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My accident occurred whilst cycling, one of my favourite sporting pursuits.  There is a yearly London to Brighton cycle ride.  The distance is 50 Miles, I completed that ride several times before my accident raising money for charity. I thought it would be a great challenge to attempt the same route in my powered wheelchair.
  

I wanted publicity for the event to raise awareness of spinal cord injury.  I also wanted to raise some money for the Spinal Injuries Association, a UK charity that provide practical advice and support needed to get on with your life after a spinal cord injury.  They were a  great source of support and information for me when I left hospital after my accident.
The attempt wouldn't have been possible without the very generous provision of equipment and personnel from my two main sponsors:

Ashdale Healthcare Supplied an Invacare 'Storm' powered wheelchair for my use (worth 6000).  They also provided a fully equipped repair van and two wheelchair technicians to change batteries and keep the chair roadworthy.



Renault Croydon
very kindly gave me the use of a Renault Espace as a support vehicle, this was used to carry my support team, clothing and food and drink required for the journey.  It also also allowed us all travel home afterwards in one vehicle.

 


The Journey Begins


 
My good friend Deane and his partner, Marja cycled the route with alongside me. Deane is an incomplete paraplegic (T 7,8 & 9) after a nasty motorcycling accident in 1992.  My girlfriend Sally and my good friends Mick and Jane came along to to help me, Mick drove the Renault Espace and the girls helped me and also collected money on route.


Click here to see pictures from the day 

 

I had been watching the weather forecast all week, the weathermen had forecasted a cool day with heavy thundery showers.  Unfortunately for us this time they got it just right!

The route we used was similar to the one used by the London to Brighton Cycle Ride.   The cycle ride was taking place the next day and the route was already sign posted which was helpful.

We left my home town of Croydon at 7.45am on Saturday the 16th of June 2001, the skies looked very threatening, after about 20 minutes on the road it started to rain very heavily.  We had only reached Purley, I stopped quickly and was helped into my wet weather clothing, it was clear that this rain was going to penetrate the clothing I had so my support team improvised,  I was soon wearing a large plastic bag with a hole cut into the top for my head, the bag covered me and the chair.  I wore a plastic carrier bag on each foot to keep the rain out.  I must have looked really comical but at least it was keeping me dry.  Deane and Marja were both soaked to the skin.  

The Storm wheelchair has a top speed of 6mph and by my calculation the journey was going to take at least 10 hours.  At this point I was starting to think I might have been too ambitious with the distance I had chosen.  We had only traveled 2 miles and I was already tired, cold and wet.  

The rain continued for the next few miles, we were now on the A23 road which goes directly to Brighton, plenty of cars were tooting there horns and giving support.  The A23 is a busy road and mostly dual carriageway.  It would have been dangerous to try and use this road for the whole route  After about an hour and 6 miles into the journey we left the A23 and joined the country roads towards Nutfield and Smallfield.  The rain had got a bit lighter and I was enjoying the freedom the wheelchair gave me.  It was nice to see the fields and countryside in the company of good friends again.  It reminded me of my cycling before my accident in '94.  We had our first scheduled stop just before Nutfield.  Luckily a refreshment tent for the bike ride had already been put up in a field next to the road.  We were soon all in there drinking, eating and discussing the rest of the journey.

After 20 minutes or so we were back on the move, the country lanes wind around some lovely countryside and the hills aren't too steep either.  The rain even stopped and the sun tried to come out.  The Ashdale Healthcare van followed close behind me so that I wasn't in too much danger from other traffic.  Deane and Marja had got very wet and cold so they pressed on ahead towards Turners Hill.  About 2 miles before Turners Hill the battery power on my chair started to fade so we stopped to change them over.  As I left with a freshly charged chair the heavens opened once again and the rain came down torrentially.  I wheeled up to the Crown Pub at the top of Turner's Hill, where we met up again with Deane and Marja.  We stopped for a quick lunch and a very welcome cup of coffee.  It was nice to be inside and out of the rain.  We estimated that we were about halfway into our journey.

Fortunately the rain was lighter after lunch and it was quite mild as well.  We continued through the Sussex countryside, passing through the towns of Haywards Heath, and Burgess Hill.  I was looking forward to seeing the South Downs rising up in front of me, I knew then that Brighton would only be few miles away.  As we reached Keymer I saw the downs.  I Also saw the blackest clouds yet!

I transferred into another Storm wheelchair, with a fresh set of batteries.  We were sure this would easily see me through the remaining 10 miles to Brighton.  Anyone who has cycled the London to Brighton ride will know of the infamous 'Ditchling Beacon' after passing through the village of Ditchling, the country road winds itself uphill for over a mile until you reach Ditchling Beacon at the top of the South Downs.  The road is very steep sometimes a 1 in 4 uphill gradient.  Not many cyclists can make it to the top without stopping, before my accident I was one of cyclists that had beaten the 'Beacon'  It was at this point on my journey as I climbed the hill in my wheelchair that my cycling memories came flooding back to me.  The rain came down torrentially again as I climbed the hill, somehow I didn't seem to care, I was just reliving the days before my accident when I could cycle.  Although the wheelchair was quite different I still felt the same sense of achievement when I reached the top.  As we headed down the other side of the Downs towards Brighton I saw the sea for the first time and felt quite emotional.  I knew then that I was going to complete the challenge I had set myself in one day.

We traveled through the outskirts of Brighton and we had  finally finished our journey at Brighton Pier at 5.15pm the same day.  A lot of my family met us there which was very nice of them.

 

Total Journey time 9 and a half hours 


I felt an enormous sense of personal achievement in what I had done but the whole thing wouldn't have been possible without the help and support of my family and friends.  A huge thank you to Sally, Mick and Jane for the help and support en route.  Also a big thank you to Deane and Marja for cycling that distance with me, a great feat on its own, especially for Deane as an incomplete paraplegic.  Well done!

Also, Steve Lewis and Kevin from Ashdale Healthcare for their time and efforts on the day and of course the loan of such an excellent powerchair (put my one supplied by the NHS to shame!, it's a pity I had to give it back).  

Many thanks to Paul Marsh from Renault Croydon for the loan of the support vehicle.

 

Click here to see pictures from the day 
 

Sponsorship

This event has raised over 2500 for the Spinal Injuries Association

 

 Email me for my postal address if you wish to make a donation to the Spinal Injuries Association

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