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.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Bute, Cumbrae, Arran

I'm sitting here in the home of John Roberts, our host for tonight, feeling that I'm being rude by writing a piece for the blog - because it's difficult to interrupt the conversation! You can't beat home hosting for getting to know people.

So briefly, we left Bute this morning in gales so fierce we weren't sure if the ferry would sail; almost flew to Largs with a tail wind, had a coffee in the famous Nardini's, then met Tommy & Euian for the trip over to Cumbrae, where we did one lap of the very pretty island, without realising we should have stopped to see the smallest cathedral in Scotland at Milport.

Back to the mainland with the gale increasing if anything, then down to Ardrossan for the ferry to Arran where we now are, ready for a day's tour tomorrow, hopefully in warmer weather!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Here We Are In Glasgow

Just back from Harry Ramsdens restaurant which is right next to the Paisley Road Travelodge where Richard and I are spending our first night.

For a while there I thought things were going to be rather more intimate than expected, as the Travelodge wanted to put us in a double bed. But with a bit of persuasion they found us a sort of twin - a room with a sofa bed. Then we had to ask for towels as the room had none. Just a few niggles sent to try us I guess.

The cycle from home to Preston station was easy with a strong tailwind. I couldn't get the Fast Ticket machine to give me mike bike reservation tickets, but the train manager wasn't worried, which was a relief.

Anthony Clarke, one of the JogLe Relay team, met us at the station for a coffee - we'd already bumped into three Skipton cyclists training for LeJog as we started off from Waddington.

So now we've eaten I think we'll turn in early for a good night's sleep before returning to Glasgow Central in the morning, to get the train to Wemyss Bay and ferry to our first island - Bute, here we come!

What's the Opposite of a Grandstand Finish?

After last year's showbiz-style start and finish to the Round Britain Cycle, our Hebridean Odyssey is definitely starting on a low-key note. I've still got some last-minute jobs to do, but the current plan is that I'll leave home at about 1.30 today and cycle to Waddington, where Richard and I can meet up and then pedal to Preston Station via Longridge.

So if you've nothing else to do at lunchtime and want to make sure that we don't change our minds, why not come and see us off? We'll be somewhere near Tim's Cafe/Restaurant. Or perhaps 50 yards up the road at the Waddington Arms. Either way it'll be difficult to miss us!

Right, off now to throw a few more things out of the panniers to get the weight down. See you later.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Blogging on the move

Just checking the mobile blogging capabilities of my iPhone. Sorry if this woke you up!

Bill Honeywell

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Last Minute Wobbles!

Have I remembered everything?  I’ve been checking and re-checking the ferry timetables and all the places we’re staying at, making sure I’ve got the addresses and telephone numbers in a notebook, my Hebridean Island Hopping book, my iPhone… well, better safe than sorry.

I’ve worked out all the routes we’re going to cycle, and downloaded them all on to the GPS (a Garmin 705 Edge).  I’ve cut out little maps from an old road atlas, and stuck them inside the book in case the GPS packs up.

I’ve booked the train tickets, but I’m supposed to collect the bike reservation tickets from a machine at Preston Station when I get there, and I’ve forgotten what I’m supposed to do or whether I need a reference number – I suppose I do but I’m not sure where it is.

I’ve been checking all my clothes and other gear, found a hole in one set of long pants but then found some new longs which I’ve only worn a couple of times – and then forgot I’d bought them, so that’s a bonus!

Other checklists have come and gone, and now Richard has reminded me about such things as spare brake blocks (have I got some stashed away in the garage somewhere, or will I have to nip out tomorrow and buy some?)

I’m ready for the Crossroads Quiz tomorrow night (at which I’m MC) and I think I’ve done everything I need to for the Swing Commanders Dance next Saturday – now I’ve handed the reins over to Peter Spencer and Colin Bonner so at least I know it’s in safe hands.

I’ve got piles of clothes, towel, soap bag, sleeping bag, phone chargers, maps, spares, etc etc, laid out in the spare bedroom. They look like they’ll never fit in the panniers, and if they do, the bike will probably collapse under the weight.  It doesn’t really matter as the weather has been so bad I haven’t been out on the bike for ages so I’ll probably collapse on the first day through lack of fitness anyway!  Better take plenty of waterproofs because wherever I go it pours down.  No doubt Richard is better organised.  

