I'm a double cancer survivor, cyclist and walker who does various challenges for different charities, mainly cancer-related.

In 2016 I climbed every single 'Birkett' in the Lake District - all 542 fells over 1,000' within the National Park, including all 214 Wainwrights. I've also done a three-week cycle tour of Tasmania in February 2015 and amongst other things, I've cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats (2003), Rotterdam to Lemvig (Denmark) (2005), walked the Pennine Way (2008) completed (my first) ascent of all 214 'Wainwrights' in the Lake District in only 55 days (2009), cycled 4,500 miles around the coast of Great Britain (2011), cycled all 42 of the accessible Western Isles of Scotland in under a month (2012), twice abseiled 230 ft from the top of The Big One in Blackpool, cycled the WWI Western Front from London to Compiegne via Ypres and Arras (2014), cycled 750 miles in the Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton (2014), done a bit of sky-diving and cycled Australia's Great Ocean Road - just before lockdown in 2020.

Altogether I've raised over £120,000 for my charities including The Christie, Cancer Research UK, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and ABF (The Soldiers' Charity) and I was mightily chuffed to receive the British Empire Medal in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

I'm a Rotarian and give illustrated talks about my adventures in exchange for a donation to charity, so if you're looking for a speaker leave me a message. I am also Event Organiser for the Ribble Valley Ride Cycle Sportive, to be held this year on Sunday 5 September 2021 - more details at www.ribblevalleyride.org

You can also follow me on Twitter - @CancerBikeMan and on Facebook - just search for Bill Honeywell

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research, whilst The Rosemere does fantastic work for patients in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Friday, 23 December 2011

A Christmas Up-date

It’s been busy these last few weeks. I’ve given a number of talks (some about the bike ride and some not!) to various groups including Rotary Clubs, the British Legion and Wharfedale Farmers Auction, and I had a brief interview on BBC Radio Lancashire with Graham Liver.  It’s been surprisingly busy at work, then I got involved in a job with Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and there was a lads’ walking weekend away at Buttermere in the Lake District, where the weather was, like the pop group, wet, wet, wet.  I’ve just finished an article for the Wainwright Society’s magazine (‘Footsteps’) which should appear in their Summer issue. And of course the mother-in-law still needs constant care: Val does the majority but I’m usually on call when she’s at work.

I’ve also been wondering what to do next…

I was thinking about cycling around the coast of Ireland next time but the logisitics aren’t too easy, although I think we could leave a car somewhere near the Dublin ferry terminal to be used as and when we have a change of motorhome crew. But I’m still struggling to find a long enough slot in the year to do it.

Some time back I worked out a route to cycle the accessible islands off the west coast of Scotland – about 36 in all. It’s all very much dependent on ferry timetables and so when the new Calmac summer schedules for 2012 came out I had another look. It’s so complicated that I spent a couple of days on it, but now I’ve got a definite route sketched out. It will take about 27 days; the mileage won’t be excessive but the weather will, of course, be unpredictable and the terrain could be a bit challenging. Mind you the biggest challenge is just getting to all the different ferries on time!

My old pal Richard Dugdale is quite keen to do it, too. On this occasion there will be no lightweight bikes – it will be a case of full panniers, carrying everything you need for four weeks, which will be a change. Whether it’s a nice change I’m not sure!  I’ll do a bit more research over Christmas but it’s looking good for May 2012.

In the meantime I must say a big THANK YOU to everyone who supported the bike ride this year in whatever way, and also to those who have donated to Cancer Research UK – donations are still coming in, with two just this week which prove that it’s never too late! But thank you, thank you, thank you, a Merry Christmas to you all and a very Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Holiday At Last!

The title of this blog has to be a little ironic, but it is true that until last week I hadn’t had a holiday since January.  Providing you don’t count the ten weeks I spent cycling 4,440 miles around the coast of Great Britain!

With sunshine and warm temperatures normally somewhat lacking in the UK in November, we thought Malta might be a good bet, and it was somewhere we hadn’t been before.  I knew that the island – which is smaller than either the Isle of Man or the Isle of Wight - had a long and turbulent history, so I guessed it would be an interesting diversion rather than a sunbathing break. And as anyone who knows me will be well aware, I don’t do sunbathing (unless I’m doing something else at the same time!)

The Harbour at Valletta

We had a great hotel (the Meridien at St Julians) – although being designated a ‘privileged guest’, when you know that each and every other guest is accorded the same status, can wear a bit thin at times!  We had an open-top ‘hop-on – hop-off’ bus tour, a harbour cruise (very good) and a few shortish walks, both in what little countryside there was, and around the city of Valletta and the towns of Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa.

The Harbour at Valletta (again)

Traditional boats at the fishing village of Marsaxlokk

One of the highlights (you’ll like this!) was on Monday, when we took a ferry across to Malta’s companion island of Gozo and, during the course of our tour, visited the ancient site of Ġgantija, where an ancient stone temple pre-dates the Pyramids by over a thousand years and is reputed to be the oldest surviving building in the world.  As our fellow-travellers, Frank and Bern, paid their €5.00 entry fee each, I noticed the fact that there was a concessionary rate of €3.50 for those aged 60 and over, so when it was my turn I said to the lady behind the glass – as a light-hearted remark:  “I am very old, but my wife is very young.”

Ancient stones in the Temple at Ggantija, Gozo

With only a cursory glance she simply replied “Two senior citizens? €7.00 please.” Well, it seemed churlish to start an argument so I handed over a €10.00 note, received my €3.00 change and entered, stifling a giggle which at first I thought was of a childish nature but then I worried if it might be an early sign of senility…

Val, on the other hand, was not amused.

Spectacular scenery at Dwejra, Gozo

On our last day, yesterday, we walked around much of the Great Harbour:  the bus journey back was certainly memorable, as the traffic on the island is busy to say the least, and the bus itself was so packed there wasn’t even room for an anorexic sardine.  At one stop I’m sure I heard a voice near the back say “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me… oh, sod it!” as the bus set off again!

