25 April 2019
While the rest of the country were taking it easy in the Easter weekend sunshine, a Sussex headteacher cycled 600km from the Lake District to his school in Eastbourne to raise money for a mental health charity.
Roedean Moira House headmaster Andrew Wood took to the highways and byways of England on Easter Sunday morning to raise cash for the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Trust (BHCT), tackling the hilliest part of the journey first as he set off from the Lake Windermere and nosed towards Merseyside. He cycled from 8am to 5.30pm for three days, travelling down through Staffordshire, Shropshire, the Midlands, Worcestershire, the Cotswolds, Berkshire and Hampshire before arriving back at school to a rapturous reception from his pupils on Tuesday evening.
So far supporters have pledged around £2200 in sponsorship but Andrew is hoping that the figure will climb still further. BHCT volunteers patrol Beachy Head on foot and by car and respond to emergency calls, to locate people at risk of suicide. They are trained in crisis intervention and offer supportive listening, to start a dialogue and to encourage more hopeful solutions.
Andrew, a keen cyclist, said: “I chose this charity because I often ride on Beachy Head and see the Chaplaincy Trust volunteers, who are out in all weathers looking out for people who may be suffering mental health issues. As a teacher, I am very keen to keep the conversation about mental health going at school.”
He added: “I have never cycled this far before – the most I have done is around 100km – so I was actually pretty nervous on Saturday night before the ride started on Sunday so I didn’t sleep well. But when I got going on Sunday, through what was just beautiful scenery, lambs gambolling past me as I crossed over pretty stone bridges past miles and miles of fields, I have never felt better. I stopped for 20-minute rests three times each day but as the days went on I seemed to get more energised. I guess it must have been the adrenalin!”
As people he encountered along the way heard about his journey, they made donations to the charity. He added: “The chef at the hotel I was at one night heard what I was doing and handed me a tenner! And a B&B owner I met did the same. People were really encouraging all the way along!”
He added: “The idea to do this ride came to me when I was looking through the school archives and learning about how the girls at the school were evacuated up to the Ferry Hotel in Lake Windermere for the entirety of WWII. The current pupils learn about this period in history, of course, and the archives are a valuable resource for them. I thought it would be great to retrace that journey.”
BHCT chief executive Gail Whitington said: “It must have been a gruelling journey for Andrew cycling such incredible distances and we are delighted that he chose to support us and our work. We would like to thank Roedean Moira House parents and pupils for their pledges. What an amazing achievement.”
To donate, please go to Virgin Money Giving homepage and search Andrew Wood.