Aid worker Helen Brown – who was in Nepal when the country was hit by a huge earthquake earlier this year – is riding her trusty motorbike around Britain to raise money for the Red Cross.
During the trip she’ll visit dozens of our offices to learn more about the vital work we do in the UK.
Read highlights from her first four days in the saddle.
Day one: Clear skies and 16 wheelchairs
I got a great send off from British Red Cross head office in central London. This was followed by fantastic weather, clear skies and good roads in the run up to Lowestoft and Ness Point, the most easterly part of the UK.
I had a relaxed ride across to our Norwich office. By the time I turned up, service manager Sarah had already arranged the loan of mobility aids such as wheelchairs for 16 people. Volunteers Tony and Richard told me about their emergency response work dealing with fires, floods and even bomb scares.
Day two: the story of the life-saving teenager
Our Hertford office welcomed me with balloons, banners and an amazing array of sandwiches.
I heard about more of our work – including how we give first aid at events ranging from fetes and carnivals to motor racing at Silverstone and the Chelsea Flower show. Jill, who has volunteered with the Red Cross for 43 years, told me how a teenager with epilepsy had saved the life of her teacher thanks to first aid training from the Red Cross.
Day three: the sound of crickets
Today the weather was perfect and reminded me why I love biking. There is nothing better than clear countryside roads, bends and glorious blue skies to refresh the soul. Apple (my bike and I) stopped to admire the view in Savernake forest in Wiltshire this afternoon, in complete silence apart from crickets and a few birds.
Calling in at our offices in Woking and Reading, I saw more of our work. This included how we partner with other charities and local organisations, and how we make sure our services are open to people with disabilities.
I also heard more about how we help refugees and asylum seekers facing trauma and destitution. It was a real privilege to spend time with such motivated volunteers.
Day four: Wrong turns and stunning views
No Red Cross offices to visit on Saturday, which started with dull cloud as Apple and I set off through Wiltshire. After that it was a fairly straight run to Devon in drizzle rain and then onto Cornwall, where I spent quite a bit of time getting lost around some interesting hillside B roads and tracks, before finding my way to Bodmin Moor. As usual on Bodmin, the weather set in with a vengeance, severe fog, making visibility difficult, a chill wind and rain.
I finally arrived at Lizard Point to find clear skies, sun, seals and two kind gentlemen who helped me out after an ill-advised bike parking moment. Lizard was stunning – the first time I have ever been to the most southerly part of the UK.
On to a fog shrouded Land’s End – where the only view was a bank of cloud. Disappointed tourists from Japan, Germany and the U.S. were wielding cameras at a wall of grey mist, rather than the expected seascape.
I met an older couple from Somerset on a Triumph Norton. They were riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats, taking up a challenge from their children. They are due in John O’Groats on the same day as me and were keen to chat and share stories.
Despite aching bones, this ride is proving amazing so far.