But is it Art?

Back to the UK in the early hours of this morning, feeling cold and with lots to catch up on, I still couldn’t resist a bike ride in this afternoon’s weak sunshine. 17 miles in just over an hour seemed OK, and my total mileage for the year is over 7,000, but it’s going to get more and more difficult to motivate myself to go out in the cold and wet.

Fabulous narrow street in Vittoriosa

But I need to keep up the cycling – this year’s effort for Cancer Research UK was so successful that I would love to do something again next year.  The Just Giving site is still taking donations and if any persuasion is needed – whether to get out and do something special, or simply to make a useful donation - we only need to think of the friends who have been afffected by cancer to know that it’s something well worth doing.

If you are new to this blog, or even if you have donated already, please consider doing what scores of readers have already done and make a contribution to help Cancer Research UK continue with their vitally important work – thank you!

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Cracking Cumbrian Cracker!

For the last few years Epic Events have organised a great sportive called the Christmas Cracker, based at Grasmere; but being in early December, the last two years’ cold weather have caused havoc, so this year they brought it forward to early November.  And what a good idea that was!  The weather could not have been better, with clear blue skies, no wind, and fabulous visibility.  The Lake District at its best.

Dave Hargrave (aka @roadbikedave to Tweeps) had entered the event before his untimely death last month, and many friends from Sunderland and beyond decided it would be a fitting tribute to carry on with the ride and dedicate it to his memory.  I’d been in charge of one of the gates at Clitheroe’s Town Bonfire the night before, resulting in a bit of a late night and general rush-around to get ready. But I only had one pint in the New Inn after the bonfire so at least I got a good night’s sleep and no hangover!

After scraping the frost off the car we headed off for Grasmere and parked about two miles from the village in one of the National Trust roadside car parks – where we discovered you can pay by credit card (and you need to, at £7 for the day!)  We only just made it to Grasmere for the meeting time of 10.00, but the Sunderland contingent was also running a bit late so we didn’t hold anyone up.

Thanks to www.sportsunday.co.uk for the photo.

Dave’s wife Hannah was there with the three children, and Craig Stephenson said a few words before we held a minute’s silence together.  I met – ‘in the flesh’ - a few other Tweeps - @iBenjamin, @jennyvelo and @northernpetman, and also a guy from Richmond (I didn’t get his name but he’s on the left of the photo) who had seen me on last weekend’s Audax ride, and recognised me by the Clitheroe Bike Club jacket and the unusual rear light I have on the back of my helmet.

By the way, I don’t know why more people don’t do this – all you need is a couple of tie-wraps to fasten an ordinary bicycle rear light to the back of your helmet.  It is so much more visible than a light fixed low down on the rear bike forks.

Almost immediately after setting off we were faced with the steep ascent of Red Bank. It always catches riders out, but it’s a nice feeling pedalling past cyclists who have already decided to get off and push! From there it was on to Elterwater, Coniston and the minor road down the east side of Coniston Water.  This used to be one of my favourite roads in the road rally days: once, when navigating for Ian Woof in a Chevette, we did the whole stage with a throttle that was jammed open – Ian’s only means of controlling the engine was by switching the ignition on and off, and he did pretty well to achieve this whilst still driving flat out and trying to listen to my pace notes!

Lunch was at the Scout Hut at Cartmel. Just to prove, yet again, what a small world it is, I met the ride mechanic, Dave Farnworth, and found out he was at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School at the same time as me (although he’s only a young 57!) and then Dave and Kath Gamble – Dave has had a lifelong interest in the Scouts, used to be manager of Boots the Chemist in Clitheroe and knows my next-door neighbours well! Benjamin from Sunderland decided to call it a day as he had had the mother of all chain malfunctions on what appeared to be a rather snazzy bike.

On the return we re-crossed the busy A590, climbed up past the Grizedale Visitor Centre with its magnificent Zip-Wire ride, then through Hawkshead before travelling along the minor road at Under Loughrigg and back to Grasmere, after a most enjoyable sixty miles.

I must say I would have appreciated a bit more food at the mid-way halt and the finish, but apart from this the organisation was as slick as usual.  We said our good-byes, cycled back to the car in the gloaming, and joined the masses of traffic heading out of the Lakes.  It had been a day of gorgeous sunshine, crystal-clear visibility and stunning autumn colours.  Were we just lucky, or was RoadBikeDave up there pulling a few strings in the weather department for us all?

Friday, 4 November 2011

My First Audax – and a bit of a disaster!

Audax UK, according to its website, is the internationally recognised long-distance cycling organisation in the UK.  And by long-distance I mean anything from 50km to 600km.  The rides have a lot in common with many Cycle Sportives, but for some reason there are far fewer riders (despite the fact that they are much cheaper to enter).  Food isn’t provided but café stops are arranged; there is no en-route signage but adequate directions are given.

I hadn’t done an Audax ride before but Emma, a twitter-friend (@waterrat77), persuaded me to enter one last weekend – ‘The Dales Dance’, a 200k (125m) ride starting at Pendleton, just outside Clitheroe.  Not only were there 125 miles to do but the route also involved 10.000 ft of climbing over all those Yorkshire Dales hills! The 7.00 am start was softened by the fact that the clocks went back an hour the night before, but of course it meant that the ride would probably end in darkness – so I made sure I had some good lighting on the bike.

This was the first time I’d met Emma, who was already at the start together with her other friends from the Hebden Bridge and Todmorden area – Daniel, Richard and Phil, and after the formalities a total of 19 riders set off towards Settle in the morning gloom. My group were strong riders but I didn’t feel that I was doing too badly as we headed through Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, and on to Hawes. 

Buttertubs Pass

The weather, at first dull and drizzly, was beginning to brighten at last as we climbed the impressive Buttertubs Pass.  A café stop was scheduled for Thwaite, and I forgot that on the other side of the pass you have to turn left for the village before retracing your steps a quarter of a mile.  The fruit cake at Keartons Restaurant was stunningly calorific, especially with the slice of excellent Wensleydale cheese on top (despite the fact that we were now in Swaledale).

