Looking Back: Motivations, Memories and Moving Forward
As July is coming to a close it’s hard not to reminisce about the beginning of the month when excitement was in the water as we crossed the finishing line in the Isles of Scilly. After finishing the world’s first cycle, it took some time for our team to slip back into normality… rumour even has it that Isaac slept for 14 hours straight! Over the month the Pedal 4 Park’s team have still been working away on the next part of this journey and preparing for the release of our film this coming September! 14 Days Over Land and Sea is at the heart of this project and when complete, it will share all we have learnt on our journey for your benefit!
After a few weeks of recovery from the 1,200 mile cycle, we caught up with three of the fantastic five adventurers to find out their thoughts on the expedition. A lot happened over the three week journey, but here’s what Isaac, Sal and Lukas had to say about the once in a lifetime trip.
What were your expectations going into this expedition? Were they met?
The long answer is this whole project was an experiment, I have never done anything like this before in my life. An adventure film documentary has always been a dreamy idea, but now it is real. I knew from the start that we could pull this together and make it happen, what i didn’t know was it would be the most challenging 3 weeks of my life. First of all this expedition is logistically, physically and mentally the toughest and most complex project I have been involved in organising. Managing a team of 5 expedition crew, 2 film crew, 2-3 photographers and up to 10 support crew across the UK and two seas in two weeks made the expedition logistics incredibly big and there was a lot to make this dream happen. To make things even tougher there was the film documentary element which introduced another first for me. This is my first documentary making experience and was a huge learning experience, with lots of hurdles, adaptability and creative thinking. Then if all that wasn’t enough there was the small part of cycling 100 miles a day, conducting press and organisation interviews and cycling over treacherous seas on water bikes! So, I expected to come away from this project knowing much more than before, but the various elements were much more challenging than I expected. I am humbled by the scale of the whole thing.
I guess I expected it to be pretty hellish… I had never done anywhere near that amount of cycling before! The most I had ever cycled in one go was about 100km and that resulted in me taking a long nap straight after, so I was a little bit apprehensive about how I was going to manage the constant distances day after day. Not only was I preparing for my legs to fall off, but I was mentally preparing for the worst bum pain in the world! Were they met? Actually I was pleasantly surprised! My bum survived, my legs survived and somehow I managed to get up each day and smash out the ridiculously long cycles. I think I owe a lot of that willpower to the support of my teammates, all of our amazing support team and the encouragement being sent by people supporting the cause!
It’s pretty hard to know what to expect when going into an adventure, especially when it’s a world first; there’s no rule book or how-to guide you can follow. I went into the adventure hoping I would learn something, and it’s fair to say that’s an expectation that was more than met! I’m slightly embarrassed by how little I knew, or more so, how much I thought I knew about environmental conservation & regeneration projects. This adventure shone a light on my naivety, but also opened my eyes to all the fantastic new (and old) projects out there, all pushing for a greener future.
What were your most and least favourite parts of the trip?
My highlights were being able to cross both sea crossings at the start and end of the expedition. Most sailors, ocean rowers and friends laughed at me when I said I was going to cycle across these waters on water bikes. They are notoriously difficult seas to navigate and can be extremely dangerous if the weather is not too kind. There have been lots of shipwrecks and I was quoted by many as having a 25% chance of success for the Pentland Firth and even less chance for the Isle of Scilly. We were blessed by the weather gods and took our chance to make it happen!. Another highlight was the wildlife, we saw so much biodiversity it made for a surreal experience especially Orca (i missed these) sightings, which I sadly missed, and seeing Puffins for the first time. Experiencing the changing environments and wildlife across the UK was also amazing, I feel lucky to have seen it all!
The lowlights I have to say were cycling through town after town in the pouring rain about halfway through the expedition. Between the Lake District and Chester we did a lot of road cycling and there was just not a lot of green space. To put it simply it was very dull and boring, especially after the cycling through Scotland and the Lakes.
The highlight for me has to be the wildlife. Out in the Orkney’s we saw Orca whales, which I have never seen before and was incredible! We also saw Puffins and a huge amount of awesome marine birdlife. We saw dolphins, porpoises and even managed to see a red squirrel when cycling through the woods in Scotland. Loads of amazing wildlife and for me that’s a massive highlight. Second to that was probably the lovely swims I got to do, particularly the gorgeous early morning swim in the freezing Loch Morlich when we wild camped in the Cairngorms! I am also overwhelmed by all the lovely people we met, many who I was lucky enough to interview. Ones that spring to my mind are the interviews with Pam and Jim from Endura where we heard about their amazing business values and also with my great friend Pete from Peak UK who has been doing wonderful charity work for a long time and deserved the opportunity to voice it!
The best parts of the trip were the epic views and the incredible team we had. Nothing brings more to a project than a team you enjoy working with, and to do that while cycling through some ammmmazing scenery, it’s a win win!
The lowest point of the trip was my rear derailleur cable breaking, meaning I couldn’t change gears. It’s usually not too bad of a fix, but the tight schedule we were on meant we didn’t have the time or the equipment to fix it in the field. I ended up having to run the uphills of the last 20 odd km of one of the days!