I really ought to update the Justgiving page to encourage donations to Cancer Research UK – that’s a job for tonight perhaps.  The idea is that if you want to donate online that’s where to go – www.justgiving.com/bill-honeywell - and the money will go to CRUK. Alternatively if you want to support a superb local cancer charity that really makes a big difference to people’s lives, then let me have a cheque for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation and I’ll forward it to them.  All local cash donations will go to the Rosemere too.  A few people have already donated but there's always room for more!!

No more time to write on the blog now. Hopefully once we’re under way I’ll be able to beg, steal or borrow access to a computer and bring you up-to-date with Tales From The Islands and some photos.

And if you’re travelling from Clitheroe to Preston on Saturday afternoon, please take extra care. We don’t want to be knocked off our bikes before we even get to Scotland.

A Postscript - for those of you not on Twitter, I was trying out the new camera yesterday (I needed a new one because they don't like heavy rain) - and this chap landed in the back garden. I thought you might like the picture.

Another Postscript - If you look at the right hand side of this blog just above the 'Just Giving' widget, you can register for an email notification each time there is an update.  Handy eh?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Last minute hiccups

I had a bit of a scare last night – I’d been looking into the routes in more detail and found that the ferry times from North Uist to Skye seemed to have changed.  The day’s only ferry wasn’t at 1800, but 1600, leaving us a bit short of time because on that day we have to start with Vatersay at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides and pedal our way to Lochmaddy in the very north – all of 74 miles.  Whether I’d read it wrong the first time a few months ago, or whether it had been changed since then, I’m not sure.

At first I thought it might not be possible to get around the problem, but after another look at the early part of the route I realised it should still be possible. Now some of you may be thinking “What’s the problem with 74 miles before 4 pm?”, but there are two problems. Firstly, 74 miles with a fully-loaded touring bike is harder work than an luggage-free racer, and I have to make allowances in case there are strong headwinds and pouring rain.  Secondly, there is a ferry earlier in the day from Barra, which arrives on Eriskay at 1005 – so unlike mainland cycling, there is no way we can give ourselves more time by having an early start.

Never mind – we WILL do it!

Still, it meant that I’ve spent all day double-checking every single ferry timetable to make sure there are no more banana skins, and also looking at each day’s route in more detail to make sure they’re not impossibly long.

As a result I’ve reminded myself how big Lewis and Skye are!  Three days on Lewis still don’t give us enough time to visit all the places I would like, given that we must take in the islands of Great Berneray and Scalpay (both are islands but are now accessible by modern bridges).


Portree, Isle of Skye

Just as last year, I’m beginning to think maybe I should have planned a more relaxed schedule, to give myself chance to see more. But the tour can’t be longer than four weeks as I have to be back home by the last weekend in May, for reasons which I will disclose in a future blog – I’ll leave that as a bit of a mystery for now!

Right. My next job is to make sure the bike, everything that goes on it, and all clothes and other equipment, are in tip top order.  And contact all the people who are giving us accommodation to remind them of the dates and make sure there are no last-minute hitches.  And make sure things are straight before I go.  As usual, Val’s going to be busy looking after everything whilst I’m away!

Oh, by the way - if you are an avid reader of the Clitheroe Advertiser & Times you'll find an article about the tour on page 3. I wish they'd find another photograph!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Countdown to the Western Isles…!

I haven’t written much recently about the next Tour but it starts in just over two weeks so I guess I’d better let you all know how things are going!

The itinerary has been pretty much finalised for some time, although I need to do a check of all the ferries:  I found out yesterday that the Islay sailings will only go to Port Askaig while we’re in the area, as major engineering works are underway at Port Ellen.  That’s actually quite good as it cuts down a bit of repetitive mileage, but I need to check the other islands to avoid any last-minute banana skins.

We have accommodation arranged for thirteen nights, courtesy of benevolent local residents, and in one instance, good friends who are on holiday in self-catering accommodation when we’ll be there.  We are still looking for lodgings for another fourteen nights, mainly for the Outer Hebrides, Mallaig, Coll, Tiree and Colonsay, so if there’s anyone out there… please get in touch!  Otherwise we’ll sort things out ‘on the hoof’ – staying at Youth Hostels or B&Bs.

