On the late May Bank Holiday weekend saw one of the Hawk and Owl Trusts most highly valued volunteers who used to give his time to our Bath Peregrines Project, completing an EPIC 250 mile bike ride across the English countryside from the beautiful city of Bath up to the fine city of Norwich, which also included ascending enough altitude to be twice the equivalent height of Mt. Snowdon in Wales . This was to trace the path of one of our most intrepid and well travelled Peregrine Falcons (GA) on her journey across the county. Below is his own story of how he got through such an epic experience, raising an amazing total of £630 for our Urban Peregrines Project. You can visit his Just Giving Page by Clicking Here, if you wish to donate some money to congratulate him, thank you.
Here is Mike Nuttall’s experiences from the weekend: “I was pretty bleary eyed when my alarm went off at 4.30am on Saturday 28 May. Bank Holiday weekend had finally arrived and it was time to load my car and head to Bath to start my 250 mile cross country bike ride to Norwich in aid of the Hawk and Owl Trusts Urban Peregrine Project. Andy and Heather of the Trusts Bath and West Wilts group were to be my support crew and delivered me to St Johns RC Church at 7.45am where we also met other members of the trust who had come along to wave me off and wish me well. The weather was overcast but warm with a right pain of a headwind, but there was no way to delay it so on the stroke of 8 o’clock I headed out towards the hills. Just about every route you take out of Bath is a hill and the climb through Bathford was the biggest I would do in the whole trip – best to get it out of the way in the first hour I thought!
Once I had left Kingsdown I was on more familiar territory. My training had included a number of rides with Chippenham Wheelers Saturday leisure group which had taken me along many of the roads between Bath and Calne and my own rides around Lyneham, my home town of Royal Wootton Bassett and all the way up to Witney had also been covered in recent months. After that, it was all virgin territory.
Saturday was to be my longest day of riding. The plan I had devised would see me complete half the distance on the first day (124 miles). This meant I could reduce the second day to 87 miles and finish at a reasonable hour on Monday having only 39 miles to the finish, allowing us to join the bank holiday traffic early. The sun came out and the birds of prey took to the sky. Red Kites and Buzzards were almost always in sight along the way. Comedy moments included encounters with Red Legged Partridges who, rather than dive back into the undergrowth while I passed, took it upon themselves to have a foot race with me along the side of the road. Naturally it would have been rude of me not to give them the odd word of encouragement..hope nobody was listening. I have to admit that the last 20 miles of Saturdays ride were really hard going, my energy levels were at rock bottom despite a number of food stops and I was in danger of walking like Elvis when I finally dismounted.
The night was spent at a chain hotel in Fenny Stratford (Milton Keynes) which sadly seemed to be party night for all the regulars at the Pink Punters Nightclub opposite and an almost hourly sounding of the fire alarms through the night didn’t put me in the best of moods. Such is life and it was only for one night and within the first hour of Sundays ride it was all forgotten. Especially as my route took me through Woburn Park with the Safari Park on the left and the Abbey on the right, climbing the hill I was surrounded by huge herds of Deer. Just after lunch my route took me over the M11 just north of Duxford Imperial War Museum. I only discovered this fact as I got to the bridge over the motorway and suddenly saw the Memphis Belle (WWII B-17 Flying Fortress) and a couple of Hurricanes and Spitfires take to the sky, circle around me and perform for the crowd. Of course I had to take a break and watch them from the bridge for 10 minutes. I think I smiled for a few hours after that display. Final climb of the day was up to Haverhill along the really horrid A1307. Fast traffic that seems to think that putting a right hand indicator on classed as an overtaking manoeuvre even without actually changing course and it was a road I was really pleased to see the back of. From Haverhill I turned North east into the strengthening wind and pointed myself at Bury St Edmunds, and my overnight stop at Beightons B&B in Timworth. By contrast to the previous stop this was a little piece of heaven. The owner was also a keen cyclist and had completed a Sportif that day. We nattered for quite a while before Andy and Heather arrived to take me for dinner, which took some finding but when we did it was well worth the wait. A small pub called ‘The Fox’ in Bury St Edmunds had great food and excellent beer (the Greene King brewery is about 200 foot from the cellar!) and I was properly refreshed by the end of it.
Day 3, Bank Holiday Monday and my last day in the saddle, which was starting to make it’s own impression on certain ‘Contact’ areas. The wind had increased but thankfully the storm that had been forecast for the area stayed out on the North Sea. I had a rude awakening from one of my usual riding comas mid morning as I crossed a level crossing and the alarms sounded and the lights started flashing while I was halfway across…that got the heart pumping I can tell you! A few undulating hills later and I spotted Heather and Andy in their motor home stationed in a lovely woodland that surrounded Middle Harling Heath. It was time for my final coffee stop and refuel before the run in to Norwich and the finish line at the Cathedral. As I left Banham I saw the old mile marker at the side of the road proclaiming Norwich to be only 10 miles away, what a boost that gave me and I smiled as I ticked off each mile marker along the way to the outskirts of town. I had to take a couple of minor detours in the final couple of miles as my route planner didn’t seem to understand the one way systems of Norwich, but they were no match for the joy of being within striking distance of the end. As I rolled along the riverside my mood was raised even more when the spire of the Cathedral appeared above the buildings in front of me. A few small paths later I arrived at the Hawk and Owl Trusts watchpoint at Norwich Cathedral. The ride was done and I felt great, which was a real shock. The rain had held off and the volunteers at the watchpoint welcomed me and joined me for photographs. It is a really good set up they have there and it was a perfect end to the ride to be able to watch the four Peregrine chicks via the webcam on the screen at the Watch. All that remained to do was to have a coffee and then drive back to Bath
I really couldn’t have done the ride without the amazing support of Andy and Heather Grant who tracked my progress in their motor home. Providing drinks and good company at my food stops and saving me from having to carry everything for a full days riding. And of course for bringing me home again! Secondly my thanks go to the many who sponsored me to do the ride. All together I raised a brilliant £600 to help keep the webcams rolling at the Bath and Norwich Peregrine nest sites. Allowing us to learn more about the behaviour of these fabulous birds of prey and giving joy to the thousands of viewers who regularly watch from around the globe. I know this is important to many as I received sponsorship donations from as far away as Canada, which really blew me away! Finally, my thanks go to the Hawk and Owl Trust for doing such an incredible job of monitoring our Birds of Prey and providing habitats for them to continue to recover.”
Mikes Route can be seen below followed by a few photos showing his arrival in Norwich.