Onwards through Muker and along Swaledale through lots of villages, towards Gunnerside, then over the top again to Leyburn and Reeth.  Plenty of climbing but good fun, although when I saw a sign saying ‘3 miles to Catterick Camp’ I realised there must still be a good way to go.  The route now went through the village of Middleham (twinned with Agincourt – unusual, I thought) and climbed some more near Ellingstring before descending once more.

It was here that disaster struck.  At the bottom of a steep descent was a sharp left-hand bend over a bridge:  I realised I was going too fast for comfort but wasn’t worried because I thought I could just swing out a bit wide on the exit – that was, until the six motorbikes suddenly arrived, coming in the opposite direction!  I could see a collision coming and knew that if I tried to tighten my line I would probably come off and end up underneath one of the bikes, so I straightened up and sped across the face of them towards the wrong side of the (already narrow) road. Another tenth of a second and I would have made it, but with a sickening crunch the lead motorbike hit my rear wheel, buckling it beyond hope of further progress.

Having said that, a tenth of a second slower and it would have been my leg rather than the wheel, so I counted myself very lucky indeed.  There was no damage to the motorbike and neither of us was even slightly hurt, thank goodness.  One of the bikers turned round and went back up the road to tell one of my colleagues what had happened – there was about another eight miles to do before the next stop at How Stean Gorge so I asked him to carry on and let the others know of my plight, not that there was very much they could do.

I said good-bye to the bikers – who had been perfect gentlemen – and realised I had to get to How Stean Gorge somehow.  As I was ringing Val to put her on ‘standby’ I saw a Cherokee Jeep approaching, so not wanting to miss this opportunity I stood in the middle of the road and flagged him down rather than just extend a feeble thumb!  The driver was heading within half a mile of How Stean Gorge so kindly offered to take me all the way, where I was able to ring Val again and arrange a lift home with my sad-looking bicycle.  It was a shame to leave the other cyclists and a bit embarrassing later on as we passed them in the latter stages of the ride, but at least we got home before it was too dark, with no broken bones.

Oops! It's not supposed to be that shape...

As I write this on Friday the bike is repaired once more, with a gleaming rear wheel – ready for the 57-mile Cumbria Cracker this coming Sunday.  I may take those South Cumbria hills a little more slowly (on the downhill side anyway!)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

RIP @roadbikedave

What a sad day.  Dave Hargrave from Sunderland died last night. When I heard the news first thing this morning I couldn't believe it.  Here's Dave in Sunderland, the day I met him on my GB Coastal Bike ride - the blog from that day is http://billhoneywell.blogspot.com/2011/06/day-31-seaton-sluice-whitley-bay-to.html

Until April I had never been on Twitter, but thought it might be a good site to make people aware of what I was doing on the big bike ride and keep them updated with progress.

I was soon followed on Twitter by Dave, and his friend Craig Stephenson (@chewbikker) and found his tweets amusing and encouraging in a kind of way.  As I approached the north-east, having battled my way through Scottish gales, Dave tweeted to say he'd try to join me for a few miles.

I didn't expect to see him to be honest - people often promise but don't fulfil, and I'd had the same kind of message before, only to result in a no-show.  On a beautiful Sunday, 12 June, my route was Whitley Bay to Runswick Bay, and for a change I had company - my son Mark, his best man Chris Toop, and James and Jill Alpe from my home town of Clitheroe. A record turn-out.

Good to his word, Dave (with Craig) found us at South Shields, and then cycled with us through Whitburn, his home town of Sunderland (which he knew like the back of his hand and clearly loved), then on to Seaham where we stopped for food and drink at our motorhome. I'll never forget how he loved the fruit cake made by my sister Pat, insisted on sending her a tweet, with a photo, and then asked for the recipe.

Afterwards he kept in touch and we nearly met again on an organised ride from York, but he was delayed at the start and I didn't see him again.

He was so enthusiastic about everything - he loved his bike, his local area, his family, life, everything. I felt like he should be an ambassador for - well, the human race almost - he was clearly such a gentleman.  

All I know so far is that he was cycling home from work in Newcastle to Sunderland yesterday evening, and somewhere in Sunderland he had a sudden heart attack.  I don't think any other vehicle was involved, although early reports spoke of a collision with a bus.  His last tweet was "Just had a pret chocolate pudding. That'll make me good n lean. Aww what the hell eh. I'll ride it off at 6pm." Typical humour from the guy.

Cycling - and the north-east - lost a real gem of a man yesterday. How can I be so close to tears when I write this?  That's the effect Dave must have had on everyone.  My sincere condolences to his wife Hannah and their three young children. RIP fella. Ride safe everyone.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The French Connection

Clitheroe is twinned with Rivesaltes in the south of France and there are regular visits between the two towns, usually involving light hearted football matches, spearheaded by the regulars of the Wagon & Horses pub who style themselves The French Connection.

This April’s visit by the Clitheroe contingent was slightly different in that two regulars – Roger Hargreaves and Pete Parkes – cycled the 1,000 miles there,  taking about two weeks to do the trip and raising money for various charities including the North West Air Ambulance, Riding for the Disabled, Crossroads Care and my Cancer Research UK fund.

They had a celebration on Saturday night in the form of a black-tie ball at the Stirk House, Gisburn, which I attended with Val, Frank & Bern (who drove the motorhome on the penultimate week of my ride).  A good time was had by all, although I was a bit embarrassed because every time the compere mentioned Roger & Pete’s ride, he compared it – not very flatteringly - to my 4,500-mile Round-the-Coast bike ride!  Roger has a great sense of humour and wasn’t in the least bothered.

After the meal it was time to present the cheques and I was thrilled to receive £1,000 for Cancer Research UK.  So a thousand thanks to the French Connection!