What was your favourite place you visited?
Scotland was by far my favourite part of the trip, the scale of nature was inspiring. There were huges nature reserves and mountain ranges left untouched, especially Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park where we cycled through the best forest I have ever been in. I must go back there! I also loved finishing on the Isle of Scilly. Visiting the unique island of Tresco was really interesting and strange with its diverse flora. It was like we had stepped into the rainforest!
I got to see so many new places that I have never been to before so it’s hard to choose! I have done lots of kayaking around Scotland, so I’ve seen a lot of the rivers but not much of the National Parks or woodlands which I was able to see on this trip. A lot of that was pretty new to me and it was really cool to see the UK in a new way, rather than just in my kayak on the rivers.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park had some lovely tracks through the forest. It was amazing to experience this let alone cycle through it! I also have to mention how gorgeous our cycle through Cheddar gorge was, sorry for the pun!
What is the most important thing you learned about National Parks and UK green spaces?
The biggest thing from this trip is that there are even less green spaces and National Parks than I thought! Despite this, the places we did see were far more beautiful than I could have imagined, especially the National Parks. I generally thought we would see more green space that wasn’t impacted by humans but I was proved wrong. Everywhere we went had some form of human impact. I know we planned a specific route and we haven’t been to every square inch of the UK, but our journey from A to B proved that the little green spaces we have left need protection, conservation and most importantly regeneration.
I wouldn’t say this is a new thing I’ve learnt, but this trip certainly reinforced how much we need our green spaces and wild spaces and how we need much more of them. Also, how we must look after the ones we’ve already got, these places are incredible but we still need more. Really our country should be made up of a majority of green and blue spaces. This is so important for us as humans but also for the rest of the planet.
The most important thing I learnt is that there’s a lot going on, and it works! There are so many unique projects out there, along with so many motivated people & teams. From what I’ve understood, the current obstacles are funding, education around such projects, and a need for a change in mindset. My mind has definitely been opened to all these new projects, now we just need to get them heard by more people.
How do you feel now?
I almost feel rested now. It was an incredibly fast paced 3 weeks with a lot of emotional, physical and mental energy. I think it will take some more time to fully recover, take it all in and reflect on the trip. Getting back to regular work and normal life has been difficult as the pace is much slower and I am not experiencing as many new things, so adjusting is key right now. I am humbled and thankful to have had the opportunity of a lifetime and to have shared amazing memories with so many lovely people. I have seen some of the most gorgeous landscapes and wildlife I have ever seen. A real privilege.
Yeah, I feel pretty good! The legs have recovered, the bum is all good and it feels good to come back feeling like I’ve learnt loads. I feel like I have a better understanding of our environment and perhaps what I can be doing to help spread these messages.
Not too horrendous. I’m definitely glad to sleep in a clean, dry bed and not have to sit on a bike saddle for 8 hours a day!
Pedal 4 Parks are now doing talks about our eco-adventure. We will be talking about motivational resilience, mental health (purpose not pills), and sharing the eco stories and climate solutions we have discovered. We have added a new page to our website so check it out there! (https://pedal4parks.co.uk/speaking/) We are also making the film documentary as we speak. We will be working on this for the next few months, going over the footage and creating a film which can inspire others to help regenerate our National Parks and green spaces and support the climate solutions popping up across the UK. In addition to this I am training to keep adventurously fit for our next adventure which will be released soon. We are now in the process of starting a side business with the Pedal 4 Parks brand to educate youth of the importance of getting outdoors for improving mental health and helping the environment. Maybe a book too! Lots more to come it seems….
What’s next for me is to go kayaking! This is the longest time I’ve had out of my kayak for a while due to the expedition and also the restriction of the pandemic. Prior to this trip I also had the Ocean 8 challenge down in Cornwall where I was swimming everyday so I wasn’t able to do much kayaking then either. It’s pretty unheard of for me to be away from the kayak for so long so I’m excited to have lots of fun on the rivers again! I am also excited to continue sharing what I have learnt on the Pedal 4 Parks trip and can’t wait to put out the documentary to spread the wonderful stories we heard.
There’s still lots to do for the Pedal 4 Parks project; we’d like to make the launch of the film as successful as possible to get the valuable message out to as many people. Our aim is to provide a means to showcase amazing eco-projects that are out there. We’ve done the first part of talking to these amazing people and letting them share their wisdom; now, the next challenge is to make sure their message is seen! It’s odd to come out of an expedition with so much work still to do, but given the cause we are all excited to see where the next steps take us!
So, it seems our team have all slipped back into normality without too much after effects and it’s clear that they are all overwhelmed by the wealth of information they found out from all the amazing people we interviewed on the expedition. There is no better way to experience green spaces than being present in them and I think the team have got some new favorite spots to revisit when they can! We are all so grateful for all the support we have had before, during and now after the expedition so thank you to everyone who is following this journey with us! Of course the cycling was difficult, but our team also had to consume lots of new information which meant their brains were constantly working alongside their legs. This was all in order to share the experience with you, so keep an eye out for the Pedal 4 Parks film and all the other exciting plans the team have in store.
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What can you do to help?
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