I had to book the train journeys this week, and just like last year, it’s an eye-opener. On the return journey from Oban to Preston at the end of the tour, all the train-ticket websites quote £83.50. There is one change at Glasgow which also involves changing stations, from Queen Street to Central.  Booked separately, the leg from Oban to Glasgow is £21.10, whilst from Glasgow to Preston it’s £12.50.  I make that £33.60, i.e. £49.90 cheaper than the identical route booked in one ‘go’.  Can anyone explain how that can be, please?

Richard and I have been comparing notes and checking check lists: the trick is to take everything you need without carrying too much weight. Simple!  It’s such a shame you can’t take all the maps you need, but I’ll have to rely on a page cut out of my road atlas, together with the GPS.  I’ve a book which contains details of all the islands, together with contact details for hundreds of B&Bs etc, but it weighs a ton. I may see if it’s available as an e-book and borrow Val’s Kindle to save weight, if she’ll let me.

Oh, and I don’t have a decent camera yet! I ruined one whilst walking all 214 Wainwrights in 2009, and another last year on my 4,500-mile cycle round the GB coast. So I resolved to buy another, but haven’t found a decent one with an optical viewfinder yet. Canon have just brought one out but it uses AA non-rechargeable batteries, which is useless. I may have to try and get used to one without the viewfinder, but I don’t relish the idea…

Blogging en route will not be as easy as last year, as I won’t be carrying the lap-top, but I should be able to get by with the iPhone and by using hosts’ computers if they’ll let me.  I think you can expect quite a few updates as we go along.

As for fund-raising, I’m not banging the drum as much as last time but it would be nice if my readers, followers and supporters could give something. Online donations via www.justgiving.com/bill-honeywell (or Text donations - see the top of this page) will go to Cancer Research UK; if you give me a donation personally, by cheque or cash, I’ll send that to the absolutely excellent Rosemere Cancer Foundation unless you specify otherwise.  We’re not talking aggressive tax-avoidance here, just whatever you are comfortable with, so I don’t think you’ll get into trouble with Mr Osborne! (But if you are a multi-millionaire it’s not illegal yet, so please hurry before he closes the loophole!)

Monday, 2 April 2012

The World Record Dream is Revived!

You may remember that my last blog was a sad tale of dashed hopes.  Guinness World Records imposed hopelessly difficult conditions on our proposed Relay Race from John O’Groats to Land’s End and the venture seemed to be doomed.

Well, we’ve tried to get them to see sense but – so far – to no avail. However…

Sharon Duggan, our organiser and originator of the idea, decided that we could live with a team reduced from 20 to 12 members.  This seemed perfectly reasonable; the number 20 was an arbitrary one and if Guinness World Records insisted on 12, then so be it.

Sharon complained to Guinness but so far with no effect.  If each rider had to do a 70+ mile stint then an average speed of over 21 mph would be asking too much, as I said in the last blog.  But looking at the rules again, it is clear that the 12 riders don’t have to do one unbroken ‘leg’ each. Now, if each rider does three separate legs of under 25 miles, with a rest in between… we might just do it!

Those in the know may think that this sounds a bit like the famous ‘Race Across America’ or RAAM.  And that’s just what it is.  All we need is a bus-type vehicle (one or two) that can carry the team and the bikes, then divide up the route into 36 legs (three per rider) and we’ll give it our best shot!  If we set the record at sub-40 hours then we’ll be in the Guinness Book of World Records, no argument.  If the time is over 40 hours (and what Guinness don’t realise is that the difference between a headwind and a tailwind could be hours), then we’ll still claim the unofficial record and let other people have a good bash at it!

Here is the team:

1. Kyle Hewitt
2. Simon Inman
3. Andrew Shelley
4. Stuart Doyle
5. Sean Newall
6. Michael Evans
7. Anthony Clarke
8. Bill Honeywell
9. John Mollart
10. Dave Barter
11. Steve Darlaston
12. Daz Halfpenny
13. Sharon Duggan Captain (Reserve)
14. Simon Dean (Reserve)

So now… I need to increase my average speed for a 25-mile course.  I can currently do 17-18 mph on a good day, and have to up the game to 22 mph.  And by 10 August I won’t be on the wrong side of 60 but I’ll be within a whisker of it!  So if there are any personal trainers out there who fancy a challenge and reckon they could get me up to the target speed in four months, leave a message with your contact details!!

Sharon continues to do a fantastic job – let’s hope the challenge keeps its momentum this time!