On the following day, Sunday, it was my turn to have a post-ride ‘bash’ – this time a barbecue in our back garden. Clearly, I don’t share the same style or panâche as the French Connection guys!  On the guest list were supporters, family, neighbours and motorhome crews; amazingly the weather held off, apart from the high winds, but they weren’t a problem, fortunately.

(Drinks were obtained from D Byrnes of Clitheroe who provide an excellent sale or return service for such occasions – Byrnes’s wine shop, in Clitheroe town centre, is legendary, and if you haven’t visited it yet you ought to put it on your ‘to do’ list.)

Thanks go to Tony Spencer and Frank who manned the barbecue, and to everyone who came and had such a good time – it was an excellent way to celebrate the success of the ride.

The total amount raised for Cancer Research UK, including money pledged from the Rock at the Castle event, has now gone over the £25,000 mark and there is still the Backridge Autumn Fayre to come the weekend after next.  That’s comfortably above my original target – which for a long time I thought was over-optimistic!  You can still donate if you wish by following the links on this blog.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Adventures of Bat-man

It has rained here all week. I mean, all week. Until lunchtime today, when for a while there were some patches of blue sky whilst it was still drizzling, then it actually stopped and it felt quite warm.

I quickly got changed, pumped up the tyres on the bike and set off around my favourite circuit – about 26 miles around Sawley, Bolton-by-Bowland, Wigglesworth, Forest Becks, and back.  With a nice tailj-wind to start with, I was soon passing the ruins of Sawley Abbey, crossing over the River Ribble and heading along familiar lanes.

Autumn is here and the sloes are ripe on the Blackthorn bushes in the hedgerows. I made a  mental note of where the big crops are in case I decide to make some sloe gin.  Stump Cross Lane featured in the local paper this week when someone described it as the dirtiest road in Britain – full of cow-muck!  Whoever it was hasn’t been on too many roads I guess – I’ve seen a lot, lot worse on my recent travels, but today I was unlucky enough to come across the culprits. The farmer was taking his herd of cows along the road after milking and I got stuck behind them for five minutes.

There’s been correspondence in the national press along similar lines – someone on holiday in Polperro complaining bitterly about the smell of fish (!). One letter replied with a lovely story about a man on holiday in the Scilly Islands. He called at the shop and asked for a newspaper. ‘Yesterday’s or today’s?’ he was asked. ‘Today’s please’ he replied, naturally enough. ‘Well come back tomorrow!’ was the answer. Excellent!


On arriving home I found a bat lying on the patio – rather like a bird, stunned after flying into the window, but it hadn’t.  It was alive but very dozy, so I placed it somewhere warm and sheltered, and it soon disappeared into safety.  Pipistrelles (which is what it was) are tiny – a lot, lot smaller than a field mouse. I could see its heart beating; its fur was fine and smooth; the back legs were as thin as needles, with delicate toes and claws; and the wings are incredibly long, folded, with a single long claw on the elbow joint. Bats aren’t blind – it had tiny bright eyes and would blink now and again.

By coincidence, when John came to partition off the shed – to make a compartment for the hens, complete with perches and nest boxes, he found another pipistrelle clinging to a small piece of wood inside.  I put it on top of a wooden arbour nearer the house and soon it had crawled around so that it was hanging upside down from one of the columns.

A lot of bats flutter around the pond at dusk – they’re great to watch from out of the living room window – and as well as pipistrelles we get a larger species which dips down almost to the surface of the water, presumably catching low-flying insects.  I think they’re Daubenton’s bats, but I’m not sure.  Must get one of those bat-call gadgets so that I can identify them.

Just as predicted, the weather looks like it will get wild for Sunday when we have the post-ride barbecue.  I need to get the meat and booze tomorrow, and also pick up the motorhome which has been in the garage since the day after I got back, for repairs to the damage caused when the tree fell on top of it near Fort William. Brother-in-law Keith will be pleased – he wants to borrow it tomorrow night to go down to the Stock Car World Championships at Northampton!

Finally, BBC Radio Lancashire rang when I got back from the bike ride this afternoon – they are doing a piece on Monday’s Breakfast Show with Graham Liver, on surviving bowel cancer, and want me to do a telephone interview just after 8.00 am.  I’m getting used to these radio appearances, they’re good fun!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Skokholm Island Appeal

You may have seen a news report today about hundreds of young Manx Shearwaters being rescued from rough seas off the Pembrokeshire coast.  The weather has certainly been severe – but even so, it seems odd that birds which should be used to such conditions got in such trouble.

Probably the biggest breeding colony of Manx Shearwaters in the world is just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, with roughly 50% of the world’s population – 165,000 pairs - nesting on Skokholm and Skomer, its near neighbour.  Quite a few people visit Skomer as it is easily accessible by a daily boat service, but Skokholm is a different matter.  From Broad Haven the Dale Princess would travel across to Skokholm on Saturday and not return until the following Saturday.

The Dale Princess arriving at Skokholm

I’ve been three times to stay for a week.  For some reason, Val has never been interested in accompanying me.  This could be something to do with the fact that there is no running water and no electricity.  Lighting in the old farmhouse, originally occupied and renovated by Ronald Lockley many years ago, is by gas, and the only way to get a wash is to do the dishes and then use any unused hot water left over in the boiler!  The chemical toilet doesn’t sound too enticing but spirits are lifted by the paintings of birds which people have doodled on the walls!

It is a magical place though, despite the privations.  Measuring only a mile or so long by half a mile wide, it’s easy to walk around in an hour or so, but the main thing is that it’s a fabulous place for relaxation whilst enjoying the bird life which is all around – as well as the Manx Shearwaters there are Puffins, Guillemots, Ravens, Choughs and lots more.

