Planning & Preparation

The Education Village opened its doors in April 2006 and combines two mainstream schools and a special school – Beaumont Hill. The Village is dedicated to a policy of inclusion and the autism unit is at the hub both physically and ideologically. I've been lucky enough to spend some time amongst the children and staff at the unit and they are wonderful. The children are part of a family away from home and are surrounded with love and learning, their lives changed immeasurably by people who care.
Unfortunately there is little provision for outdoor play and learning so the money we raise will go to build a sensory garden for the unit. Of course there will be lots of plants to look at, touch and smell and hopefully this will encourage wildlife into the area; but also specialised playground equipment to deal with specific individual sensory needs of children throughout the school. It will be an exciting, but safe and accessible environment.

How do these things begin? Well, for me I can see that it was a combination of chance circumstance (a visit to the opening of a sensory garden at Middlesbrough hospital) and then Asperger's takes over and another obsession begins: Aware that a similar garden was wanted at the Education village, within hours I'd decided not only to raise the money but also on the method, the destination and even plotted a vague idea of the route with the help of Google Earth.
Next, a visit to Martin at Kudu Bikes in Hawes. Martin has an impressive record of long distance rides and I needed someone with relevant experience to tell me it is achievable - even for someone as unfit as me. Not only did I get encouragement but Martin offered sponsorship in the form of bike maintainance and any kit necessary for the trip; I was bowled over, this kind of sponsorship had never occured to me and that it should be so freely offered made it all the more welcome.

2 December 2007. David and Alex in the pub after our first Sunday morning ride (Alex had intended to take part in this ride but sadly, due to training problems, has had to drop out). We managed thirty miles on a cold, wet, generally foul morning so after a long hot bath we are feeling pretty pleased with ourselves if a little sore. Planning turns out to be more tricky than we thought if we are to get the most out of the journey - the shortest route not necessarily being the most interesting. We decided to cycle over the Humber bridge on the grounds that it might be more interesting than going through Goole for instance (no offence to the good folk of Goole!) and so far the route has got as far as Boston(Lincs' not Massachusetts).

22 Jan 2008

We are now beginning to get some publicity organised and I must thank David Moss-Blundell of Green Lane PR and Nigel Hirst of North Street Prints for their help in this direction. I will be doing a couple of radio interviews this week and will be meeting some of the press at the Education village on Friday afternoon (avoid the place at all costs as I will probably be prancing around the foyer in lycra looking like a split pin).
As you can see, after two months, we've finally got the 'Just Giving' web site up and running so promoting the ride has become a great deal easier, not to mention the collection of donations. Did I mention the COLLECTION OF DONATIONS?
Phil (support crew) is beavering away in his Devon home helping to plan the route through Germany; particularly in the area southeast of Dusseldorf where it seems I have a choice between very hilly or mountainous, or was it the Devil and the............I can't wait!


Driving to Devon in Becky’s Fiat Punto was always going to be a bit of a slog: it’s too small for me and it doesn’t have cruise control, so given that, and the fact that we set off at five in the morning, I was only surprised that we weren’t feeling even more jaded when we arrived. After a quick shower and change at Jenny and Phil’s home in the pretty village of Ashprington, we headed back into town for lunch. Often, the simplest pleasures are the best so we sit in Rumour wine bar – our old haunt, eating pizza, sipping a chilled Sauvignon and yattering about the ‘good old days’; the weariness slips away and we find ourselves wrapped in the comfortable ‘Waltons’ world that is Totnes.
We’ve come to discuss the fast approaching ride, finalise the route and check that we are aware of each other’s needs and peculiarities; not that I have any of the latter you understand! Also, I get my first look at ‘Myfanwy’, Phil and Jenny’s new motorhome, which will be our home for three weeks. She’s a fine looking piece; well upholstered, broad about the hips and mischievous, though possibly a little on the ‘snug’ side for the three of us.
Phil pats her and strokes her and attempts to turn her on……….Nothing!
She clicks her tongue at him contemptuously.
He turns the key again with the same dispiriting result: Click!
A few more attempts and he’s behind the wheel, head in hands, pleading with her to start.

And then she does.
Phil had forgotten to warm her up first – she’s diesel.
She rocks gently from side to side in mirth clearly enjoying her own joke and all’s well with the world again.
We sit around the table, with maps strewn around, planning our route. Phil – a whiz online – has bought a map off t’interweb of the ‘Rhein Radweg’: the Rhein cycle route; which follows the path of the river valley from Rotterdam to Mainz. Actually, the map that Phil has bought describes the route from Mainz to Rotterdam; the opposite direction from that we wish to travel, but since it’s in German and neither of us can read it, it matters not. The great thing about it is that being in the river valley, it follows a relatively flat course for its entire length – some 530 km; now call me an old softy pants if you will but flat I like – flat and windless I like even more.

On bad days, when motivation is hard to come by, emails like this very soon get me back on the bike........Thanks David.

Dear David

I have read what you are doing on Bikeradar and wanted to thank you for all your efforts.I am a single father (possible undiagnosed Aspie) raising my two daughters, one with Aspergers and my youngest who is diagnosed as Autistic.Funds are very tight for us this winter but I will try to pledge some money to your efforts in the near future.

All The Best

David Whitmon

Oak Bluffs,




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