Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Rotary Club of Henley Bridge

GEOFF THOMAS, from Shiplake, was given the most prestigious award for Rotarians, a Paul Harris Fellowship,

GEOFF THOMAS, from Shiplake, was given the most prestigious award for Rotarians, a Paul Harris Fellowship, at a ceremony at Badgemore Park Golf Club. The award was made in recognition of his seven years of voluntary work for the Henley half marathon and the Sue Ryder fireworks.

Every year Mr Thomas has been responsible for checking all aspects of the half marathon course in advance and liaising with the many volunteer groups during the build-up, the event and the clearing up.

For the fireworks, he has regularly organised the popular bar tent, being responsible for purchasing the stock in advance and managing the sales and volunteers on the night.

Local farmer Simon Stracey and his wife Lindy also received Paul Harris  Fellowships.

The couple have been “friends” of the club since 2007 and have regularly and willingly offered their help for club events. They have hosted two club events at their White Pond Farm in Stonor and regularly loaned large vehicles to assist with the Sue Ryder fireworks and the half marathon.

They have donated their beef for club fund-raising events and this year were instrumental in setting up the fund-raising dinner that featured their neighbour, Jeremy Paxman, and raised £17,000 for hospitals in Kamuli, Uganda.

This work in Africa is an ongoing project for the club.

Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, served as president of Chicago Rotary Club in 1907.

A Paul Harris Fellow receives a special certificate and a gold pin.

At last week’s meeting, Matthew Blake, a teacher from Banbury, gave an entertaining and inspirational talk to Rotarians and their guests about his circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle.

He started his trek in April 2008 as a gap year experience after university. He eventually covered 46,180 miles as he crossed Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa before arriving back in England four years later.

He raised £18,000 in sponsorship for SOS Children’s Villages, a charity for orphans.

Mr Blake carried all his daily requirements in four pannier bags: clothes, tent, sleeping bag, bike equipment, food, water, cooking pots and cutlery.

He survived on £5 per day, the funds for which he had either saved or earned by taking jobs during his travels.

His staple diet of rice, bread, fruit and vegetables was supplemented by whatever protein he could find, such as eggs, chicken and fish, but he was also offered crocodile, iguana, llama and field mice.

He reckoned he needed 7,000 calories a day for the pedalling energy but nevertheless lost three stone during the adventure.

Mr Blake’s trip took him through deserts, snow and ice fields, a quake and a volcano in Guatemala and a landslide in Bolivia that meant crossing a river by zip wire.

In Africa he had to ride through a game park and was told he would be safe since lions only hunted at night.

In South Sudan rains had washed away the roads so that travel was only by boat.

Mr Blake never cycled at night, always finding a local farm before dusk and was invariably offered a site to pitch his tent.

With this practice, he found there was never any problem of danger to his life or his belongings, even in notoriously violent Central America.

Before setting off from England Mr Blake knew how to repair a puncture but everything else about bikes he learned by trial and error or by watching cycle mechanics at work.

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