Lands End to John O’Groats, to raise money for The Laura Case Trust.
Impressed by the ever-growing total on their Justgiving page and interested to hear more, we asked Daisy a few questions about their ambitious challenge, which they completed last month.
Congratulations! Have you got the feeling back in your legs yet?
Thanks! Happily we never lost the feeling in our legs – it got close around day 5 when I nearly fell asleep whilst pedalling, but that was more about total exhaustion. We did however regularly loose the feeling in our bums and fingers…
What was the hardest part?
The times when we had to carry on even though we were very tired, very sore and very bored! They were really tough. And because we were camping the whole way we had pretty heavy bikes which made hills hard work.
Top 5 hard bits, in ascending order of difficulty:
1) Much Wenlock – a pretty town but we would have been drier if we’d put our tent up in the deep end of the local swimming pool.
2) Cycling into headwinds – so tiring and depressing because you put in so much effort to go very, very slowly!
3) Devon – pretty in a car, punishing on a bicycle. 100 miles of tiny winding roads with relentless, ruthless gradients, and because the roads are sunk below the level of the fields, you rarely get a view over the hedgerows. Gruelling.
4) Navigating the horrific roads out of Bristol that take you under the M4 and over the M5.
5) A595 into Carlisle – the scariest road to cycle in Britain. A narrow single carriageway that ploughs up and down hills and is rammed with lorries thundering up and down. Scary!
And the best bits?
1) A tiny pub called the Crask Inn on a beautiful remote road just north of Lairg in northern Scotland. It had a lovely one-eyed dog and the best ham and cheese toasties.
2) Cycling into the Wye Valley in Wales – an incredibly beautiful, dramatic surprise.
3) We treated ourselves to an evening floating in the spa in Bath. At the end of our 4th day this was perfectly timed since our legs and shoulders were starting to get very cranky.
4) Hunting for local fishmongers and butchers so we could cook up a feast on our excellent Primus stove.
5) We loved meeting people along the way. At the end of our trip we were so struck by how kind, generous and funny Brits are – we give ourselves an awful press and we shouldn’t! British people are ace.
What made you decide to do it in the first place?
Last summer we had a fantastic time cycling in the Outer Hebrides. On our journey home we met 3 girls at Inverness station who had just finished Land’s End to John O’Groats. I felt a sudden flash of jealousy, and the seed was sown.
We love exploring Britain, and cycling is excellent fun, so pairing the two together was pretty logical. What perhaps made a little less sense was deciding to do it 2 months before we get married. The week before we left for the trip, I found myself having extraordinary conversations alternating between finding the perfect Big White Dress and Puncture Resistant Touring Tyre.
Can you tell us more about The Laura Case Trust?
It funds medical and educational projects in the UK and in Africa and was set up in memory of Laura, the younger sister of our very good friend Melissa. Laura was in her final year training to be a doctor when she died in a bus accident whilst working in a hospital in Uganda. Melissa was our cupid and introduced us – she is a wonderful friend so it’s important for us to show her and her family support by fundraising for the trust.
Even though it’s quite new, the trust has already helped support some excellent projects. It funds things that Laura would have believed important and also where a relatively small amount of money goes a long way on the ground.
One thing that Laura was very struck by when she was working as a doctor in Uganda was the dire lack of equipment. When asked by one of the nurses in the hospital she was working in whether there were differences between hospitals in the UK and Uganda, she said "Well, in the UK, there is usually only one person per bed, rather than the four here".
Earlier this year the trust gave a grant of £1500 to an inspirational young charity called READ International, which collects good quality second-hand school books in the UK and sends them to schools in Tanzania. Future plans for the trust include setting up a scholarship or bursary in Laura’s name, to help fund medical school for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
Are you surprised by how much you’ve raised?
We are amazed! Our friends and families have been so generous, and on wet, difficult, tired days the feeling of their support was so important.
We’ve also been astounded by how much total strangers have given us along the way. At the end of a long day’s cycling we were sitting in a pub in Scotland writing our journal and nursing much deserved pints. We fell into conversation with the locals about our trip and ended up giving one man, a certain Stuart McConnachie, our Justgiving url. When we checked online the following day to see how our Justgiving page was doing, we were astounded to see that he’d donated £200. Just amazing, a real highlight of the trip.
Any good tips for other Justgiving fundraisers?
We met lots of people along the way who wanted to sponsor us, which was wonderful. We had an idea that it would be really good to make little business cards with our Justgiving url on it. Weight and space was a real premium for us, and little cards would be light and you could just keep them in your pocket. We didn’t keep a blog (no time, and we certainly weren’t going to carry a laptop!) so we updated our Justgiving page every now and then.
For us, the most important thing was teamwork. When Theo and I worked together as a team and acknowledged our strengths and weaknesses we found it so much easier than the times when we battled on as individuals. For example, I was good at getting us up hills, but hopeless at putting up the tent, and Theo is a brilliant map reader but found the rain a bit miserable. Plenty of brilliant analogies and lessons learnt for our forthcoming marriage!