A Puffin

There’s only room for a dozen or so visitors, and the accommodation is pretty basic – I’ve stayed in the outside huts, and also a dampish room in Lockley’s farmhouse.  The first time I went there was an evening routine of reviewing all the birds seen during the day.  As the names were read out on the first evening, Gus, a Dutchman and keen birder holidaying with his girlfriend, said “Loos and I had a Shag on the boat on the way here.” and wondered why the room erupted into laughter.  I told him you can ‘have’ a Gannet, or a Razorbill, or a Cormorant, but you ‘see’ a Shag – and explained why.  Lovely language, English.

Skokholm is owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, and recently they have undertaken an ambitious programme of refurbishment, which was well overdue. Now the lighthouse on the island is for sale – Trinity House want £100,000 for it – and the Trust is doing its best to acquire it to safeguard the future of the island and return it to its original status as a bird observatory.

If you want to know more, you can visit the Trust’s web site at http://www.welshwildlife.org/skokholmIntro_en.link

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Rannock Sheep (and other breeds)

I started the morning with a bit of Breakfast TV (as usual) – today there was a piece from Skipton Auction Market on the rise in sheep prices.  Skipton is only 18 miles from where I live, and as it happens I know the auctioneer there – or more correctly I did know him, because John Hanson retired this year.  He doesn’t look old enough.

The reason I know him is because a few years ago he asked me to speak at the Annual Dinner of the Rannock Sheep Breeders Society - now held at the Millstones near Blubberhouses, between Skipton and Harrogate - but at that time the venue was the Hopper Lane Inn (also at Blubberhouses).  I’d spoken to Ribblesdale Farmers and Settle Farmers before, but hadn’t heard of the Rannock Sheep Breeders, and thought it must be a breed of sheep I’d never heard of.

On the Pennine Way near Keld three years ago - these are Swaledales, by the way...

That’s because I’m from Lancashire. I can hear you Yorkshire tykes laughing already.  A rannock sheep is just another name for a bad ‘un.  Or, if you don’t mind me mixing metaphors, if you’ve bought a rannock sheep, you’ve bought a pup.  Hence the subtle Yorkshire irony in the name of the organisation – because clearly no-one would set out to breed rannock sheep.

Anyway, I turned up at the Hopper Lane Inn to find a group of around forty farmers, auctioneers, cattle dealers and so on congregating in the bar, ready to give me a warm welcome. After a hearty dinner, which consisted of a Yorkshire pudding starter, main course of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and finally, Yorksh apple pie and custard, it was time for me to stand up and entertain the assembled throng with around 45 minutes of amusing anecdotes and the odd risqué joke.

It seemed to go very well. When I’d finished, John Hanson stood up to thank me and then, to my surprise, asked if anyone else had any good jokes to tell.  There then followed at least another hour of side-splitting humour as members recounted their own stories, and several jokes which were a lot more risqué than mine!  It was without doubt one of the best nights-out I’ve had!

I was then given the heart-warming news that I was a lifelong honorary member of the Rannock Sheep Breeders Society, entitled to come to each Annual Dinner, with or without a guest, and it’s now an annual fixture in my diary. The format remains the same, so I always go armed with a few new jokes for the after-speaker entertainment!

My favourite sheep photo - on Gayle Moor, while walking the Ribble Way, 2007.

Getting back to the original subject of sheep, I’ve known for a while that the cost of getting sheep clipped (sheared if you’re from down south!) has been more than the price obtained for the fleece – about £1.20 against around 40p. It’s a disgrace.  Now the price of the wool has tripled and it’s possible almost to break even.  The price of sheep has also gone up because of the value of the meat.

What I found difficult to understand was the carpet manufacturers (who take  most of the wool) saying that it was getting too expensive and that they would have to look at other (synthetic?) materials as a substitute. Well, £1.20 a fleece still doesn’t sound that bad to me, when a good wool carpet can cost well over £30 a square meter! But then, what do I know about economics?...

…There was a bit of a furore a couple of years back when it was discovered that the question paper in the final Economics exam at Cambridge Universtity was identical to the paper about five years earlier. Clearly, students who studied the past papers would have had an unfair advantage. The day after the story appeared, there was a letter in the Daily Telegraph from an economics professor. In his view there was no problem – the questions might have been the same, but after five years – the answers would be completely different!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Hen Huts and Bothies

I’m alright today.

I had a good response to my ‘revelations’ in yesterday’s blog.  A couple of weeks ago I was able to help an old friend – recently diagnosed with bowel cancer – on what to expect, and following my explanation yesterday I was contacted by someone else whose close relative is finding it difficult to come to terms with their recently-created ileostomy – and of course if I can be of any help I’ll be delighted.

Another important matter taking place yesterday was the relocation of our garden shed from near the house to the bottom of the garden, in anticipation of Val acquiring a few hens – an ambition she has held for some time.  I got out of the heavy labour due to my frail condition!  My main concern, when in due course the chucks arrive, is to keep them out of the grip of Monsieur Reynard.  I’ve already seen foxes nonchalantly strolling across the field behind the house, so I’m sure we’ll get a visit before too long.  A friend of mine has a security hatch on his hen hut which is controlled by a photo-electric cell – as it’s going dark, it shuts tight. Chickens only get left outside once, apparently – after that (assuming they survive) they make sure they obey the electronic curfew!

It’s surprising how much wildlife there is – on the day I got back from the Big Bike Ride there was a Roe Deer in the field behind the house, whilst on Saturday I looked out of the kitchen window just in time to see a male Sparrowhawk fly off with a Blue Tit in its talons – nature ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ indeed.

Last night my brother Richard and his wife Sue called in on their way back to Macclesfield from a day in the Dales which included climbing Penyghent. He mentioned that there might be another ‘Bothy Trip’ in October. The last one, to an awesome, snowbound Ben Alder in March last year, was great fun but hard work and soooo cold, as the photos will hopefully testify.  Bothies are about as primitive as you can get – no electricity, water or even any kind of toilet (just a spade – don’t ask!) – but there is no escaping the sense of adventure.

