Many a wobbly cyclist was on board the 08:15 P&O Ferry into Dover this morning. Four days of tough cycling coupled with sea legs makes for an interesting combination!
Prior to our arrival the team gathered out on deck, cheering at the sight of the magnificent White Cliffs of Dover which signalled home shores. Then it was time for everyone to jump on the bikes and disembark.
A wonderfully welcome surprise greeted the team as they cycled off the ferry. The ramp was lined with cheering Policemen, clapping their return and thanking them for their efforts overseas. Moving through Dover, the route was lined with cheering supporters and toots of encouragement from passing traffic as the team tackled the steep hill out of Dover to the first stop of the morning, Capel Le Ferne.
This was a particularly sombre climb for our cyclists as many took the time to remember the late Ian Wilson. Ian was a fantastic Help for Heroes fundraiser and sadly suffered a heart-attack on tackling the hill after last year’s ride.
The Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel Le Ferne sits midway between Dover and Folkestone, and sited on the White Cliffs overlooking the English Channel, sits a magnificent memorial to the 3000 men of Fighter Command who represented ‘The Few’. Today’s ceremony took place in the shadows of a replica Spitfire and Hurricane and in front of the names of all those that took part in the Battle of Britain. With the sun shining and the spitfire roaring over the cheering crowd everyone took a moment to be thankful to be alive.
Today’s lunch stop was in the pretty town of Challock where the home support was fantastic yet again. Everyone gratefully enjoyed their last lunch with the phenomenal Extreme Hospitality crew. All 294 riders have praised the amazing lunches we’ve feasted on each day with just the right balance of nutrition and naughtiness!
After lunch the team took part in the final memorial service before joining up with the other Hero Riders at The Cenotaph tomorrow; the outstanding Naval Memorial in Chatham. After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found to commemorate those men of the Royal Navy who were buried at sea and therefore had no grave. The Admiralty recommended that the three manning ports – Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth – should each have an identical memorial. And each should be of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, and serve as an aid to naval navigation. The Chatham Naval Memorial commemorates 8,517 sailors of the First World War and 10,098 sailors of the Second World War who could claim this ancient naval town as their ‘home port’.
It was at this final memorial of the ride that Ian Wilson’s widow Julie bravely laid the wreath for the ceremony alongside his brother and as Team Sapper member Steve Craddock solemnly read the last post, the exhausted riders were deeply moved.
On arrival into Chatham everyone was overwhelmed with an incredible sense of achievement. With only 27 miles to complete tomorrow, it was time to celebrate everyone’s efforts. Dinner was held at the Gillingham Football Club, with the whole team joining together to toast the ride and celebrate a challenging week.
Awards were given out for: ‘True Grit’ and ‘Lovely in Lycra’ and finally the Harry Long Award went to Cpl Josh Boggi. Josh is the first triple amputee to have tackled the Big Battlefield Bike Ride and has been a complete inspiration to every participant.
Tomorrow we join with 1,500 other riders from all round the country in the ‘Hero Ride’. Everyone is hugely excited to be part of what will be the biggest cycling demonstration of support for our Armed Forces that our country has ever seen!