Sunday, 22 September 2019

Six student friends cycle to Paris for mental health charity

Six student friends cycle to Paris for mental health charity

SIX friends cycled 260 miles from Caversham to Paris in three days for charity.

The students rode through the French countryside in temperatures exceeding 30C and relied on the generosity of villagers to replenish their water supplies.

They raised £2,200 for mental health charity Mind.

The group comprised 19-year-olds Joe Newman and Sam Shahabi and 20-year-olds Josh Ward and Daniel Sporle, all from Caversham, Jonah Bird, 20, from Emmer Green, and Charlie Wilkinson, 20, from Burghfield Common.

On the first day they set off from Sandy Park in Gosbrook Road, Caversham, and rode 80 miles to Brighton, where they stayed overnight at a friend’s house.

The following day they got up at 6.30am and set off for Newhaven where they caught a ferry to Dieppe before cycling south to Gournay-en-Bray in Normandy where they stayed overnight at an Airbnb.

On the final day they rode through undulating terrain and reached Paris in the afternoon.

Mr Newman, a student at the University of Cardiff, said: “I couldn’t believe we were actually doing it — we were all on the way to Paris on our bikes. It was a bit surreal.

“The others were excited and couldn’t really believe we were doing it either.

“I personally misjudged how late it would be when we got to France as it is one hour ahead.

“We got to Dieppe, which is a really nice, small town by the sea, and luckily the path we took went straight to where we were staying that night.

“It was really nice to have a change of scenery compared to England.

“There was a massive language barrier but we basically just rented the upstairs part of our host’s house. There were three beds between the six of us. She made us tea and coffee and her hospitality was really good.”

The group cycled through fields and villages on their way to Paris on the final day.

“It was really nice,” said Mr Newman. “I used to go to France loads when I was younger but I hadn’t been for years.

“There were some really big fields and it was very green and orange.

“It was very bright and the sky was really blue — it looked really picturesque. The sun was shining and I was surprised by how well we coped with it.

“The temperature was getting into the 30s and some of the boys really struggled. We had all the car fumes blowing into us and it was muggy.

“We had filled up with water along the way but at one point it was so hot and all our water had gone warm. Nowhere was open and everywhere was really quiet, so we had to stop and refill in a little town. That rejuvenated everyone.

“There were more cars when we got into Paris and we had to be way more alert. I had to navigate us as well and was looking at my phone every now and then and had to make sure I wasn’t hit by a car or anything. It was quite stressful.

“When we got towards Paris, you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. That was probably the highlight. We crossed over this bridge and could see the top of it and thought, ‘Wow, we’ve actually made it’.

“When we got there we sat underneath it, had a couple of beers and played music. It was a very well- deserved drink.

“We were all in awe of our surroundings. It was incredible to think we had cycled all that way and raised so much money to help people in need.

“Mental health is getting more attention and we wanted to raise awareness and help the cause. Nowadays people are treating it more seriously and rightly so because it’s a very serious matter.”

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