Ben Alder bothy

Cornices on the descent of Ben Alder (3,766 ft) - March 2010

It was little consolation to learn that Richard Dugdale, Len and Steve had a good day on the Manchester 100 yesterday – with an average speed of 17 mph, which was exactly what I was aiming for. So frustrating not to be taking part.

Talking of cycling, I did say that I’d get some statistics sorted out from the Cycle Round Britain’s Coast, and my confinement gave me the ideal opportunity.  Here they are:

Total mileage:                     4,440 miles (7,190 km)
Total height gained:  205,000 ft (62,500 m or 39 miles)
Total time spent pedalling:    392 hours, 19 minutes
Total pedal revolutions:        1,412,340 (approx)
Average speed:                   11.32 mph
Average daily mileage:          64.3 miles
Average daily ascent:            2,970 ft (906 m)
Total calories burnt pedalling:   230,000 approx
Average total daily calorie burn:   4,500 – 5,000
Shortest day:       18 miles, 2 hours
Longest day:     99 miles, 11 h 45 m (including time spent with police after assassination attempt!)

Oh - and the total amount of money raised for Cancer Research UK has now reached £24,300 - if you want to help the figure reach £25,000, click here -http://www.justgiving.com/Bill-Honeywell

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Under the weather - an explanation

Here I am, sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. Not because I’m another year older today, but because I’m not feeling at all well.  I’m not sure whether to spare you the full details or not, but suffice to say at this stage that yesterday afternoon I started with an upset tummy and by this morning I’d managed to lose 3 lbs in weight!

Today I was due to cycle the Manchester 100 for The Christie – one of Britain’s largest cancer centres – but when my alarm went off just after 5 am I knew that there was no chance I could make it, so I went to the loo (again), rang Richard Dugdale (who I was supposed to be going with) and then got back into bed.

Of course, the weather has been perfect for cycling, but I could have predicted that!

I can’t believe how many people have sent birthday wishes via Twitter and Facebook – several also wished me good luck on the bike ride and I felt a bit of a fraud having to tell them that I was stopping in bed for most of the day!  I hate that, just as I feel really awkward if anyone calls on the rare occasion when I’m out of sorts. I just want to be left alone to be honest: Val finds this very difficult to cope with, when she wants to take care of me and I don’t want to be her ‘patient’!

No, I won’t spare you the details - I ought to explain a bit more. Outside my circle of many long standing good friends and family, I guess most readers of this blog won’t know much about me.  Even the bit about being a double cancer survivor seems to have gone missing from the introduction to this blog, although I could swear it was on there earlier.  Well, in 1999 I was diagnosed with a bowel tumour and had to have a pancolonectomy – or in layman’s terms, a big operation involving removal of the large bowel and the creation of an ileostomy – an outlet on the body surface with a discreetly hidden pouch which collects – well, you can work the rest out for yourself.  Sometimes this operation is reversible, though not in my case.

This operation is a lot more common than you might think – it’s used in the treatment of severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease as well as bowel tumours.  I bet you probably already know a few people who have either a colostomy or an ileostomy without having any idea – after all, it’s not the kind of thing that one normally shouts from the rooftops.

But maybe we shouldn’t be so reserved and secretive. If it was more widely realised that an operation like this isn’t the end of the world, doesn’t stop you from leading an almost perfectly normal active life, then perhaps it would help. I wonder if some people needlessly put off getting their symptoms diagnosed for fear of this kind of operation – only to find, tragically, that they’ve left it too late.

Just occasionally – twice in twelve years in my case – something goes wrong. On Friday I cooked a dish of spicy lentils and rice, and ate lots of it in spite of the fact that the rice was undercooked.  This led to a blocked stoma which had me in agony by yesterday afternoon, and although it cleared itself by around 4 pm, my poor insides felt – and acted - like they’d had a good going-over. Hence today’s situation.

I’ll be alright tomorrow.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Keeping it up...

So what’s happening?  Well, once I’d been back for a few days after the Big Bike Ride around the coast, I found that I was rather fitter than before I started. No surprise there. Not wanting to slip backwards again I’ve kept up the cycling, including two Cycle Sportives of 100 miles each, and I’m doing another – The Christie Hospital Manchester 100 – tomorrow, which also happens to be my birthday.

If you don’t know already, you don’t want to know how old I am.  Correction – I don’t think I want you to know how old I am!  I’ll give you one clue – bread, sweets and sugar were still being rationed when I was born.   How times have changed. What a cliché!

There is a breed of cyclists who, despite the obvious pain and general discomfort, love to cycle up hills. I think I’m one of them, even though I’m no good at it: on the Clitheroe Bike Club forum there’s a league table of times for Waddington Fell – a Category 1 climb in cycle racing circles: the fastest time is 15:44, I think.  My fastest time is a snail-like 20:08.  I’m no Brad Wiggins, that’s for sure. 

But this week on a grey, chilly Wednesday morning, I cycled to Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, then up the 1-in-5 Langcliffe Scar, past Penyghent to Halton Gill, Litton, Arncliffe, and back over the 1-in-6 climb to Darnbrook, Malham and then back home. And afterwards, I felt really good – weird, isn’t it?  The scenery, the villages, everything about this part of the Dales, are simply sublime. Had I stopped at The Falcon in Arncliffe (I didn’t), I would have been served beer out of a jug, really.

Penyghent from the Pennine Way

I wish I could say that all motorists shared my enthusiasm for this form of two-wheeled transport, but alas, ‘tis not the case. The majority are decent, polite and courteous, slowing down on narrow lanes and giving the cyclist sufficient room when they pass.  But there are others who treat cyclists like something they’ve just stepped in. It’s a little disconcerting when the approaching large vehicle maintains a steady ramming speed as it gets ever nearer, or when a Chelsea Tractor leaves only a hair’s breadth as it overtakes. Perhaps the drivers think they are entitled to do this because I don’t pay Road Tax. Well I do, actually.

