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Pilgrimage for Peace, 2021

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On 19th May, 2021, I finished five days of cycling, covering 277 miles, to raise money for two causes, Pax Christi, and Alzheimer's Research UK. I was riding in memory of my super-keen cyclist brother, Chris, who died last year of Covid.

He had twice ridden the Camino de Santiago from Le Puy, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I joined him for the last five days of his 2002 pilgrimage, and my plan for this ride was to match the daily distances we'd done then. (See the Introduction page of my account of that journey. Rather than the pilgrim hostels and little hotels of Northern Spain, I returned home each night. I aimed to visit cathedrals and ancient abbeys - and a couple of military bases.

The ride

Day 1: I started on Saturday 15th May by riding to Bradford and indulging in some Strava art, 'drawing' a CND sign around the city - complicated navigation, plenty of hills, rain in the late morning.

43 miles, 974 metres climbed, 4¼ hours of riding,*. Note the height profile - can you spot where my phone was off for a while? [Other day 1 pics coming soon!]

Day 2: The next three days were to reach RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire, part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. So on Sunday I rode to York Minster & back via a very wet Wetherby - fairly flat, my fastest day.


York Minster

Wet wetherby Racecourse

62 miles, 762 metres climbed, 5 hours riding

Day 3: Monday involved driving to York, riding to Rievaulx Abbey, then heading back to York, & home. Two navigation errors meant I rode further than planned, and it took a lot longer! I noticed that North Yorkshire has some Very Steep Hills!
A very long tough day!!!
Distance 63 miles, Elev Gain 992 m Time 6h 43m
I made some errors on Monday!

a) started late, due to drive to York
b) didn't check that Google maps had done a nice roads/bike paths route - parts of it were very off-road - that's the 'path' behind the gate. Had to get off & push :-(
c) got lost, had to ride much further (the tale of woe continues...)
d) chose the 'footpath' not the road to go from Helmsley to Rievaulx; obstacles included gates, steps (lots down, 42 up), & 'footpath closed due to tree-cutting' (Full disclosure - it turned out no trees were being cut that day, so some people regarded the footpath as open ;-) From 3.30 it was so cold & wet, I wore about 6 top layers, including 2 jackets, gloves & mitts. No pics of the way back - phone camera not keen on being drenched :-(

Near Helmsley - nice view but no road!!!

Reached Rievaulx Abbey, my 'lunch stop', at 3.15; then it started to rain...

63 miles and 992 metres climbed in 6¼ hours

Day 4: On Tuesday, it was a similar car/bike trip, but starting/finishing the riding at Rievaulx Abbey, and reaching RAF Fylingdales an hour or so after lunch. Easy navigation - just as well, my phone died early in the day, hence only pictures from the start :(
The hills were generally gentler than day 3 - apart from the one between Rievaulx Abbey & Helmsley!!!

Downpour while driving to Rievaulx, overcast at 10.15...

But 10 minutes later, blue sky!! Probably not a miracle, but very welcome.

53 miles, 649 metres climbed, 5 hours riding, and around 100 miles of driving too!

Day 5 was car-free - an uncomplicated but slow ride to RAF Menwith Hill, the US spy base near Harrogate. It included a tough Category 3 climb on the way there - Norwood Edge, where I averaged a shade over 5 km/h. Not wishing to tackle the same hill from the other side, I came back via Harrogate - busier roads, but kinder to tired legs! Lunch with brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Harrogate was a very welcome bonus.

Old school navigation

Ate a second breakfast at Lindley Reservoir

No-one guarding this gate, but the armed guards at the others gave a cheery wave.

St Anne's Cathedral, where Chris & Jane were married in 1969. Lit candles.

Sunny towpath

The pilgrim returns!

55 miles, 1126 metres climbed in 6¼ hours of riding. The hilliest day!

Map of the whole ride


I had thought that the five days might feel like being a part time pilgrim - coming home each night seemed a bit tame. However, the journey soon became my total focus, and especially on the days when I drove where I'd reached on the bike the day before, there didn't seem much part time about it! It was very handy having a meal ready prepared each evening, & my cycling clothes washed and dried - thank you Teresa! But out on the road, especially in the remote places, the trip did what a pilgrimage is supposed to do - it took me outside usual daily life, and give me time to think. I only did any thinking when it wasn't too uphill!

Some cyclists ride with just a credit card and a few snacks in their jersey pockets. I opt for a more weighty strategy - plenty of tools, extra clothes, plenty of food, two bike bottles and a thermos - hence, two filled panniers. I also had a 2' x 3' CND flag attached, which perhaps explains the way cars and trucks generally gave me plenty of room as they passed. Many vehicles hung back until it was definitely safe to overtake - it reminded me of Spain where we found drivers were more considerate to cyclists than here - so maybe UK drivers are improving!


What memories will I take from this trip? Definitely I will think of the incredible generosity of those in receipt of my "Gimme your £££" messages! I will remember the cold and wet during a downpour on day 3 - I had 6 layers on top, and gloves! I will remember the birdsong, the peace and isolation of the North Yorkshire countryside, the glimpses of wildlife, and definitely, the kindness of strangers: the cyclist who stopped me on my second circuit of a loop near York Minster, and showed me the right road; the encouraging words of the couple walking their cats (yes cats!); the shopkeeper who lent me his phone so I could assure my wife that it was my phone which had died not me; the geniality of the heavily armed MOD policeman at Fylingdales - apparently I was already in the authorised personnel only area, but we nevertheless had a good chat about my trip, the reasons for it, and relatives we'd lost to Covid in 2020.


What would I do differently next time? A companion or two would be good; I would definitely check that the Google Maps lady was directing me along actual roads, not tracks only suitable for a mountain goat. I'd also have the OS maps before I set out rather than buying them the day after they would have got me to my destination in 45 minutes, rather than 3 hours!

What have I learnt? Day 3, 10 miles and many hours longer than planned, showed me that if you keep pedalling, you get there in the end. I think I already knew the way to get up hills - if it's too hard, change to a lower gear; if it's still too hard, and you are already in bottom gear, go slower! On the last day, when I was feeling a bit weary, I saw the next hill was steeper than 1 in 7 - but there was a fold in the map - I had no idea it was so long, and just kept going. Sometimes, we don't need to see the destination or the difficulties on the way, but just keep going! A lesson for peace makers, perhaps?

Tim Devereux

9 June 2021

PS: It's not to late to donate!!

To give to Pax Christi, go to https://tinyurl.com/PaxDonate
(NB: after you have put in the card details, there's a section...

To give to Alzheimer's Research UK, it's https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tim-devereux

Many thanks!

* I'm using the data about mileage and time from my bike computer, as the Strava data is less accurateon some of the days.