Helen saddles up for charity

BIKE RIDE: Woman's 350-mile cycle challenge.
BIKE RIDE: Woman's 350-mile cycle challenge.
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If a 75-year-old grandmother says she is a regular cyclist, you picture a gentle once-a-week amble to the shops.

But not for Helen Macleod. She took to the road last week to pedal a gruelling 350 miles from Suffolk to Cornwall to help pay for a holiday home for severely disabled people.

Retired nurse Helen, vice-president of the Sudbury-based Lin Berwick Trust, already has promises of £5,000 sponsorship.

“I’m sure I can do it,” she said. “I don’t cycle very fast ... I just keep going.”

Helen is by no means a novice in the charity bike ride stakes. But this is the first one she has tackled alone.

She has already done two cycle marathons for the Lin Berwick Trust, one for Tearfund and one for Christian Aid.

The trust has almost completed its third holiday cottage, near Looe in Cornwall, which is due to open this summer. It will be named Ralph Boyce House in memory of Lin’s late husband who was the charity’s co-founder.

Like the others in East Harling in Norfolk and Dirleton near Edinburgh, it is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment so it can be used by the most profoundly disabled people and their carers.

Helen, who has two sons and four grandchildren, left her home in east Suffolk last Thursday on the first stage of her journey.

She stayed overnight in Sudbury at Lin’s home in Chaucer Road before setting off on Friday to cycle to the outskirts of London.

“I’ve worked out my route very carefully to avoid the major roads, and the very minor ones which tend to be very hilly and can take you miles out of your way,” she said.

“It should take me nine days to reach the new holiday home where the trust’s chairman Jean Thomas will meet me and show me round.”

Helen and her late husband John, who died in 2007, met Lin and Ralph more than 15 years ago. “We got to know her and heard about her dream of building holiday cottages. She really inspired us,” she said.

Soon afterwards, they did a sponsored ride to raise money for the trust’s first cottage in Norfolk, then another for the second one, in Scotland.

Helen will be riding her trusty Brompton folding bike. “It’s marvellous because it is so easy to get on and off, and it only has six gears. I prefer it to my other touring bike which has 21,” she said.

“At the end of the ride, I can just fold it up and bring it back with me on the train.”

Lin said she was very grateful for Helen’s fundraising:. “She is a lovely person, very spiritual and compassionate. She never makes a song and dance, just quietly gets on with things.”

You can support Helen’s cycle ride by sending a cheque to the Lin Berwick Trust at The Christopher Centre, 10 Gainsborough Street, Sudbury CO10 2EU, or at www.virginmoneygiving.com/helenmacleod.