I’ll wrap this up now – the Manchester 100 starts at 7.30 am from Wythenshawe Park so I need to be out of the house by 6.00. An early night’s in order I think! I’ll put some statistics from the Big Bike Ride in the next blog, hopefully.

Friday, 2 September 2011

CancerBikeMan Blogs Again!

I’m getting blogging withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps, to be honest, the symptoms have more to do with the fact that I’m no longer on a 10-week, 4,440-mile non-stop bike ride than the actual writing. But I have to say that although writing the blog wasn’t always a welcome chore at the end of a long day, it was – on the whole – a lot of fun and very satisfying. 

Now I’ve been home nearly six weeks.  It took a long time to get straight (who am I kidding? I’m not straight yet, but I’m probably as near as I’m ever going to get) and I still have a lot of work to do before I’ve finished organising all my photos and reminiscences.  But I’m frustrated, because I want to get out and about again and I can’t.

There are lots of reasons for this.  Family – Val’s mother needs constant care and so she can’t get away when we’d like.  Whatever the sceptics say, this country has a fantastic welfare service:  we get vouchers for 42 days’ respite care per year – i.e. accommodation in a nursing home so that Val and her dad can have a rest now and again – but that’s 323 days a year when Val, her dad, (and I) have to look after her – I’ll spare you the details but she needs help to do things that most readers take for granted, plus frequent trips to hospital – and again the health service is brilliant, but we can be kept waiting for hours sometimes and it gets more than a little frustrating!

Then there are other commitments.  Due to my disappointingly low level of intelligence I seem to have collected lots of responsibilities, despite having semi-retired from my main job – which for those of you who don’t know me is… wait for it… an estate agent.  I still do a few routine and non-routine tasks for the office – sorting out some of the admin, advising on one-off problems, and – like yesterday – applying for a licence to play music in the office! 

I’m a Trustee of the Clitheroe Royal Grammar School Foundation, a charity which supports the school, its pupils and parents. An interesting job which keeps me in touch with my old school.

The Daily Mail had an article a few weeks ago on “20 things that tell you you’re getting old”.  At number 15 was “you become a Parish Councillor”.  In May this year I became a parish councillor for West Bradford – which isn’t anywhere near Bradford but is just outside Clitheroe.  It’s a lovely village if you don’t mind driving past the cement works and over a very narrow bridge to get here.  It’s one car at a time on the bridge, which works OK except when someone can’t reverse.  Then it’s really hilarious or deeply frustrating, depending on how much time you’ve got.

And finally, I’m pleased to say I’m in demand as a speaker for various groups – I’ve got bookings from organisations like W.I.s, Helmshore Ladies’ Group, Grindleton ‘Time Out’, Great Harwood Mothers’ Club, Clitheroe 41 Club… the list goes on.  I usually receive a speaker’s fee which always goes to a cancer charity.

Did I say finally? Oops – I forgot the Rotary Club of Clitheroe, where I’m in charge of fund-raising (can’t imagine why!) - there are various events to organise, including two ‘supermarket collections’ before the end of this year, a dance next May (Saturday 5th if you’re interested, with the superb Swing Commanders, at the St Mary’s Centre, Clitheroe) and hopefully a Pendle Witch fund-raising race later next year.

Whoah! That’s enough for one blog. I haven’t even got on my soapbox yet. I’ll get writing again shortly, perhaps with a bit more news and some opinions. If you like the blog, post a comment. If you don’t, post a comment too – I can take it!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Last Friday was the Rock at the Castle event, at Clitheroe Castle.  I was asked to bring my bike and say a few words at the first interval, after Waltz Invention had played.  It’s a great venue with a proper old fashioned bandstand facing a natural ampitheatre, and despite the damp weather there was a good turnout.  After my stage appearance (!) Big Al Taylor and I got on with selling raffle tickets – we worked up quite a sweat and ran out, having to send a runner (well, former Mayor Mary Robinson actually ma’am) to get some more!

The event was a great success, with performances from Blues Dudes and then Freebird –  I hadn’t realised the bass guitarist was my old next door neighbour Derek!  It was also a financial success, and although I haven’t got the final figures, Cancer Research UK will benefit from another several hundred pounds!


You may remember I did the Action Medical Research Cross Pennine 100 mile sportive a couple of weeks ago.  I thought it was so well organised it would be worth doing their York 100 event last Sunday.

320 riders did the 100 mile route, starting from the excellent facilities of York University. I set off in the 3rd or 4th bunch and decided to go out quickly to see how long it would take to tire out! So I got on the wheels of a couple from Harrogate and did the first 8 or 9 miles at over 20 mph, then, after being dropped on the first hill of any consequence, kept up the momentum and enjoyed overtaking people for a while.

The foodstops, facilities, in fact the whole organisation, were excellent. The first stop was at Thixendale Village Hall – much of the route was in the Yorkshire Wolds and the descent to the village is particularly scenic.  After a further 25 miles lunch (still only 10.45) was at Burton Fleming, no more than five miles from the route coastal route near Bridlington that I took on my Round Britain Cycle.  Son Mark’s best man Mr Chris Toop caught me up about five miles before the stop and we rode those five miles together.

From the halfway stop the route was all into headwind, back towards the Wolds and then, from Coneythorpe and Castle Howard, the undulating Howardian Hills through Malton.  Overall it was a lot hillier than I expected (3,700ft in 103 miles). I finished in 7h 39m 22s, first time ever in the top half at 142nd. A superb event once again – AMR do about the best job I know of organising sportives.

At the finish I was talking to another rider and mentioned I was from Clitheroe. He said "You're the second person I've seen from Clitheroe today – an old bloke wearing a Clitheroe jacket came past me this morning, going like a train!" I knew there was no-one else there from Clitheroe so that must have been me. Talk about getting an insult and a compliment in the same sentence!!

I also had another free massage.  It turned out that my masseuse, Libby, was born and brought up in Clitheroe and went to the Girls’ Grammar School.  She lived on Green Drive which is about 300 metres as the crow flies from where I was brought up! Small world indeed!

