A student who was inspired by a stint volunteering in a charity shop helped raise more than £650 after taking on an eye-watering bike ride from Lowestoft to Land’s End and then back to the Suffolk coast. Alex Skeen and friend Jan Spalding completed their “east to west to east cycling extravaganza” – 887 miles – for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
It took 17 days and, in the process, they raised £660 – smashing their £500 target. Colchester’s Alex has just completed the first year of a Maths degree at Cambridge but spent the summer of 2021 volunteering at EACH’s shop on the Angora Park Industrial Estate, in Stanway.
His says the experience inspired him to organise the ride, which got underway on Saturday, 15th July.
“I enjoyed volunteering in the shop and everyone was so friendly and welcoming,” said Alex, who celebrated his 20th birthday on 12th August.
“The staff and my fellow volunteers left a lasting impression on me. I also learnt about the cause we were supporting, and the extraordinary work of the charity, and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to do this fundraiser.
“We’re both so grateful for the amount we raised. The support exceeded all expectations and the messages we received spurred us on and reminded us of the purpose of our journey.
“I’m so glad we did it and the whole experience was a lot of fun. Beforehand, I didn’t know if we could do it so the fact we did, and enjoyed ourselves along the way, is a great feeling.
“The secret was not thinking too much about the overall distance. Otherwise it would have been overwhelming. Instead, we broke it into small chunks and focused on what we needed to do, and where we wanted to get to, every day.”
After leaving Lowestoft Ness, the most easterly point in mainland England, Alex and Jan started their long journey west, staying in Clapham Junction. From there, they had overnight stops in Basingstoke, Shaftesbury, Honiton, Moretonhampstead, Herodsfoot and Hayle, before arriving at Land’s End.
They started their return journey straight away, not staying overnight but instead having stop-offs in Penzance, Liskeard, Exeter and Yeovil. They then had further nights in Basingstoke and Clapham Junction again before returning to Colchester.
“I wouldn’t say we were ever in danger but there were one or two hairy moments, including one near Basingstoke when the road opened up and joined the M3,” said Alex, a former student at Philip Morant School and Colchester Royal Grammar School’s Sixth Form.
“Suddenly we found ourselves on a big intersection and that wasn’t much fun! Overall, though, it was a great experience.
“I’d been particularly excited about cycling through Dartmoor, having got special memories from a family holiday on our way to Cornwall. On that occasion, I remember it being a beautiful day, a stunning expanse of land and seeing all the way to Plymouth.
“This time, it couldn’t have been more different and we encountered our worse weather of the whole trip. It was like being in a wind tunnel and the driving rain stung our faces. We couldn’t help but smile and laugh because it was just so incredibly hostile.”
Alex and Jan’s fundraising page is still active. To make a donation, head here.