Action Medical Research’s next local sportive is the Lake District 100, 25th September. It starts in Keswick with Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, and Kirkstone passes, plus the delights of Borrowdale, Buttermere, Ullswater and Windermere.  They say it's 7,000 ft of ascent but the Clitheroe Cross Pennine event was that – this is actually nearer 10,000 ft. Anyone interested?

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Surprise At Lunchtime

First things first.  I’m a member of Clitheroe Rotary Club.

Now before you start thinking of secret societies and the like, let me tell you it’s nothing at all like that. On average about 40 members of both sexes - mainly men, I admit - meet every Thursday lunchtime and have a one-course lunch (oh, the decadence!). The banter is brilliant. We organise all kinds of events: some raise money to spend on good causes, and on others, like the town bonfire, we get stuck in up to our elbows.

If you still think it’s a secret society, come to the Old Post House on Thursday and see for yourself (let me know beforehand so Roger knows how many lunches to make).

Now, when I told fellow Rotarian David Bleazard last week that I’d reached my initial fund-raising target of £20,000 he said, with a nod and a wink, “Don’t shave the beard off yet – keep it on till the next meeting.”  My imagination began to run riot – perhaps a scantily clad young lady with a cut-throat razor and lots of shaving foam?  What did he have in mind?

It was therefore with some trepidation that I went to the meeting yesterday. Ron Duxbury, the District Governor was attending – ah, now before you start thinking – let me say that ‘District Governor’ is a very posh title which I really don’t like. If you have a lot of similar clubs, then just as when you have a lot of shops, like Superdrug or Marks & Spencer, you need an area manager, so things can be organised properly. That’s all a ‘DG’ is – an area manager. Only he does it for fun and doesn’t get paid. And he comes from Barrow-in-Furness.

And it turns out that David Bleazard’s ‘don’t shave off the beard’ tip was a complete red herring – he was just throwing me off the scent, and he’d done it very well. As soon as the pork, carrots and potatoes had been polished off, the DG presented me with a Paul Harris Fellowship.  Paul Harris founded Rotary International over 100 years ago and a PH Fellowship is a very prestigious award (at least in Clitheroe and most of the UK – I believe there are countries where you can buy one, a bit like peerages used to be!).  I made a little speech and wished I’d put a tie on.  Then the club gave me a cheque for £1,000 for Cancer Research UK.

So there’s me, dead chuffed, thinking ‘What’s Val going to say when she finds out I could have shaved this beard off a week ago?’ It didn’t take long to find out, because when she got home to the news she said she was very proud of me and then went to get the razor!  As you can see from the photo, I’m now got my clean-shaven look back.

Two more things – tonight is the Rock At The Castle Gig with Waltz Invention, Blues Dudes and Freebird – with a share of the proceeds going to Cancer Research UK – so please come along and enjoy yourself – I’ll be there!

Secondly, when I finished the Cross Pennine 100 mile bike ride the weekend before last there was this Welsh cyclist chap there – told me he was the highest placed British finisher in this year’s Tour de France – so I told him I’d cycled twice as far round the coast of Britain, only a bit slower! So Hi to Geraint Thomas MBE!  Nice chap and doing a good job supporting Action Medical Research.

Er - just like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition Sketch - Three more things - I've now raised over £22,300 for Cancer Research UK - now I know the initial target was £20,000, but could we make a big push now for £25,000? Why not? If you CAN donate, go to http://www.justgiving.com/Bill-Honeywell - thank you!

Monday, 1 August 2011

A Milestone Today – and a dilemma…

Yesterday I decided to enter the Cross Pennine 100 Cycle Sportive which started from the Roefield Leisure Centre in Clitheroe and was organised by Action Medical Research.  It was a 104-mile ride through some great scenery in the Ribble Valley and Yorkshire Dales, including Malham Cove, Ribblehead and Dent Village.  

Malham Cove (taken on a frosty morning in 2008)

The weather was kind and, although numbers weren’t that great, the riders were treated to a well-organised event with excellent signs en route, lots of good food, and even a free massage at the finish.

Ribblehead Railway Viaduct

Another one I prepared earlier - Swaledale sheep near Ribblehead

Also at the finish was Geraint Thomas MBE, Olympic Champion, Team Sky rider and Action Medical Research supporter.  I told him I’d just completed a ride that was more than twice the length of the Tour de France – although it had taken me considerably longer to ride it than three, or even six, weeks.  He asked me if the weather had been nice – I don’t think The Tour riders are used to 100 mph winds!

All sportive organisers issue the riders’ times afterwards:  mine was 9:05:37, but this is the total time elapsed from start to finish, including the time taken at the three feed stops.  My net riding time was over an hour less, at 7:58:34.  I do wish organisers would neutralise the time at feed stops, up to a maximum of 15 minutes each, say, so that you could get a better idea of your real time.  I know it’s not a race, but most people are at least a bit competitive, and there must be quite a temptation to miss out the stops altogether in order to post an impressive time.

Other delays – I stopped to help someone with a puncture, and to repair my chain ring which had come loose – are something you have to accept.  Mind you, I also noticed yesterday that there was plenty of scope for taking short-cuts without being found out. And before you ask, the answer is no, I didn’t!

Sponsorship money has continued to arrive since I finished the Cycle Round Britain’s Coast.  Today I reached my initial target of £20,000, so it’s a cause for celebration, and now it’s official that the beard will have to come off!  But I feel almost reluctant to admit that I’ve reached the target in case people stop donating – to me the important thing is getting the best result for Cancer Research UK, not just reaching some arbitrary target figure.  So do I keep it quiet – or do I change the figure on Just Giving from £20,000 to £25,000? (I can’t do really!) 

So a BIG, BIG THANK YOU to all those who have made a donation, and  if you haven’t donated yet then please don’t let the fact that I’ve reached the target put you off!